|Brassard in a post-practice shooting drill|
Which is part of the reason I am writing this post. Because in reality, it is about player development. And the message I am trying to send here is that what Brassard is going through now is a normal part of player development. Unfortunately for Brassard, the lack of talent at the center position has delayed this moment for a couple of years. But its a necessary part of the growth process.
Let's reflect for a moment what we expected of Derick Brassard. The year he came up to the NHL he showed great promise before his injury (2008-09). Coming back the following year, it was hoped that he would hold down the number 1 center job in his first full year in the NHL since we didn't re-sign Manny Malhotra. Number 1 lottery pick overall Sidney Crosby may have been able to do that, but Brass was 6th overall. A player like that should be not be expected to hold down a number one center job in his first full year. That takes an extraordinary talent, not just a good player like Brass. But such was the Blue Jackets need.
Enter Jeff Carter.
Carter is a center with All-Star credentials. When he joined the team via trade, his arrival served to put pressure from the top on the line combinations in the center position. When the CBJ traded for Mark Letetsu, it put even more pressure on the center position, especially on the 'semi-skilled' centers on the top couple of lines. Thus, Brassard, and to some extent Vermette, are the 'odd centers out'. This of course doesn't mention the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, Ryan Johansen.
Over the long term, this is highly beneficial to the organization. There is strength down the middle like we have never had before. That strength has been slow in evidencing itself in 2011-12, especially with Carter's injury, but it is starting to show. This situation will force Brass to elevate his game if he wants to get playing time. This may be difficult at first for Brassard. This is a process he should have gone through two years ago. That it has been delayed this long will make it harder. But he should emerge on the back end of it a better player, and more likely to achieve his potential.
It's way to early to start using terms like 'bust', as some folks surely will. He needs to continue a development process that was interrupted by unreasonable expectations that he was unable to achieve. Now the expectations are on a proper level, and his development can proceed at a more normal pace. Now is the time for patience with Brass. Its likely we will need him later in the year and in the future.