Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Time to step up: Derick Brassard

  • Center
  • 22 years old, 4th year in National Hockey League
  • $3,200,000 cap hit 
  • 5.4% of Columbus Blue Jackets salary cap
  • Contract expires at end of 2013-2014
  • 2009-2010 numbers: 79 games played, 9 goals, 27 assists, 36 points, -17, 48 penalty minutes, 14:57 avg. time on ice
I look at Derick Brassard's info above, and I see two things: 1) He's still really young and 2) He's making a LOT of money.  I'll suggest that those two points represent the tension in our former first round draft pick.  Is he too young for the responsibilities that he's being shouldered with (centering a top-two line)?  Does the considerable investment in him force the Blue Jackets to push him along faster than would be otherwise prudent?

So let's dig back into the 09-10 stats.  The first thing I found most curious about Brassard is that 7 of his 9 goals (not a huge number to start with) came under Ken Hitchcock, who occasionally buried him on the fourth line.  Only 2 under Claude Noel, who I believe gave him considerable second line exposure.  The vast majority of his assists were also under Hitchcock.  What happened?  Wasn't the post-Hitchcock string supposed to be all about playing the kids?  He clearly played (and logged consistent, considerable minutes) under Noel, but he was less productive as best I can see.  Something doesn't add up, but he clearly needs to develop a better nose for the net in addition to the playmaking required from a center.

Then there's the injury thing.  Before this ill-considered December 2008 fight against the now-tainted cheap-shot artist James Neal, Brassard was flying along as the October 2008 NHL rookie of the month and the consensus pick to win the 2008-2009 Calder Trophy:


Afterward, he really hasn't been the same.  Is it a confidence thing?  Is his shoulder permanently damaged (I gather that was not his first shoulder injury)?  Is it something else?  

We in the CBJ fan community knew that Scott Howson took a risk in locking Brassard down to a longer-term contract for so much money while so early in his career.  There still is time to fulfill the promise of that deal, but it has to start now.  (Actually, it should have started last season.)  He's putting in the effort, doing the right things by sticking around Columbus to work out with the strength coaches...now he just needs the payoff.  

But that's conditioning.  On the mental side (and I have to believe that there are some mental issues that happen when a prolific scorer functionally shuts down), it's up to Scott Arniel and Bob Boughner to crack the code that unlocks Derick Brassard's potential.  

So many questions about this (once?) promising young star.  The simple question is: Can Derick Brassard get his career back onto the pre-"Neal fight" trajectory?  The harder questions to swallow are: Is it possible?  And how long are we supposed to wait?

3 comments:

  1. As a Preds fan,reminds me of a young David Legwand. Can he at least play defense?

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  2. @Shlimmy -

    At -17 on the year, Brassard tied with Anton Stralman for the not-really-coveted green jacket. Thus, I think my answer is "not exactly." (And I'll qualify that with a "yet" and hope for the best...)

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  3. Methinks 30 games was too soon for the size contract, and the early success may have inflated the ego. That said, I still believe the upside is still there. You may have hit the nail squarely with the "confidence" comment. It may only take one or two GREAT breaks or plays to re-ignite the belief and hopefully he'll be on his way. At 22, theres no way I give up on him yet.

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