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Best post-lockout Ranger: Round 3, Dan Girardi (2) vs. Petr Prucha (6)

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As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Today’s matchup is #2 Dan Girardi vs. #6 Petr Prucha and his myriad of rabid fans. The winner will face #1 Jaromir Jagr in the finals of the Glen Sather Bracket.

Dan Girardi (acquired – 2006 undrafted free agent)

Girardi is this team’s version of a Cinderella story. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the OHL’s Guelph Storm (and Ryan Callahan’s teammate), Girardi was never a noted scorer, which is why he was never noticed. But the Rangers noticed him (presumably) while scouting Cally, and signed him to an AHL deal in the summer of 2005. They didn’t sign him to an NHL contract until 2006 after impressing in the ECHL and AHL. After his deal, he played another 45 games in the AHL before sticking with the big club permanently.

Over the next six seasons, Girardi missed a total of just four (!!) games. When you take into account the minutes (sometimes up to 30) he plays and the number of shots he blocks, that’s an impressive feat. Girardi isn’t a noted scorer (31-123-154 in his career), but he’s one of the best shutdown defensemen in the game today. Girardi has been the steady rock on defense, and players such as Fedor Tyutin, Marc Staal, and Ryan McDonagh have flourished while playing with him. Girardi was given the ‘A’ when Staal went down with his injuries, and it’s no mystery as to why.

Petr Prucha (acquired – 2002 draft, 8th round)

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Best post-lockout Ranger: Round 2, Rick Nash (3) vs. Petr Prucha (6)

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As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Today the second round continues with #3 Rick Nash vs. #6 Petr Prucha.

Just a note: I am on vacation. The tournament posts are still going up, but I had to schedule them in advance, so the winners of the previous matchups won’t be posted in the picture until I get back next week. I am still keeping track though.

Rick Nash (acquired – 2012 trade with Columbus)

Nash came to the Rangers in an offseason blockbuster that sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a 2013 1st round pick (Kerby Rychel) to the Blue Jackets for Nash, Steven Delisle, and a 2013 3rd round pick (Pavel Buchnevich). Nash was everything that was advertised for the Rangers, putting up 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games. Over an 82-game season, that averages out to about 40 goals and 80 points. Nash is the game breaker that the Rangers have needed desperately. With Nash, they have someone who can draw the opposition’s top defenders and still come out with a dominant shift.

It is necessary to point out that with Nash, the Rangers were expected to be a dominant offensive force. However, the struggles of Gaborik and Richards threw a wrench into that, leading to Gaborik’s trade for key depth players. None of that is on Nash, who performed in a manner that we expected.

Petr Prucha (acquired – 2002 draft, 8th round)

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Best post-lockout Ranger: Round 1, Petr Prucha (6) vs. Paul Mara (11)

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As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Yesterday we saw #3 Rick Nash beat #14 Steve Eminger. Today’s matchup is #6 Petr Prucha vs. #11 Paul Mara.

Petr Prucha (acquired – 2002 draft, 8th round)

Prucha burst on to the scene as a rookie in the 2005-2006 season, becoming the first Ranger rookie to score 30 goals in a season since Tony Amonte 14 seasons prior. The tiny winger (listed at 6′ and 175 lbs, but I think that’s generous) won over Ranger fans very quickly with his goal scoring and his blue collar play. Prucha clicked with Jaromir Jagr on the top powerplay unit, and never looked back. He scored 22 goals in his second season with the Rangers, but dropped off and found himself as a healthy scratch for the majority of his final two seasons in New York. Prucha was a healthy scratch so often that he wasn’t even included in the Tom Renney line generator.

Prucha was eventually sent to Phoenix with Nigel Dawes and Dmitri Kalinin for Derek Morris. He spent two more years there before bolting for the KHL. During his Rangers career, Prucha had a line of 63-50-113 in 237 games.

