Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prospal prospers at Center? We're DUBI-ous

This, my friends, is messed up.

For months now - ever since Gaborik tweaked into town and Gomez skedaddled (and yes - I was able to spell check that word) we've all been fretting about Brandon Dubinsky's return. That's because the Rangers are short handed in the Center Position and we need somebody to get Gaborik - and others - the puck.

So, after we sweated our way through the negotiations - from qualified offers to arbitration wavers to Tortorella agent-bashing to Heatley and Kessel trades elsewhere - to hold outs and equipment held hostage. And finally, at the end of all this drama - the Rangers sign Brandon Dubinsky, our young Center arrives at camp and Tortorella immediately installs him - at Wing?


It seems odd - weird - and confusing - but there it is. Totorella has told reporters that he has likes Vaclav Prospal (who he calls Vinne) at center and that he will try Dubi at center and wing and will decide where to keep Brandon as this season progresses. It makes no sense on the surface - but I think there is an underlying logic to it:

First of all, Dubinsky's holdout made Tortorella mad. Coach is just plain torqued off (should we say "Torted" off?) at Brandon, his agent, and the fact that an RFA with no leverage was able to force the Rangers to make the deal. And John is an emotional guy - so don't ever discount his emotional state when trying to figure out why he's doing whatever it is he's doing.

Second - without Dubi in camp, Tortorella had to go to the next option. Prospal has played Center in the past - for Torts at Tampa Bay - and he seemed like a logical guy to try in that slot. Tort's also knew that the better Vaclav did, the more the hold-out Dubi would feel some pressure to get his skates back on.

Third - once Prospal started playing Center - the event took on a life of it's own. Having gone with him - Tortorella clearly wouldn't have said to Prospal "Hey, look, just keep the spot warm for Brandon, because when he shows - you're out of there". The opposite is true - he'd have to let his player know he has a real shot at the spot. Because there was no guarantee that Dubi would ever sign.

So, now that Dubinsky is back in camp - Torts can't just yank Prospal and throw Dubs in. He's got to at least make it seem like he's having a competition there. And who knows - maybe he is. If Dubinsky doesn't look like the better Center - why wouldn't John go with the hotter hand? And by respecting Propsal - he shows his team that he's backing up the loyal players who show up on time to camp and have been working hard since day 1.

So really it's either

1 - An elaborate show of respect for Prospal - rewarding team loyalty

2 - A conspicuous show of disdain to Dubi, his agent, and any players who might be thinking about future holdouts, or

3 - An honest competition to find the best Centers the Rangers have available.

Most likely it's a combination of all three. But it's certainly something to keep our eyes on as the pre-season winds down and October 2nd sneaks up on us. Let's hope the final result of this is some high quality play from our Centers - whoever they are.

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