While I’d be reluctant to characterize Brandon Dubinsky’s benching in the first period of Monday’s win over the Islanders as a big deal, it was still an episode that offered a window into the sophomore center, who in his time in New York has always succeeded in carrying himself as someone much older. This is just the latest example.
The basics: Dubinsky committed a tripping penalty and a holding penalty in the first five minutes of that game, and was sat out by Tom Renney for what looked like the next two shifts. After the game, Dubinsky admitted immediately to not playing well, and conceded Renney was just doing his job by sitting him down.
The reason this is important because the 22-year-old Dubinsky seemed to handle the whole sequence with more maturity than most 10-year veterans (of course, a second-year player shouldn’t be as ruffled as a 10-year veteran might be). That was apparent that night, but even more so today, when after the player practiced on a line with Aaron Voros and Dan Fritsche (more on that later), he expounded on his shortcomings the last two games.
“There was no further conversation,” Dubinsky said when asked if he and Renney ever talked about the issue. “I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to perform and make sure I’m ready to go. There’s no excuses. You have to be consistent in the NHL. It’s one of the things people bank on here. So many players come in and they’re not consistent, and they’re not here anymore. I put a lot of pressure to make sure I’m ready to go every night.”
I asked Dubinsky if his struggles of late could at all be a reflection of greater attention from other teams. A case can be made that, on whole, the center has been the Rangers’ best skater so far this season. And if I’m seeing that, other teams are too, and might be stressing the importance of shutting him down.
“No,” he said. “Every player in the NHL is a good player. Obviously there are some superstars, but I certainly wouldnâ€™t classify myself in that category. I think that it’s just a matter of work ethic and realizing you canâ€™t cheat for certain things. Youâ€™ve got to do the little things. Iâ€™ve always really prided myself on trying to make sure I do the little things. I donâ€™t think I got ahead of myself but maybe subconsciously I started doing things that arenâ€™t what make my game special.
“So if anything maybe it was really a good thing. I came in today and worked hard. I know what I need to do to be successful so itâ€™s really just a matter of getting back to it.”
For his part, Renney acknowledged there was no need to revisit the issue with the player, because he knew the message got through the first time.
“Heâ€™s a great kid. We have a hell of a dressing room in there,” Renney said. “And Iâ€™m not the type of coach who packs that baggage around. Itâ€™s been dealt with once. Thatâ€™s enough.”
Put it all together and Larry Brooks is right today in “noting that re-signing Dubinsky should be a priority”:http://www.nypost.com/seven/10292008/sports/rangers/rangers_in_dubi_ous_ituation_135763.htm to Glen Sather this season.
The point isn’t that the kid is always going to soar, although he’s come pretty close this season. The point is that he still knows how to respond when he stumbles.
As for another young player, Renney didn’t necessarily shoot down the idea that Lauri Korpikoski could be better served playing in Hartford. The Korpedo has sat out five of the last six games, and was practicing today on a line with Patrick Rissmiller and Petr Prucha—not exactly a good sign.
“It’s a good question,” Renney said. “He’s practicing hard. He can play. If he’s getting in every third or fourth game, you have to ask yourself if that’s worth it.”
It’s a fair point. While I don’t think Korpikoski has fared poorly in his time here and I still think he’s an asset to the Rangers, there is no point in having him sit around when he can pass freely between New York and Hartford without waivers. It’s obvious that the Rangers still haven’t locked into anyone in that third line wing spot, and until they do, they might as well give him a chance to skate somewhere.
Update, 2:09 p.m.: Sure enough, Korpikoski has been sent to Hartford. The Rangers obviously were waiting for my endorsement before making it official.
Great line by Renney on whether he felt the need to talk to Nikolai Zherdev after the wing’s ghastly turnover that almost led to a Kyle Okposo goal on Monday. The coach nodded and said, “I’m not a great coach, but I’m not an idiot.”