Clearly, Derick Brassard‘s transition from defensive trap to all-out offense and go score hockey hasn’t gone as he;d like it to thus far. In his first six games, Brassard has two points (1 G, 1 A) and has looked a bit out of sorts at times. Changing systems entirely will do that to you. Brassard is a very skilled player and will heat up so don’t worry about that.
The Penguins have deployed a line that saw Dominik Simon and Phil Kessel flanking Brassard. Simon was hurt against Philadelphia so the Penguins promotion of Josh Jooris allowed head coach Mike Sullivan to move Riley Sheahan up to third line left winger in place of Simon.
The hope when the trade was made was that Kessel could click with Brassard as Brassard is the high profile third line center the Penguins coveted since the beginning of the season. Early returns say the line hasn’t quite clicked yet, which is 100% fine. In theory, Kessel playing right wing on the third line makes the team deeper.
The Penguins aren’t as deep at wing as they appear to be. The injuries have really brought out some holes and usually force the Penguins to roll three lines because the players they bring up from the AHL really may not be quality enough NHL players to allow them to play all four lines. This is why Sheahan was moved up to the third line for more playing time. When it comes to giving Brassard wingers, Kessel is by far the best option.
Something the Penguins should explore, however, should be some new linemates. I am far from giving up on the Kessel/Brassard tandem. They will work it out eventually. But if the Penguins can slot someone in now to help make Brassard’s transition that much easier all the while eventually reuniting Brassard and Kessel by the playoffs, it’s a win for Pittsburgh.
Right now, I don’t think the Sid and the Kids line gets touched. Ideally, those guys get hot again and the league goes into panic mode. Let’s be real. Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe last year. Jake Guentzel led the league in postseason goal scoring. Conor Sheary, despite his struggles, pitched in on offense in the playoffs last year as well.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess.
I would be all for giving Kessel a shot on Evgeni Malkin‘s line again. Malkin has been the best player in hockey since the calendar flipped to 2018. Kessel and Malkin have been together for most of Kessel’s three season’s (already?) in a Penguins’ uniform. The only knock on this line is it’s inability to play defense. No matter who plays left wing, most likely Carl Hagelin, Kessel and Malkin aren’t the most defensively inclined players in the league.
This would knock Patric Hornqvist to Brassard’s line. Brassard is a comparable player to Crosby as far as his two-way game goes. He’s a threat to chip in offensively really at any time and his defensive game is as sound as they come. I’ve never loved Crosby and Hornqvist together but it has worked. Hornqvist isn’t the most fleet of foot but neither is Brassard. Despite their lack of speed in comparison to some of their teammates, they are smooth enough skaters that it can work.
The Penguins could also use Sheary on Brassard’s line in a pretty effective matter if Sheary can regain his form. Again, they likely wouldn’t take him off of Crosby’s line unless he goes ice cold for another stretch. If Daniel Sprong is ever recalled, he’s another candidate that seems like the perfect player to slot in next to Brassard.
The Penguins newest prized possession will take a few more weeks to be really up to speed with things. The Penguins have options if they decide they want to change up their lines during this transition period for the league’s best third line center. When he gets going, whether with Kessel or another right wing, the league may not be able to prevent the Penguins from doing it again. We all know what “it” is.