Sunday, October 05, 2008

2008-2009 Previews: Donald Brashear

Next up among the forwards…

Donald Brashear

Last Year: 5-3-8, -7, 119 PIMs

Career average (per-82 games): 7-10-17, -7, 216 PIMs

Feerless’ Take: There comes a time when, in Brashear’s particular line of work, you become the bear no one wants to poke. It is a station in the sport that comes at the price of a lot of work and pain. Brashear has had, according to hockeyfights.com, 212 fights in his NHL career (regular, post, and pre-season). If one were to average this over his career, his 192 regular season fights would mean 17 fights per 82 games. But he hasn’t had 17 fights in any NHL season since the 1998-1999 season in Vancouver. In two seasons with the Caps, he has had 26 fights in 157 regular season games. He’s hardly become a shrinking violet, but what it’s meant for the Caps and Caps’ fans is that there are other aspects of Brashear’s game on display that suggest his contribution is not merely that of an enforcer. For one, he’s had 234 hits in those 157 games, third behind Alex Ovechkin and Milan Jurcina, which isn’t bad for a player averaging less than eight minutes a game these past two years (about a third of what Ovechkin averages). There are scoring lines, and there are crash and bang lines. Brashear has shown he can contribute to the latter in ways that don’t only focus on fisticuffs.

Cheerless’ Take: Uh, cuz?...He wears ’87,’ it doesn’t make him Sidney Brashear. He was 27th on the club in average time on ice last year (last) and 27th the year before (ahead of only Jamie Hunt). He plays those less than eight minutes a game for a reason. Here’s your fun stat…in 14 seasons, Brashear has been a plus player twice. He’s still an intimidator who will police the ice for the Caps, but the flip side of that is whether he’ll take the iffy penalty, too. You didn’t forget what happened in Boston last spring, did you, cuz?

The Peerless’ Take: Brashear’s role is to maintain order, to prevent anyone from taking undue liberties with the skill players the Caps employ. It is not a unique role in the NHL; there are several heavyweights employed in this fashion. But Brashear, despite being 36 years old, is not entirely one-dimensional. He can provide serviceable minutes on the fourth line, and in a pinch can play on the checking line. How the Caps choose to populate the top three lines will influence how Brashear is used (or the extent to which he is dressed) this year. The Caps have that surplus of scoring forwards that could man three full lines, leaving the fourth as a checking line. That would seem to argue more for something like a Bradley-Steckel-Gordon deployment, leaving Brashear as an odd man out. But there will be situations and teams against which Brashear’s presence is recommended.

We would maintain that his role is just about the toughest to do well in the NHL; it is a hard way to make a living in professional sports. But having climbed the rungs of the enforcer ladder in the early stages of his career, here is what that has produced in terms of what perhaps is a statistic surprising to Caps fans. Brashear has been in the top ten in fights only once in the last eight seasons (eighth in 2006-2007). He hasn’t been in the top-five since the 1997-1998 season. There comes a time when a player in the enforcer role has built a sufficient reputation that no one really wants to challenge him…or take liberties for which they will have to answer. In that respect, Brashear is as effective a player in his role – keeping the peace – as the “skilled” players who are at the top of the scoring lists.

Projected: 2-4-6, -4

1 comment:

doughless said...

i for one am glad Brashear's presence is felt on and off the ice. until such time that NHL teams all do away with toughguy play (never), an enforcer will be an integral part of the team lineup. i am more that happy to have Brash on our bench!!