Theme: “My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”
OK, the quote comes from the late actress Bette Davis, but was there any tougher character on the screen? As for Donald Brashear, we think he – and his fellow practitioners around the league – plays the toughest role of all in hockey, that of “enforcer.” Whether one is in favor of or is against fighting in the sport, it holds a unique – and some believe useful – place in the sport. We won’t opine on that.
What is beyond doubt, though, is that Donald Brashear remains one of the true heavyweights in the NHL. And does that give players like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom a little more freedom to do what they do? We suspect it does, and in that respect, Brashear plays an important role on this team, regardless of how many points he might put up or what his plus-minus might be.
For the record, here are Brashear’s ten-game splits…
Brashear is not expected to generate a lot of offense, but on a team that looked to generate more offensive pressure than perhaps any of its recent predecessors, Brashear did not generate much. Points-wise, it was his lowest total (nine) in more than a decade (eight, in 1995-96, with Montreal). In terms of the less well-quoted statistics, Brashear was the biggest hitter on the team (0.21 hits per minute played). He also led the club in fighting majors (12).
But if physical play is to be a player’s contribution, there is a fine line between supplying that physical edge and taking undue, undisciplined liberties. On a couple of occasions, Brashear crossed that line this year, most notably in the late stages of a game on March 8th in Boston. It was already a chippy game, following as it did the 10-2 whupping the Caps laid on the Bruins five days earlier. Brashear has already been involved in the second fight of the game only 14 seconds into the contest (Matt Bradley kicked things off at the five second mark). But late, the Caps were nursing a 1-0 lead when Brashear took a double minor for high-sticking, then compounded the problem by taking a roughing call. The Caps surrendered two goals on the extended five-on-three, and the Caps lost what might have been their most heartbreaking game of the year (had they not reached the playoffs), 2-1. That was a situation one would not have expected a veteran like Brashear to have a meltdown of that magnitude.
After that sequence, Brashear’s ice time was not reduced appreciably, and to his credit he played a much more disciplined game in the season’s final stretch. While he didn’t drop the gloves in those last dozen games he played after the Boston incident, he took only two inconsequential interference minors in those games (both games won by the Caps).
Brashear provides a measure of freedom for others to do what they do best. Perhaps the price to be paid for that is that from time to time, his style will be more a detriment than a positive. For the most part, Brashear was on that side of the line. And for that, he gets…