The Penguins are 4-1-2. Their inspiration has been sporadic. That's OK. It's October.
But Derick Brassard seems a legitimate worry.
He was acquired from Ottawa last Feb. 23 to be the best third-line center in hockey.
But he isn't.
Brassard is bouncing around the lineup like some fill-in AHL guy, and isn't producing no matter where he plays. He's invisible at third-line center. He's invisible as a top-six wing. Brassard has one goal and one assist in seven games. Just nine shots.
Even more damning, Coach Mike Sullivan turns to a third line of Riley Sheahan, Matt Cullen and Patric Hornqvist when games turn tight. Brassard is reduced to spot duty.
It wasn't much better last season: Brassard had three goals and five assists in 14 games with the Penguins, and just a goal and three assists in 12 playoff games.
Sullivan should ask Brassard if he accepts being third-line center. If Brassard doesn't, GM Jim Rutherford should trade him. Brassard's doing zero good as a utilityman.
If Brassard does acquiesce to that role, Sullivan should put him at third-line center and leave him there. That's where Brassard can help the Penguins. No place else.
Brassard is doubtless antsy because he's in a contract year, but that's not the Penguins' problem.
Brassard is used to playing a bigger role like he did with his previous clubs: Columbus, the New York Rangers and Ottawa. That's not the Penguins' problem, either.
In Pittsburgh, we overestimate what the third-line center should provide because of Nick Bonino's production in the 2015-16 playoffs. Go dig out your "HBK" T-shirt.
But Brassard needs to do more than he's done with the Penguins so far.
If Brassard is third-line center, there's a positive trickledown: Hornqvist can play on the third line, and he's not just a checker. His two goals at Edmonton duly noted, that's what Hornqvist is when he plays with Sheahan and Cullen - a checker.