CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa — Pittsburgh Penguins center Derick Brassard has been linked to about a half dozen teams and the list is growing. Since the initial Pittsburgh Hockey Now report which signaled the Penguins shift in thinking, to the Dallas Stars interest over three weeks ago, the list of suitors has been growing and the volume of the chatter getting louder.
And Brassard, while he tries to avoid it, can’t help but hear it. He said he can’t be affected by it, but those words seemed more scripted or reflexive than true.
“I don’t read much. I don’t read the papers or anything that’s going on but I follow sports like ESPN and the main stuff like that,” said Brassard as he grew uneasy with the question. “It is hard mentally sometimes to hear your name out there and not know what is going to happen.”
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Brassard is part of the Penguins middle lines which have not pulled their weight. Even though Brassard scored a power-play goal Monday night, there was little mention of the wicked wrist shot or unique style with the puck extended from his body. The talk Tuesday was about the abysmal Penguins performance and potential causes until Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked about the elephant in the room.
And Brassard did get to the stock answer which every athlete twisting in the wind is required to say.
“As a professional hockey player I have to put everything aside,” Brassard said. “And focus on what I have to do every night here for this team and try to do my best to win games and play my best.”
In full disclosure, I apologized for asking the question. Ad the player lamented, “It’s your job, right?”
But Brassard’s tenor and tone changed after the question. He sat in his locker stall for a few more moments before he departed. The disappointment was palpable as the reality is clearly upon him. His shoulders didn’t slump and he didn’t pout but he knows this is the tough part of the business.
It’s just not working in Pittsburgh.
“Big Game Brass” is not producing the way he did when the New York Rangers counter-attacked their way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Or as he helped Ottawa to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. The statistics don’t need to be parsed, as he has only 15 points (9g, 6a) in 40 games, despite frequently playing with perennial 20-goal scorers Phil Kessel or Patric Hornqvist.
Brassard’s Corsi rating is a career-worst 43.8 percent and a career-worst relative to his team, minus-6.9. Even his Fenwick rating which credits blocked shots to the blocker is a career-worst 43.9 percent.
Whether it’s the shoulder injury suffered in Ottawa, the groin injury suffered last spring after being acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, or just a bad fit for the role, style, and scheme, his output just isn’t enough.
Sportsnet was the first to report that Brassard may not mind a trade. Perhaps not, but today, his disappointment at the coming conclusion was visible.
And I’m a little sorry I asked.