I have to admit that I was pissed when the New York Rangers dealt forward Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators Mika Zibanejad prior to the 2016-17 season.
In Brassard, I thought the Rangers had someone who meshed well with teammates, was someone who came through in the playoffs, and was guy that fans really seemed to like. In fact, I was sure that Brassard would be a Blueshirt for a very long time.
Looking back on it now, however, I am singing quite a different tune. I am pretty sure that all Ranger fans are given on how good Zibanejad has been for this franchise since being acquired prior to the 2016-17 season.
The first positive when it comes to Zibanejad is that he is still young. Come April, he will turn just 26-years-old, which means that he has yet to hit his prime.
Brassard, on the other hand, turned 31 in September. Yes, that is not exactly old, but in the NHL, it is a number that signifies that the player could be heading towards the back nine of his career.
Another positive to come out of this deal is that since he was dealt is that Brassard’s production is not what it used to be. When he was a Ranger, Brassard had seasons of 45 (2013-14), 60 (2014-15), and 58 points (2015-16) and was one of his team’s most consistent players.
After being dealt by the Senators to the Pittsburgh Penguins, however, his production has slowed. In 29 games this season, he has just 12 points, and when you’re a player on a team that is surrounded by offensive stars, 12 points is not the kind of number that he should have.
On the other side, Zibanejad’s production with the Rangers has been pretty consistent thus far. In his first season with the team, Zibanejad had 37 points in 56 games due to an injury. Had he played a full season, we are probably talking about anywhere between 60-70 points.
Last season was another decent one for Zibanejad. He had 47 points (27 goals and 20 assists) in 72 games and once again showed that offensively, he has a lot to offer this hockey club.
When it comes to this season, Zibanejad is showing that when he is on his game, he can easily be his team’s best player. As of this writing, Zibanejad leads the team with with 34 points (11 goals and 23 assists) in 37 games, which if he keeps up this pace should put him with a pretty decent point total come the end of the season.
In his time with the Rangers, Zibanejad has also come through when the team has needed him to. Last season, he had four game-winning goals and he already has one this season. Yes, Brassard was clutch for the Blueshirts too, but with the offensive talent Zibanejad has and the things he can do with the puck, his play in key situations will only get better.
I know that at the time it was a tough deal to make. Brassard was well-liked and at the time, the Rangers’ most consistent forward.
With all of that said, it’s easy to see now that the Blueshirts won this deal. Zibanejad is younger, has more offensive talent, and is only going to get better and should be a valuable part of this Rangers team both now and going forward.
Photo: Associated Press