John Tortorella stood behind the podium adorned with the New York Rangers' crest inside the press conference room on the fifth floor of Madison Square Garden and explained the rationale for trading Marian Gaborik. The day wasApril3, 2013 -NHL Trade Deadline Day -and Rangers, as is their historical wont, sent reverberations throughout the National Hockey League with a player personnel decision.
A Conference Finalist months prior, the Rangers found themselves outside of the playoff mix.
How had it gone wrong?
The Rangers were coming off a 2011-12 season in which they won an Eastern Conference-best 51 games, and added Rick Nash in an off-season blockbuster trade with Columbus.
The accepted thinking was that Nash was the final piece to a Stanley Cup champion. Nash was coming off his fifth straight 30 goal season with the Blue Jackets, and possessed the tantalizing skill a grinding Rangers team desperately needed.It was perfect. It was a no-brainer.
Except for one thing:
The deal left a gaping hole in the lineup, as centers Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were sent to Columbus along with Tim Erixon and a 2013 first round draft pick. A team that did not utilize a four line approach the season prior became one that was remarkably top-heavy and found itself treading water.
So a conclusion was reached amongst organizational decision-makers: The Rangers needed to transform.The reconstruction was as quick as it was thorough.
On the night of April2, Ryane Clowe was brought in from San Jose. Hours later, General Manager Glen Sather landed three players from Columbus for Gaborik: John Moore, Derek Dorsett and Derick Brassard.
"The deal helps us with depth," Tortorella said prior toa 6-1 rout of the Penguins a day after the deal. "Period."
Seven hundred and seventy-five days later, Brassard has become a vital cog for a team that is about to play Game 7 of an Eastern Conference Final at The Garden Friday (8 p.m., NBCSN).
"He steps up big timeand probably when our group needed it," Derek Stepan told reporters Wednesday in Tampa Bay when asked about Brassard, who recorded five points in the Rangers' 7-3 win over the Lightning in Game 6.
Centering a line with Nash and J.T. Miller, Brassard finished with three goals and two assists. Of his five points, three--two goals and an assist--came in a third period in which the Rangers scored five times to even the series.
"[Brassard]is a guy that this time of the year seems to really bea big part of our team," Stepan said. "He always seems to raise his game when the gamehas more importance to it. It was great to see he played at a really highlevel."
On a star-laden team, it is Brassard who ranks first in playoff goals and points with nine and 16, respectively. Brassard's 16 points is eighth most in the NHL in the playoffs.
"I play with a lot of emotion, and Ithink at this time of the year that's what it takes to make a difference," Brassard said Wednesday. "Alot of passion and emotion.
"I played four years in the league before I got my first taste of theplayoffs, and I think I really enjoy playing at this time. There isnothing better than playing in New York in front of those fans and playingon a good team."
Since coming to the Rangers, Brassard has skated in 53 playoff games dating back to the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In those games, he has tallied 17 goals and 23 points for 40 points.
"I don't think I've seen him score five pointsbefore," said Nash, who played with Brassard in Columbus. "He had an impressive night, and seemed like he was possessed rightfrom the start of the game. You could tell he was around the puck, he wasforechecking, and he was finding himself open a lot off the back door.He's working for his opportunities.
"Since he's come to New York, he's really turned into a premiercenter."
And the organization views him as such.
Following a 2013-14 in which he recorded 45 points in 81 regular season games and added 12 more in 23 playoff games, the Rangers signed Brassard to a five year, $25 million contract.
In his first year under the new pact, Brassard set new career highs in goals (19), assists (41) and points (60), while averaging 17:24 of ice time in 80 games.
"You know, you tryto play well for your team, you try to be involved," Brassard said."It was just like one of those nights. I was in the rightplace at the right time. My teammates gave me some really good plays, andI'm just going to try to bring it in Game 7."