Brassard ‘a better hockey player at this point in time’ than Zibanejad, says Sens GM

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For Ottawa, today’s Mika Zibanejad-for-Derick Brassard trade was all about one thing:

The present.

“We felt Mika has great potential down the road, but we felt with Derick we were getting someone that was more proven, and a better hockey player at this point in time,” Sens GM Pierre Dorion said on Monday’s conference call. “Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs again, and we feel Derick’s going to help us make the playoffs.”

Dorion’s remarks only confirmed what was pretty obvious — Ottawa is aggressively pursuing the postseason after missing last year.

That message was made loud and clear with a major hockey operations overhaul to begin the summer. Dorion replaced longtime GM Bryan Murray, Guy Boucher replaced head coach Dave Cameron, and former Stanley Cup winning bench boss Marc Crawford was brought in as Boucher’s assistant.

Now, the changes are happening with the on-ice product.

Brassard, who played under Boucher in junior, should provide an immediate upgrade. While the Sens did mortgage some of their future with this deal — Zibanejad is five years younger, and on a club-controlled contract — Brassard had 27 goals and 31 assists in 80 games last season, and will make a pretty solid, albeit unspectacular, one-two punch at center with Kyle Turris.

Dorion has already envisioned who Brassard might be skating alongside.

“He’s the left-handed center that we’ve coveted for a few years,” Dorion said of Brassard. “Left-handed centers will make it easier to get the puck to our right wingers, and we have two pretty good ones in Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan.”

On paper, the Senators — who finished nine points out of the playoffs last season — now boast a fairly impressive forward group highlighted by Turris, Brassard, Stone, Ryan and unsigned RFA forward Mike Hoffman, who is scheduled for arbitration.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is coming off a breakout campaign, and there’s hope former first-rounders Matt Puempel and Curtis Lazar can reach the next level.

But if the Sens are going to make the playoffs next year, one thing is certain — special teams, which were horrendous all season long, are going to have to improve.

In that light, it’ll be interesting to see how big an impact Brassard can make. He didn’t kill penalties in New York, but was a mainstay on the club’s power play, and finished tied for the team lead in PP points.

“He’s someone that plays a complete game,” Dorion said. “We just feel that we got a really good player here.”