By Matt Calamia
In May at the Rangers’ exit interviews with the media after the team’s playoff series with the Boston Bruins, forward Derick Brassard spoke about the spark and increased enthusiasm he had after the Rangers acquired him at last season’s trade deadline.
It could be argued that Brassard was the team’s top player in April and during the postseason. Brassard posted five goals and 11 points in 13 regular-season games, as well as 10 assists and 12 points in 12 postseason games.
“It’s possible to carry that over,” Brassard told BlueshirtsUnited.com on Monday. “It’s a long season. I just need to stay focused on how I can get better every day. It’s going to be really long, but I think I can do it.”
During that same interview in May, Brassard discussed some difficult times in Columbus, and how hockey had lost some of its fun during his final few seasons with the Blue Jackets. Those feelings now seem like ancient history, as Brassard is having fun every day as a Blueshirt.
“Every morning I wake up so excited to come to the rink and see the boys and everyone who works for the team,” he said. “It’s a great city. I’m just really excited to come back and play at MSG. It’s been a lot of fun and every day I’m just trying to enjoy it the most I can.”
John Moore — who was sent to New York along with Brassard and Derek Dorsett at the trade deadline last March— said while Brassard has always been a positive force in the locker room, he’s taken it to a new level on Broadway.
“He definitely seems like a new person,” Moore said. “He’s always been a great teammate no matter where we’ve been, but you can definitely see it in his face. He’s playing with a lot of enthusiasm and it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Moore said Brassard showed how good he could be last year, and now the team will have to rely on him to do more of the same this upcoming campaign.
“He’s a really big player for our team, so if he’s going we’re all going,” said Moore. “If he can continue his success, which we all believe he will be able to do, he’s going to be a big player for us. We’re really counting on him on that front.”
One of the beneficiaries of playing with Brassard has been Mats Zuccarello. The two shined together on the same line almost immediately after the trade. Zuccarello attributed their success to both having the same mindset on the ice.
“When you play with a player who kind of thinks alike, people click,” Zuccarello said. “He knew when he was going to get the puck from me and I knew when I was going to get the puck from him.”
It showed, as Zuccarello finished second on the team in the postseason with seven points in 12 games.
While the strong finish may have increased expectations for the soon-to-be-26-year-old, Brassard said he’s still approaching the game the same way.
“When I came in here in the regular season, my feeling was to just try and help the team win and put up some points to win some games,” Brassard said. “My mentality is the same way this year: I want to bring some offense and make a difference every night.”
How many points do you think Derick Brassard will record in 2013-14? Share your thoughts and predictions below.