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)
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.
So who do you think is the better Ranger, Girardi or Prucha? Vote thumbs up for the higher seed (Girardi), or thumbs down for the lower seed (Prucha). Voting ends at midnight tonight.