Paul Mara (acquired – 2007 trade with Boston)

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Gilroy Getting The Prucha Treatment

When the Rangers signed defenseman Matt Gilroy out of Boston University in 2008, many thought they were getting a bonafide top-four defenseman. The general consensus was that Gilroy would be on the top-four pairing and quarterback the powerplay back to respectability. This was solid logic, as Gilroy captained the BU team to a national championship, and was their best defenseman during that run. It didn’t take Gilroy that long to produce in the NHL, scoring a goal in just his third career game. After his first month as a pro, Gilroy had three points (2-1-3), and was a +5 rating. While it wasn’t the offensive production many expected, he emerged as a solid two-way defender, averaging close to 17 minutes per game.

Unfortunately for Gilroy, he struggled mightily after that first month. The truncated NHL schedule (due to the Olympics), coupled with the fact that Gilroy had never played more than 45 games in a season, really started to take its toll on the young defenseman. His production slowed to a standstill, and his +/- rating dropped from +5 to a +1 before he was sent to Hartford in December 2009 to reassess his game. After a five game stint with the Wolfpack, he was re-called by the Rangers. Both sides hoped he had worked out his kinks in the minors.

Gilroy would play in 39 more games after being re-called, he would not score a single goal in that span. In fact, he would finish with a dismal line of 0-9-9, and a -3 rating in those 39 games before finding himself as a healthy scratch in lieu of the veteran Anders Eriksson, who was acquired at the trade deadline and called up from Hartford. When all was said and done, Gilroy’s rookie season was a bit of a head scratcher.

More after the jump

Prucha Re-Ups with Phoenix

My all-time one-time favorite Ranger Petr Prucha, who was savagely beaten benched several months at a time under the reign of Tom Renney, has found a new home in Hamilton Phoenix.

Prucha, who was traded to Phoenix in the Derek Morris deal, resigned with the club today. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but it’s safe to assume it’s in the same price range, maybe even less, of his previous contract that paid him $1.6 million a year.

In 18 games with Phoenix, Pru put up a 2-8-10 split, while actually seeing the ice for more than one game a month.

Sadly, this will probably be my last post about Prucha for a long, long time. I think I just shed a tear.

Renney Explains the Prucha Situation

So Rick Carpiniello caught up with Tom Renney the other day and asked about the Petr Prucha situation. He had this to say:

Renney feels that Prucha — who, as we know is not afraid to play a physical game for a smallish player — wears down. And wears down significantly, to the point where it affects his skating.

“With a guy like Pruch, it’s a matter of him getting in and being able to sustain it,” Renney said. “He’s not a big guy. For our needs, at least, a guy like Petr is good for a while and then it seems to dry up on him. Then I can get him back in again. The bottom line is it’s his size. It’s getting banged around, and then because of that, not being able to sustain what he can deliver over the period of more than four or five games. And that’s the dilemma that I have.

“And it’s too bad,” Renney said, “because he’s a helluva guy.”

I don’t get it, earlier in the season Renney said that Prucha was the best conditioned Ranger on the roster. But yet he wears down after a few games? Maybe I’m missing something, but that seems extremely contradictory.

But let’s give Renney the benefit of the doubt, and say Pru does wear out a little faster than you would expect. Does that mean that he should play 7 games, then sit out for 10? How about play 5, and rotate in Voros when you need some size in the lineup?

I don’t buy his excuse for the Prucha treatment. But then again, if you read this blog often, this shouldn’t surprise you.

Update 2:15pm: Corey Potter has been called up. I’m guessing he will make the trip as the 7th defenseman, with Kalinin still hurt.

Korpo/Vally In, Fritsche Out, Prucha Sits Again

As per Sam Weinman, the revolving door that is the Rangers lineup is getting tweaked again. The Korpedo is back in tonight in lieu of Dan Fritsche, who was invisible last game. Valliquette is also in tonight, with Hank expected to get the start tomorrow at The Igloo.

As for Prucha, he’s sitting again. I guess Voros’ presence in front of the net is worth 3 minor penalties a game. I don’t know how Prucha can keep his positive attitude while getting benched for no apparent reason. More power to him.

So tonight the Rangers again will have two forwards sitting in the press box, and the same six defensemen playing. Seriously, just waive Fritsche. What does he bring to this lineup?

