“Well, to have some teams come at you like Montreal did, it’s definitely flattering, and I think it was good for me to also set a precedent for players like me and how important we can be to teams. That was something I was happy to do as well, you know? Sometimes players like me are maybe overlooked or not looked at as an important piece to the puzzle, but it was something I wanted to prove and wanted to show.” ~ Brandon Prust
PENTICTON, BC. — Every summer heading to the free agents’ market on July first, much is written and being said about the hunt for the top offensively gifted or the best defensemen available. Not so much emphasis is placed on players referred as “role players” but don’t be mistaken, the best ones do receive a lot of interest from NHL teams.
In the summer of 2012, none of that was more evident than in the case of Brandon Prust ; newly appointed Habs’ General Manager Marc Bergevin knew it. As many of the team’s fans recognized it at the time, Prust and Montreal were tailored made for each other.
On the one side, you had a team which had gone through a complete clean-up in management and coaching staff, bringing a new philosophy and wanting to implement a new culture to a team. The Canadiens had been recognized over the last several seasons as being soft and easy to play against, at least physically. It was also a team who had suffered more than its fair share of injuries, especially last year. Seeing the fans’ reaction to Brad Staubitz combined with the kind words from his teammates opened many people’s eyes on the need for guys who will go to war for their teammates.
On the other side, you had a player who played 82 games the last two seasons, and who averaged nine goals and 23 points, while accumulating 158 penalty minutes on average during that span. We’re talking about a guy who led the entire NHL with 20 fighting majors last season and who dropped the gloves 18 times the year before. But we’re not talking about any tough guy here. This is a player who takes pride in his game at both ends of the ice and a well-respected penalty killer.
As the market or the value of anything is based on a balance of supply and demand, teams knew that that price tag would not be cheap for a player like Prust and it didn’t take long for Rangers’ GM Glen Sather to realize it. Oh he did try to sign his rugged winger and head coach John Tortorella had nothing but praise for his tough guy, even going as far as warning him about the promises made by the Canadiens. They wanted him bad, but the Rangers being the Rangers, they also wanted to make a splash, searching for another high priced top talent for which they are notorious. This left no room to sign Prust who chose, reluctantly, to test the UFA market.
While there is no doubt that money was a factor in his decision to sign with Montreal, one cannot underestimate the influence of a good girlfriend. Prust has been dating French TV personality Marie-Pier Morin who certainly did her share in selling the city and the fans’ passion for hockey to him. But what truly impressed the Canadiens’ number eight was the keen interest demonstrated by Marc Bergevin towards him.
And Prust didn’t wait long after the lockout ended to show exactly what he would bring to the table when he dropped the gloves against Leafs’ tough guy Mike Brown just seven minutes into his first game for the team on January 19th.
As the Canadiens, who finished last in the East and 28th in the entire NHL last year, sit in first place in their conference at the time of writing this article, Prust’s contribution cannot be overlooked. Sixteen games into the season, he is averaging close to 13 minutes of ice time per game, including 2½ minutes short-handed. He leads the team in penalty minutes with 71 and in fighting majors with five, while pinching in two goals and three assists. It would be extremely dishonest to underestimate the impact he is having on rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, allowing them to focus on their game with Prust as their watchdog.
Here’s what he had to say about his contribution to the team’s success:
“Well they made some great changes in the offseason. You’d like to think that you’re a piece of that puzzle and you brought some good things into that dressing room and on the ice. It’s just all I try to do, go out and try to lead by example and bring some energy to this team. But it’s been a whole bunch of things that have kind of come together to have success. It’s been a good start to the season. I’m enjoying my time. Montreal’s a great city. We have a great team and organization. It’s been fun, and we’ve been winning, so that makes it a lot more fun.”
It’s easier to put a price tag on goals’ scorers, and to a certain point, on top end defensemen. While it can be argued that the Canadiens have overpaid to get him, one would be hard-pressed to put a monetary value on role players like Brandon Prust. Coaches like him. Players love him. He is, for many, a fan favourite and Rangers’ fans often comment on how they miss him in New York. There is no doubt in my mind that he’s having a huge impact on this team and that he fits like a glove into Marc Bergevin’s philosophy and into Michel Therrien’s system. When looking at his contract, let’s not forget that he’s only 28 years old and a four year contract certainly won’t bring him to retirement.
If I have one disappointment, it’s that I had hoped that it would jump start Travis Moen when it comes to the physical department. I was hoping that Prust’s influence would awaken, put a fire in Moen’s belly, to bring him back to his old form of 2007 while playing with the Anaheim Ducks. But that’s not Prust’s fault anyway. He is doing what the Habs are paying him to do.
Sixteen games don’t make a four year contract, no doubt. But better be satisfied with the start than the alternative… especially in Montreal.
En français: En Brandon on Prust
About the Author (Author Profile)Habsterix is a fictional character created for the sole purpose of the internet. Based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule, his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement.
Sites That Link to this Post
- GameDay: Islanders vs Habs Lineups, Prust, Defence, Moulson | All Habs Hockey Magazine | February 21, 2013
- GameDay: Rangers vs Habs Lineups, Gallagher, White, Faceoffs | All Habs Hockey Magazine | February 23, 2013
- GameDay: Habs vs Leafs Lineups, Trade, Re-Match, Eller | All Habs Hockey Magazine | April 4, 2013
- GameDay: Habs vs Senators Lineups, Road Trip, Price, Galchenyuk | All Habs Hockey Magazine | April 4, 2013