Friday, February 3, 2012

Let's look at Derrick Brassard

A fresh start with Todd Richards
has done Derrick Brassard
some good, but how much?
Of all the current Columbus Blue Jackets players to have an opportunity for a fresh start after the reign of error of former head coach Scott Arniel, perhaps Derrick Brassard was doing the most chomping at the bit.  Even the most casual observer could see that Brassard was only to be found somewhere deep in Arniel's doghouse (which, according to Brassard's agent, Allan Walsh, was legendary), an odd place for a 24-year-old former first round draft pick with four years of NHL experience already under his belt.  [UPDATE: For a terrific recap of Brassard's life pre-Richards, check out Andy's fine work at the CBJ Blog.]

Circumstances change, however, when a new coach takes over.  Interim head coach Todd Richards, in his opening comments after taking the reins, promised a clean slate for the players.  While I'm sure everyone had a degree of motivation to start fresh, Brassard had to feel like he finally had a chance.

So how has Brassard done under Richards in comparison to Arniel this season?  I'll suggest that the stats help tell the story.
Using my favorite stats compilation site, CBSSports.com, I crunched the following numbers out:
  • October
    • Scratched in none of the team's 12 games
    • Scoring pace: .25 points per game played
    • Ice time: 14:30 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.67 plus/minus per game  played
  • November
    • Scratched in 6 of the team's 12 games
    • Scoring pace: .17 points per game played
    • Ice time: 12:36 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.50 plus/minus per game played
  • December
    • Scratched in 2 of the team's 14 games
    • Scoring pace: .50 points per game played
    • Ice time: 14:56 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.33 plus/minus per game played
  • January - Arniel
    • Scratched in none of the team's 3 games
    • Scoring pace: .67 points per game played
    • Ice time: 15:29 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.33 plus/minus per game played
  • January - Richards
    • Scratched in 0 of the team's 9 games
    • Scoring pace: .44 points per game played
    • Ice time: 17:18 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.33 plus/minus per game played
  • February
    • Was not scratched in the only game played thus far
    • Scoring pace: 1 point
    • Ice time: 18:21 minutes 
    • Defense: Zero plus/minus
In the aggregate between the two coaches, here's what we see:
  • Arniel
    • Scratched in 8 of the team's 41 games
    • Scoring pace: .36 points per game played
    • Ice time: 14:24 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.48 plus/minus per game played
  • Richards
    • Scratched in none of the team's 10 games
    • Scoring pace: .50 points per game played
    • Ice time: 17:24 minutes per game played
    • Defense: -.30 plus/minus per game played
What is not being displayed in these statistics is the fact that Brassard, to the best of my recollection, is getting most of his minutes on the top two lines under Richards and spent a healthy amount of time on the bottom two lines with Arniel.  Thus, the improved scoring touch might have something to do with playing alongside more talented players (granted, he's probably been playing against more talented opposition, so I would think that tends to even things out).

Is Derrick Brassard worthy of consideration to keep around as
part of the Columbus Blue Jackets' core talent?
Point is, Brassard is getting consistent top six minutes under Richards and has improved both his scoring and defensive statistics.

What surprised me (and blew a hole in the entire reason I started researching this, as I really wanted to write a feel-good "Look at how Derrick has resurrected his career!" piece...) is that Brassard's improvement is not more dramatic.  I wasn't expecting him to improve to a point a game overnight, nor was I expecting him to become part of a defensive dynamo (keeping in mind that there are four other players on the ice who influence a player's plus/minus).

I wondered back in August 2010 if Brassard would ever become the player he was after his shoulder separation following his December 2008 fight against James Neal.  It's probably a topic worth revisiting, because he's playing harder but, in my opinion, not well enough to be relied upon in the clutch.  (Same could be said for a lot of CBJ players, granted.)

Let's hope that the balance of the season, combined with a strong off-season, buys Brassard the time that he needs to become a meaningful contributor worthy of his draft status in 2012-13.  I hope he's still got the game inside of him, because he sure seems to be trying to make the most of his opportunity under Richards.

3 comments:

  1. I wonder how his numbers have compared to the rest of the team. Offensive production seems to be way down but he's improving. He may not be scoring a lot but no one is. Unfortunately you can't put a number on it but the impression that I, and most fans seem to have, is that he's definitely trying harder than most of the other players.

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  2. It wouldn't be impossible to compare him against the team, but that's probably a topic for another post.

    And yes, I too have noticed the extra effort on his part since Richards took over.

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  3. I think the thing to note with bassard is that the effort has been much more consistent and the mistakes/turnovers have been far less noticeable. Although you would expect more scoring from a top two line player, I think the scoring will come if the likes of umberger and vermette start playing better.

    Ultimately, I would love to see bassard/cam/johanson play on a line for a few games to see if a young guns line would work out. Just need to bring cam up.

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