Last season Brandon Dubinsky had a breakout season leading the New York Rangers in goals (24), assists (30) and points (54). This summer, after getting to the brink of an arbitration hearing, the Rangers rewarded Dubinsky for his performance with a four-year, $16.8 million contract to keep him as a critical component of the team’s core long term. Some argued at the time that Dubinsky is overpaid while others said he would have received significantly more on the market, had he been a free agent. Regardless of your views on what he was paid at the time, the New York Rangers need 2010-11 Dubinsky to start playing this season.
In four games Dubinsky has no goals, two assists and a whopping 37 penalty minutes. The Rangers need more from him offensively and less of him parading to the penalty box. Dubinsky and Callahan are the Rangers two most versatile players in their ability to eat ice time and be effective in all situations. Dubinsky has not been available enough to that thus far this year. There is no telling if the weight of the new contract is making Dubinsky press or if it was the shift late in training camp to the top line which initially took away his natural linemates in Anisimov and Callahan, but the Rangers need him to figure it out quick. While Richards and Gaborik have been inconsistent in their impact throughout games, each has produced on the stat sheet to the level the Rangers would hope thus far and that isn’t the case for the second line.
There is no secret that the Rangers are having significant problems staying out of the penalty box and Dubinsky is leading the way there having racked up six minor penalties in only four games. One of the keys to Dubinsky’s breakout season last year was an increased maturity on the ice that showed him taking on a leadership role. There were still times where he took foolish penalties and cost the Rangers power plays by running at guys to stand up for teammates, but the other night against Kevin Bieksa was just foolish. As much as fans, myself included, enjoyed the emotion of Dubinsky telling Kevin Bieksa and the Canucks bench off with his crotch chop, his emotions have gotten the better of him far too often again to start this season. On the play Bieksa took a cheap run at Dubinsky and was going to the box, which is where it should have ended. Dubinsky has to understand the team is up 3-0 late in the final period and about to get a free power play to end the game, but instead he selfishly runs back at Bieksa to settle a score while risking himself getting hurt in a fight. He is too valuable to the Rangers to take that kind of unnecessary risk.
Brandon Dubinsky is one of the most critical players to the success of the New York Rangers and for the team to get out of their early season malaise they need the emotion and physicality he brings to the ice, but they need him to be smarter about it. Brining positive emotion and legal hitting to the Rangers forecheck will lead to more scoring opportunities for himself and his line, which the offense needs them to cash in. Expect Dubinsky to break out of the early funk when he gets back to playing his game instead of trying to justify the contract he signed this summer.