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.