Monday, November 22, 2010

Brandon Prust: The Gift That Olli Jokinen Brought The Rangers (Carcillo Fight Video)

On February 1 2009 the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames made a trade in which Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik would head to Calgary in exchange for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust.  At the time of the deal the headlines were all about the Rangers acquiring Jokinen and for Rangers fans the highlight of the trade as much as Olli possibly finding his game were eliminating Kotalik’s extra two seasons at three million dollars a year from the salary cap.  The forgotten man, the media termed throw in to the deal was Brandon Prust.  The thing about it is if you asked Prust what he thought about being the man in the background, the man that was forgotten it wouldn’t bother him in the least because for Prust it is about doing his job, not the recognition or spotlight.

Tonight when the Rangers and Flames meet for the first time since the trade Higgins is no longer in Calgary, Jokinen is back with the Flames but suspended and Kotalik is hurt, so the only one who will suit up for the game will be Brandon Prust and Rangers fans could not be happier about that.  Since arriving nearly ten months ago Prust has made himself a fan favorite because of the way he plays the game.  Prust is not a big guy at 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, especially for a “fighter” type player, but he is absolutely fearless and will take on anyone that wants to go.  That was the book on Prust when the trade happened, not a great fighter but always a willing participant. 

Thing about it is the book on Prust was missing a bunch of pages that the Rangers fans have come to see Brandon write over his time in New York as he is much more than a fighter, he is a good skater who is excellent on the forecheck, works the cycle well, is tough on the puck, showed some finishing skill last season and is an excellent penalty killer.  All of these things were left out of that initial reporting on what Prust could bring to the table as fans initially expected a smaller fighter who was a fourth line grinder and instead they have found a valuable role player capable of playing in critical situations and significant minutes.

The other thing and maybe the most important thing that the Rangers fans have found in their getting to know Brandon Prust the toughness he has and the selflessness in sticking up for his teammates.  Earlier this year when he was clipped in the face by Greg Campbell literally inches from serious damage to an eye he was back for the game the following night with the stitches and a visor and two game later with the eye still painful he would fight Mike Komisarek in Toronto.  Four days later against the Flyers following Dan Carcillo’s jumping elbow to the head of Ruslan Fedotenko it was Prust who would step up and fight Carcillo in protecting his teammate.  In the fight Prust would dominate Carcillo but the outcome of the fight was not was important it was the statement Prust was sending to the league and his bench that if no one else will do the heavy lifting defending his teammates, he will.  Prust would show this again during the brawl against Edmonton as while Brian Boyle was holding off Peckham Prust was the one who stopped Stortini from skating at Avery and Prust and Stortini would go to blows. 

Then maybe in the most impressive feat of all was Saturday night when basically on one leg Brandon Prust not only refused to be out of the lineup but would play 16 highly effective minutes in a big win for the club.  Prust had left the night before with a charley horse and was considered a game-time decision and personally I was hoping he would sit one game get healthy to take on his former club tonight in the Garden, but that is not how Brandon Prust thinks or operates.  His toughness may sometimes exceed his smarts and he played, he played well and then his reward after the game was being unable to straighten his leg.  In an era of hockey in which many think the sport is being transformed into a finesse game where flopping and moaning is more common than toughness fighting Brandon Prust is an example of how an old time hockey mentality can survive in this version of the game. 

Tonight will mark the first time that Prust faces his former team and you can bet every guy in that Flames dressing room wishes they still had him watching their backs, but instead it will be Rangers fans that get to watch Prust add another page to that book on him which was missing so many pages and they will love every moment of it.  February 1 2010 Prust was the afterthought for all the “experts” and many fans who didn’t know what they were getting, but on November 22, 2010 when the puck drops all Rangers fans will be thanking Sutter and Jokinen because if the price to have Prust in that Blueshirt sweater was Jokinen then New York got off cheap.