State of the Rangers

Is Benoit Pouliot forcing an extended Rangers stay?

Pouliot: Riding recent success to a new deal? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image
Pouliot: Riding recent success to a new deal? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image

Inconsistent, journeyman pro, never sticks with one team, will never live up to his draft status. The list of criticisms labelled at Benoit Pouliot is a long one, and by and large most criticisms and assumptions about the Rangers winger have been or are true. Pouliot will never live up to being 4th overall in 2005, nor is he particularly consistent, but in recent weeks something inside of the highly skilled, big winger may have clicked.

We wrote pre-season with excitement at the potential steal the Rangers may have signed when they took on Pouliot. We then watched Pouliot stumble through the first 25 or so games of the season, as he looked like a free agent mistake. In the past month or so, Pouliot has been one of the Rangers better players and may even manage to stick with a club beyond one season for the first time since the club that drafted him (the Wild). Of course, this if he can continue his great recent form.

At 6’3 and 200 lbs Pouliot is big, can skate well, is very skilled, and works hard. He’s not a defensive liability either, but it always appeared something was missing. All of a sudden (at least recently) Pouliot is consistent and, above all, dangerous. Using the breakaway against Dallas as an example, he doesn’t give up on plays. In short, Pouliot is working his butt off to stick with the Rangers or at least prolong his NHL career.

The short term deal that Sather signed Pouliot to appears to be a motivator, there’s no long term contract to fall back on. The constant public prodding from Alain Vigneault seems to be working. Pouliot has developed great chemistry with his line mates and has become a staple on the now dangerous Rangers powerplay. Since a December 15th game versus Calgary, Pouliot has 11 points in 14 games, has four powerplay goals and is letting off almost two shots per game despite averaging less than 13 minutes per game.

Pouliot has developed into an effective depth forward and has used his relatively limited ice time to great effect. With his impressive play he is a big reason why all of a sudden the Rangers look as deep as they have done all season. He is a big part of the recent strong form shown by the Rangers. Size and skill combined is rare when used well and he adds a great deal to the roster when he’s playing well.

While his season projections are modest (14 goals, around 30 points, under 13 minutes/game), this is in part due to an atrocious start to his career with the Rangers. If Pouliot can maintain his current form, not only will the Rangers benefit for the rest of the season but he may force them to keep him. It’s a weak free agent market this summer and a player of Pouliot’s talent, pedigree, size and skill set would be a great keep for the Rangers.

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  • Don’t want to overreact to this stretch any more than you want to overreact to his start to the year.
    It’s no different really than the previous conversation about Brassard.  At the right price, Pouliot’s a very nice asset in the bottom 6.    He’s found quite the niche playing the net front on the PP while Zuke/Brassard wreak havoc on the perimeter. 
    I’d like to think he himself would like some more stability in his career, so could easily see him wanting to re-sign, and I think if he stays on track for 30-ish points, the organization will feel the same way.

    • I agree. You have to think he’ll ‘settle’ for something to stay with one franchise than re-up every year and start over. AV seems to be a good coach for him, and like we both said, he’s carved out a nice role lately. 

      • Chris would you think it’d be a bad idea to re-sign Pouliot at the end of the season or now even. He could end up being one of those contracts of value. A 40+ point player for 1.5 mil per. He fits what AV wants to do.

    • Terms of contact may be dictated by playoff numbers, if we get there, but it is a regular season work that should determine whether any contract should be offered.
      I think what Benoit was missing is chemistry with linemates. Keeping the PouBraZuc line together was a wise AV’s decision, as he somehow figured out that consistant linemates will result in his players better consistancy ( what a revelation!).

  • Always liked Pouliot, glad to see him finding his way as a Ranger.  Having said that, I am not getting too excited about this surge.  This is what Pouliot does, he gives a few glimmers of hope every year but for the most part he tends to be underwhelming.
    Now, if finishes the season over the 45 point mark, it would mean that he was almost a PPG for the second half and I would feel more confident in saying that he has turned his career around.  Maybe he needs to grow up a little? Maybe playing with a guy like Nash, Pouliot’s game is really Nash-lite, and consumate pros like Richards and Callahan is putting Benny on the right road. Maybe it’s simply money that’s driving him.  If he continues to be a key cog on the dangerous Rangers PP he’s going to be tough to let go at the end of the year.

  • I like him, always have. That said, fourteen games is too small a sample size to state he has turned it around. Inconsistent, a word that truly defines his career, means players are streaky, prolonged streaks of productivity alternating with streaks of unproductivity. Right now, I think he’s just having a productive streak and will eventually come back to earth. I hope he keeps playing well, though, and that he stays a Ranger in the future, because I do like this guy.

  • Pouliot still has a tendency to go into scoring slumps and his defensive play is not always on board. I would take a wait and see approach with him in regards to any resigning.

  • The conversation is a bit premature, lets see at year end what his entire body of work really is.  If he continues to play well, and puts up the points, then  maybe a two year deal, at a reasonable rate.  If he doesn’t play as he is at this time, then he walks.  I have grown to see him as an assit, where as earlier I thought he was a dud.

  • BP is benefiting from the complimentary players around him.  I think he’s in the flow of Zuch, Brass.  I think all 3 are in sync and the sum is working out better than the parts.  They are the 3rd line, right?

      • How awesome is that btw?  The Rangers are so deep up front that their 3rd line is full of players that are dominant on the PP. 
        For years it’s been as simple as throwing out the 1st and 2nd line in some order for a minute each on the PP and hoping for the best.  Now the Rangers have three guys that are ‘PP specialists’ and the rate of success shows that it’s working.

  • It’s all between the ears with BP and I have to give credit to AV for somehow getting this guy going. Can he keep it up though?

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