Walk into the Rangers dressing room and you are always guaranteed one thing: that Derick Brassard will greet you with a smile.
That smile and upbeat personality -- not to mention big-time contributions on the ice -- is something we can all continue to enjoy for the foreseeable future after Brassard agreed to terms on a long-term contract with the Blueshirts last week, forgoing unrestricted free agency next summer in showing his commitment to the Rangers.
"Since I got here to New York I've been saying how much I really enjoy playing for the Rangers, and I don't see myself playing for any other team," Brassard told BlueshirtsUnited.com in an exclusive interview. "So I was hoping I'd be staying here for a long time, and I got my wish. I was confident both sides would find a way to get it done, but I'll admit I was both patient and anxious for a deal to get done."
Brassard, who turns 27 in September, has been a Ranger since the big trade deadline deal on April 3, 2013 in which the former sixth overall pick was the central figure in a package the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped to New York in return for winger Marian Gaborik. Since that day Brassard has played in 94 regular season games with the Blueshirts, scoring 23 goals and 56 points. He also has 24 points in 37 playoff games.
"Playing at The Garden with the great atmosphere it has and how loud and great the fans are really has helped me, as has coming here and playing on some really good teams with really good players," noted Brassard, who memorably scored four points in his Rangers debut the night he was acquired from Columbus. "That trade was really good for me. I needed a change, and this was a great one. I just like everything about the Rangers."
Last season Brassard netted a career-high 18 goals and scored 45 points, the second-most in his career. He went on to score six goals in the playoffs, including a pair of clutch game-winners on the road in Pittsburgh in Games 1 and 5 during the second-round of the Rangers' march to the Stanley Cup Final.
Brassard ranked fourth on the team in goals and points, and he played a major role in linemate Mats Zuccarello's breakout season at the NHL level where he led the Rangers in scoring in 2013-14. On the power play Brassard's seven goals tied for the team lead, while his 18 points with the man-advantage was second.
Yet the native of Hull, Quebec hungers to do even more for the Rangers moving forward.
"I try and improve every year as a player, but I am going to go about preparing myself the same way and I am going to be the same player, just try and be even better," Brassard explained. "I think last season will help me and the whole team because now we all know what it takes to really compete for the Stanley Cup. I want to mature as a player in all areas, and I want to take another big step."
Reaching the Stanley Cup Final last spring was a tremendous accomplishment for Brassard and his teammates, certainly a reason to be proud, but falling short in five games to the Los Angeles Kings also provides much motivation moving forward into the 2014-15 campaign.
"When the series was done I was really disappointed," stated Brassard, who added that he began his off-season workouts two weeks after Game 5 of the Cup Final. "Eventually you look at the positives. It was a great experience, and you really realize how hard it was. It was a grind to play 107 games like we did. I think everyone here can mature a lot from those playoff experiences."
Right now Brassard is looking ahead much more than he is looking behind him. He understands that with Brad Richards no longer on the team that more will be expected from him offensively and on the power play. He also knows it's important that there not be any "Stanley Cup hangover" and that the Rangers must be ready to play their best right from the first drop of the puck.
"I think we have to prepare ourselves really well, which is what we are going about this summer, and when training camp starts our focus needs to be in the right place," said Brassard, who has 255 points in 403 career games. "Sure we can look back and see we were three wins away from the Cup and learn from that, but we have to look forward; and I'm sure AV will prepare us really good. In the end it's up to us players to make sure we are ready to work and practice and compete."
While few things are certain for 2014-15 one thing we can count on is that a smiling Derick Brassard will be hard at work trying to get the Rangers back in position to win a Stanley Cup championship next spring.