Update 3:00pm: I guess the Rangers management reads this blog. Fritsche has indeed been waived (Note, this is in French):

Fritsche au ballottage

Les Rangers de New York ont placé le nom de Dan Fritsche au ballottage mardi.

Translation:
New York Rangers have placed? the name of Dan Fritsche to the ballot Tuesday. (Translation coming via Google Translate). Obviously “to the ballot” means “waived”. That should free up some cap room.

Can We Talk About Petr Prucha? I’ve Been DYING to Talk to You About Petr Prucha!!

The general pulse of the blog and its readers is that our beloved Petr Prucha has been treated almost as unfairly as Chad Pennington (sigh).  While the circumstances have maybe changed the last several weeks with his regular insertion into the lineup, it does not change the fact that the Rangers brass sorely mismanaged this former 30-goal scorer’s development during his most critical years.  

The criticism in regards to Prucha has usually been his defensive zone awareness and being rather easy to knock of the puck.  While these are valid points, one simply has to watch this young man play the game of hockey and immediately see the value he brings.  His work ethic is second-to-none; I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve watched Petr Prucha coast to a loose puck, and even then I still think I’d have plenty of fingers to spare.  That effort alone is enough to warrant an everyday spot in the lineup.  You cannot overemphasize putting pressure on defensemen and the ability to create turnovers in the offensive zone, something I believe the Rangers sorely lack.  And if thats not enough for you, just simply look at the numbers: in his first three NHL seasons (not including this year), Prucha has averaged just under 70 games played, 20 goals, and 35 points.  Regardless of  a player’s physical stature, you cannot replace his ability to find ways to put points on the board.  Prucha’s most productive days was when he played on the top 2 lines, a spot where the Rangers coaching staff should find ways to insert him.  Perhaps a spot on the anemic power-play (tonight excluded) wouldn’t be such a bad idea….

With his recent success, it seems as if Petr Prucha will become a regular once again when the Rangers take the ice.  An important question to ask now is whether or not the Rangers are simply showcasing Prucha in the coming weeks to set him up for a trade.  If my writing above has taught you nothing, I would be strongly against any move of that sort.  My reason is the following: two seasons ago, a Rangers team lacking an identity and in need of a spark traded for LA Kings spark-plug Sean Avery.  The dynamic of the team changed almost immediately, with the Rangers playing more inspired and intense hockey.  The following season, after struggling early on without the services of Avery due to injury, the return of Avery to the lineup again fueled the Rangers to another playoff run.  All other circumstances regarding Avery aside, and while I am in no way comparing Petr Prucha to Sean Avery, the “addition” of Prucha to the Rangers may be the light this talented but misguided team needs to find itself and become the team we all know they can be.  Only time will tell if Prucha can deliver on this, or if Tom Renney will keep him in the lineup long enough for him to prove it.

Prucha pays off

Petr Prucha returned to the lineup last night after a 10 game ride-the-pine streak, and he injected some much needed life into the squad. He stays with the play and attacks the net unlike anyone else on the squad, and only Nik Zherdev is as creative with the puck. His goal 49 seconds into the third frame brought the Garden to its collective feet, and chants of PE-TR PRU-CHA rained down from the blue seats.

The Hockey Rodent adds more:

Yes, he’s been stymied by netminders all fall. Prucha may well be guilty of gripping the stick too tight(ly). But even when he fails, he brings the arena to its feet because what he does is in such sharp contrast to Tom Renney‘s bland menu of meat and potatoes formations and five in the picture.

Variety is the spice of life, baby. Prucha better be in the lineup on Saturday, when the Blueshirts head south to take on the Fightin’ Ovechins yet again. There’s zero excuses if he isn’t.

Prucha Delivers

Well, one day after Petr Prucha declines a conditioning assignment in Hartford, he puts in the game tying goal with under six minutes remaining in the third.  For those who missed it, Prucha, who was one of the best Rangers on the ice during the game, buried the puck after it caromed off the boards from a Gomez shot. 

Considering his effort and production today, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing tomorrow night in Montreal as well.  Maybe all he needed was some playing time.

Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sits in Montreal.  But that’s a whole other topic I don’t want to get into right now.