Everyone’s favorite reporter, Jesse Spector, asked an interesting question on Twitter: Who is your least favorite player to have played for your favorite team, either now or in the past? Now, this is a loaded question. What defines “least favorite”? Should it be a guy like Scott Gomez, Bobby Holik, or Wade Redden, who simply did not live up to expectations? Or what about guys like Erik Christensen, Tom Poti, and Dave Karpa, who were just simply absolute disasters on the ice? For the Rangers, this is an especially esoteric question since there are decades upon decades of hockey to choose from and a whole plethora of guys who simply did not do the jersey that he wore justice, for one reason or another.
And so I accept that there are a number of great answers to this question. Gomez and Holik did not earn the contracts they were given but they at least were decent in their time with the Rangers. Guys like Erik Christensen and Tom Poti were absolutely miserable players but had good intentions. For me, there is one guy who very clearly covers every possible attribute, so to speak, of what it takes to dislike a player. And that guy is Donald Brashear. So for the second ever installment of “Random Ranger File” it’s a two-for-one special. I’m going to remember Brashear’s dreadful and thankfully short tenure as a New York Ranger while also justifying my answer to Jesse’s question. Keep reading to check it out and decide if you agree with my choice.
Donald Brashear was a guy who was disliked virtually unanimously by Rangers fans before he even came to New York. He spent three and a half seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and encompassed everything that New York hates about the Flyers. He received a suspension during the 2005-2006 season for instigating a fight with Darius Kasparaitis because of an incident that had happened during the Olympics. Brashear’s stupidity continued when he signed with the Washington Capitals. Brashear decided to show his true colors and fought a 38 year old Brendan Shanahan while sucker punching Rangers defenseman Aaron Ward afterwards. For that he received a suspension. But perhaps his most famous incident is during the 2009 playoffs, when he decided to elbow an unsuspecting Blair Betts in the face. Betts, who was huge on faceoffs and on the penalty kill during that series, suffered a broken orbital bone and was gone for the rest of the playoffs and has not really been the same player since. For that incident, Brashear received a six game ban.
The offseason followed and Rangers’ enforcer Colton Orr decided to accept a four year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now lacking an enforcer, what does Glen Sather do? Sign Donald Brashear months removed from the Betts incident, of course. Rangers fans have disliked many acquisitions Glen Sather has made, but largely because of contract length or money or just not thinking the player would fit. And while Brashear’s two year, $2.8 million contract was not received well, nor was the idea of a 38 year old enforcer, the collective groans of the New York fanbase ultimately boiled down to this very simple point; the idea of Donald Brashear skating around MSG in a Rangers’ uniform was absolutely revolting. When Brashear was introduced to Rangers fans for the first time at a meet and greet he received boos.
The front office tried to justify the signing by claiming the Brashear could fill the enforcer role (something Colton Orr did) while also adding some offense (something Colton Orr did not do). Earlier in his career Brashear did score 8-11 goals in some seasons so in that sense there was some logic in such a thought, but this was a 38 year old coming off of a four point season. Brashear scored in a pre-season game against his former Capitals to give Rangers fans perhaps a glimmer of hope.
But sadly, a petty, irrelevant pre-season goal would become the most notable thing Brashear would do as a Ranger. The offense Rangers fans were told to expect never did come. Through 35 games Brashear totaled one lonely, pathetic point; a secondary assist on an Artem Anisimov goal. And while Colton Orr was referred to by many at the time as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the NHL, Donald Brashear…was not. He seemed to half-hazardly participate in fights and spent more time hugging his opponents than actually throwing fists (thus justifying his nickname of “Huggy Bear”). Thus, the Rangers were left with a 38 year old enforcer who could not enforce. And one that seemed perfectly happy to collect his paycheck while not earning it.
John Tortorella, as you can imagine, decided that he saw enough and made Brashear a healthy scratch for 11 out of the following 12 games. Brashear, meanwhile, decided that he did not like what was going on and demanded a trade. The Rangers instead opted to place him on waivers and, when shockingly no team felt the need to claim an old, expensive, irrelevant goon, Glen Sather sent Brashear to the AHL. He would spend the rest of the season there and totaled 6 points in 27 AHL games.
But the Rangers were still faced with a problem the following offseason. NHL rules dictate that any player who is 35 or older at the time of signing a contract counts against the cap no matter what. Thus, Brashear’s $1.8 million cap hit would count against the Rangers’ salary cap even if he was put in the AHL. But Glen Sather once again had a plan to rectify a mistake with a genius trade. Sather shipped Brashear and AHL winger Patrick Rissmiller (also on a silly contract at the time) to the Atlanta Thrashers in return for center Todd White, whose $2.375 million cap hit was too rich for the Atlanta Thrashers, who were struggling financially and could not afford to give that kind of money to a fading Todd White. The Rangers buried White in the minors for most of the season and were relieved of his cap hit. The Thrashers immediately bought out Brashear. No NHL team offered Brashear a contract and so he spent two more seasons playing in the LNAH, a league that is essentially Quebec’s version of the movie Slapshot. Final Rangers’ statline for Donald Brashear: 36 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, and a -9 rating.
Brashear is truly the full package when analyzing what current or former Rangers’ player might be someone’s least favorite. He had an elaborate history of being a dirty player and injuring Rangers’ players prior to coming to New York. He held a multiple year contract for a ridiculous amount of money that he didn’t deserve. His contributions on the ice were completely negligible, if not absoliute zero. And he whined and complained about his icetime before demanding a trade. Other than putting Henrik Lundqvist into a coma or tearing down Eddie Giacomin’s number from the rafters, I don’t know what else Donald Brashear could have done to make him any more dislikeable. At least Bobby had a 25 goal season with the Rangers. At least Erik Christensen tried his best and didn’t complain about his role. There was very little to like and a lot to hate about Donald Brashear before he came to New York and he did absolutely nothing to salvage his reputation after signing with the Rangers. And for that, there is nobody that I dislike more – that I am disgusted to have seen wear a Rangers’ sweater – than Donald Brashear. But please, feel free to dispute that and/or come up with your own answers in our comments section.
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