Islanders Waste Roster Spot on Brassard

Forward Derick Brassard may have something left to give, but it shouldn’t be with the New York Islanders.

Brassard Signs with Islanders

Signing a one-year deal with the Islanders, Brassard is admittedly poised for somewhat of a rebound season. However, that’s in part because his stats flatlined in 2018-19, which he spent with three different teams. Ending the season with the Colorado Avalanche, he totaled 23 points in 70 games. The numbers can’t get worse, in other words.

Penguins center Derick Brassard
Ex-Pittsburgh Penguins forward Derick Brassard – (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

In his prime, Brassard peaked at 60 points over a full season with the New York Rangers back in 2014-15. The next season he reached a career-high 27 goals. From there, Brassard’s production declined sharply following a trade to the Ottawa Senators for Mika Zibanejad. He didn’t even reach 40 the next season.

Brassard in Decline

Nevertheless, it isn’t Brassard’s declining production that should be the main concern, here. It’s the fact that general manager Lou Lamoriello effectively gave a roster spot to a forward who is only effective offensively when he’s getting sheltered ice time.

For example, Brassard earned his last five-year, $25 million deal after the 2013-14 season. That campaign he scored a decent 45 points, but had to start 60.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone to reach that total.

Brassard admittedly provided decent value over the majority of that deal, including putting together those previously mentioned career seasons. However, by the end, which is the point about which the Islanders should worry, he was back to being excessively sheltered.

In 2017-18, after being traded from the Senators to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the deadline, Brassard started 57.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Unlike in the past though, even if he did manage eight points the rest of the way, he couldn’t respond with positive possession, earning a 48.5% Corsi rating.

Derick Brassard
Ex-New York Rangers forward Derick Brassard – (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

From there, Brassard suffered through his 2018-19 season to forget. You would think that’s exactly what the Islanders did… forget, were it not for the bargain-bin $1.2 million price tag for which Brassard signed.

The Islanders didn’t just give Brassard a professional tryout contract (PTO) for training camp, which is what many analysts had been expecting. They gave him a full-fledged one-way contract instead, implying he’s going to stay in New York the entire season, barring a trade. That means someone else isn’t going to as a result.

Brassard vs. Ho-Sang and Dal Colle

That someone could be one of if not both Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang. Neither one is waiver-exempt anymore, meaning they would have to pass through waivers to be demoted to the American Hockey League during training camp.

Josh Ho-Sang - Islanders
New York Islanders forward Joshua Ho-Sang – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dal Colle, who was taken No. 5 overall in 2014, took the first steps to becoming an NHL regular last season, playing 28 games with the Islanders. Meanwhile, Ho-Sang, despite a litany of off-ice issues and inconsistent defensive play, should still be a tempting hypothetical waiver-wire pick-up for most teams.

Granted, the one-time top prospects have yet to prove much with the Islanders over an extended period of time. However, failing to give them a chance in training camp doesn’t solve anything.

Is Brassard a Top-Six Forward?

Sure, Brassard probably has a chip on his shoulder and is looking to prove himself too, even after having secured this latest contract of his. It’s just unlikely that Brassard enjoys any kind of sustained offensive success without getting top-six ice time. Keep in mind, the Islanders already have the likes of Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle presumably filling top-six spots.

So, right off the bat, if you’re Lamoriello, you’re likely resigning yourself to one of two less-than-ideal outcomes:

  • An unimpressive season from Brassard, if he ends up getting ice time commensurate with his skill level in a defensive role like as a third-line center, or
  • A half-decent one if he’s inexplicably propped up by head coach Barry Trotz and takes ice time away from another potential top-six forward, like Anthony Beauvillier.
Anthony Beauvillier
New York Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If it’s the former, he’ll be taking away a chance from Casey Cizikas to move up in the lineup. If it’s the latter, so be it, but Brassard’s contract is a one-year deal (thankfully). Even if he pleasantly surprises and re-signs, he only has so much time left in his career.

The ice time Brassard would be getting would be better served going elsewhere. Maybe towards someone who needs to acclimate themselves to the NHL game, who has a lot more to give the Islanders themselves this season and beyond.

Depth is admittedly a beautiful thing and every NHL team that hopes to compete needs some. So, in that respect, Brassard can be a decent addition on paper. In reality, he’ll only help cannibalize the organizational depth the Islanders have already built.

It’s as if Lamoriello is not only betting against Beauvillier, Dal Colle and Ho-Sang but also the Islanders’ actual top prospects from impressing and earning a spot out of training camp themselves. I mean, internal competition is a beautiful thing too. By failing to give Brassard a PTO, Lamoriello arguably put a stop to it before it even began.