With a nearly capped out roster following a flurry of offseason moves, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher was left to go bargain hunting to fill out the bottom of his roster for 2021-22.
As we’ve documented, the early returns have been pretty (pretty, pretty) good — well at least in terms of a production standpoint.
There’s no better case study than veteran pivot Derick Brassard, operating on a one-year, $835K deal, with six points (one goal, five assists) in his first seven games with the Flyers. The .86 points per game he’s averaging is the best mark in his career — one that’s included nine teams now. It took him until game 17 a season ago to reach the six point mark, so the production the Flyers are getting is certainly above what they ever thought they’d be getting — at least thus far.
Brassard’s role was increased as a result of the Kevin Hayes injury, and with Hayes approaching the window of his potential return, there’s a good chance that Brassard’s role falls in line with where the Flyers thought it was going to be when Fletcher brought him in.
And while the production has been great and unexpected, it’s probably a good thing Hayes’ return is about to drop Brassard down in the lineup.
Never quite an advanced stats darling, Brassard has lagged well behind his teammates in terms of play driving and puck possession thus far with a Corsi-For Relative of -8.3 at 5-on-5 through seven games. He’s also enjoying an on-ice shooting percentage of over 24% at 5-on-5 while getting a save percentage of 97%. Easy math gives Brassard a totally unsustainable shooting + save percentage (PDO) of 122 — the third highest mark in the league thus far per NaturalStatTrick. A season ago Thomas Hickey achieved a PDO of 114 in 78 minutes of 5-on-5 time — the same amount Brassard sits at now — to give a good idea of just how good things have been luck wise for the Flyers’ No. 19.
When Hayes returns Brassard will slip down the lineup and likely lose the luck of playing with the likes of Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson, he’ll also likely see lesser competition that is helping beat him up at even strength as a result of a 56% defensive zone start rate. That combination will bring down his PDO and he’ll settle in as the bottom six role player that we expected coming into the season and not the nearly point-per game producer he’s currently masquerading as.
Even though he’s destined to come back down to Earth in the very near future, Brassard is still going to be counted on as a valuable depth piece this season and even more so with head coach Alain Vigneault unable to find a consistent trio on the fourth line as he filters through options in the early going.
The hope is that even though Brassard won’t be scoring at the clip he is right now, he can continue to at least harness some of that magic to create a consistent bottom six that can support the Flyers’ big guns up front.
And if he isn’t supporting the big guns with production, he’s part of the crew ready to answer the call with the quote of the Flyers’ young season.
“That guy came after our captain and we answered the bell,” said Brassard after the Seattle Kraken tried to take liberties with Claude Giroux in October.
It’s early and Brassard has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers thus far in terms of production, but just don’t expect it to last — at least at the current rate, that is.
*Statistics via hockeyreference.com unless otherwise noted*