Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Born to Be a Ranger

OK let me get my bias out of the way first, I am very much a Brandon Dubinsky fan. I am a fan of his because it was Brandon Dubinsky which is why I am here today writing this for you. If that makes you think that my judgment is colored when it comes to telling you about him so be it.

It was telling the Brandon Dubinsky story that helped to build my reputation as the prospect writer for the Blueshirt Bulletin. I will also be the first to admit that I was very lucky to catch this story because I may have been the first to tell Ranger fans about Dubinsky but it has been Dubinsky who has done all the work.

All Brandon did was rebuild my love of hockey with not only his play but his passion for the game. To see someone who kept getting told he could not do this or that go out and prove the world wrong is something to watch.

The very first time I talked to Brandon, he talked about growing up a Ranger fan just like so many of us have. His father was a Ranger fan and like many of us passed along his love for the Rangers to his son. Being a Ranger player means something to Brandon as he understands what Ranger fans expect of their players.

Brandon talked about watching Adam Graves his hero play, about watching the Rangers winning the cup in 1994 and how one day he would wear Broadway Blue. It was as real as it gets unlike so many of those prospects who will tell you "well I grew up rooting for so and so but now I am a Ranger fan".

Dubinsky was the after thought in the 2004 draft, the smallish center who few knew anything about. All the attention was focused on those 5 other prospects selected before Dubinsky and because Dubinsky was playing out west in the WHL only the Rangers knew what they had (but I will bet any amount that even they had no idea he would make it this soon).

To me the one play that told me "here is a future NHL player" happened in the 2005 WHL playoffs as Dubinsky was taking a face off against Everett in the offensive zone. I was sitting next to Everett GM (and former Ranger himself) Doug Soetart in the press box and it seemed only we knew what was going to happen.

Dubinsky saw something because using a couple of nods and a shoulder shrug he set in motion a "bang bang" play that had Dubinsky win the draw to his right where his winger had moved and in the same motion fired a shot that beat the Everett goalie. Want to talk about a play that totally silences a crowd then this was it.

Up in the press box, Soetart could only shake his head as he saw it coming and it was one of those plays where you knew what was going to happen and there was nothing you could do to stop it. It was an NHL level play that had totally turned the game around. I asked Brandon about the play and all he would say was he knew he could win the face off and put the puck where he wanted.

Here is what you will get with Dubinsky

Where to begin is the better question as this prospect is going to give you a bit of everything. I know this much and that is Brandon Dubinsky will become an instant fan favorite at the Garden. In Dubinsky you will see a combination of many a former Ranger in him.

I have to start with pest because Dubinsky is a pain in the butt to play against. He does not stop working for the puck and will get under the skin of the other teams mainly by his work ethic. You will see a player who will work, fight and scrap for the puck until he hears a whistle. He will yap a bit at the other team as well as he does have the NYC trash talker gene in him.

As he becomes more comfortable at the NHL level watch him on the face offs, we are talking about a player who gets better on his face offs as the game goes on. I once charted him winning 15 face offs in a row. If you recall Craig MacTavish during the 94 playoffs and how he owned the face off circle here is Dubinsky.

He also has a knack for directing the puck straight off the face off and if any Ranger will score right off a face off it will be Dubinsky, I have seen him get shots on goal from the face off. If anyone will every score directly from a face off it will be Brandon.

Dubinsky likes to cycle the puck north/south preferring to get the puck on net or behind the goal line and then attacking instead of trying to make the pretty play. Dubinsky will get a lot of garbage goals because he will get the puck on net and then out fight others for the rebound (Just like some guy named Graves used to).

Other teams will make the mistake of not realizing how strong Dubinsky is and try to physically beat him down. Not going to work as Dubinsky feeds off getting hit and will get you more frustrated by hitting back (Dubi was voted the Player Nobody liked playing against in the WHL).

Despite that Dubinsky will drop the gloves he is a lot like Matt Barnaby was, more heart than fighting skill but the fans will love him for it. I for one would prefer he skip the fighting at the NHL level unless he actually has no choice because the time he spends in the penalty box means he can not score.

Something I have also learned to enjoy about Dubinsky is that he does listen to his critics and then goes out to prove them wrong. I have heard people question his skating skills, his defense and his strength only to know that Dubinsky would go out and address those issues.

I once got under his skin royally right before the 2005-06 WHL playoffs by telling him that I had him ranked as the Rangers 5th best center prospect (they only had 5 at the time). I was kidding at the time trying to tease him. Boy how little did I know it would fire him up.

Want to talk about getting him mad at me even though he did not say to my face. All Dubinsky did was first go 5-10-15 in 12 WHL playoff games and then 5-5-10 in 11 Hartford playoff games. All along he would say to his dad "5th best center huh, wonder what he is saying now?"

Getting to watch him grow up over the last few years has been a great experience as I have gotten to watch Dubi mature into a solid person not just a hockey player. He always was willing to sign autographs but he also knows he has to be a positive role model for the younger fans who are today what he was growing up looking up to him.

Another sign that Brandon has grown up is what he said to his hometown paper the Anchorage Daily News about his status: "As much as I'm happy about being on the roster, it's not set in stone as far as making the team for good,'' Dubinsky said in a telephone interview Monday. "Nigel Dawes made the team out of (training) camp last year, played eight games and got sent down to Hartford for the rest of the season."

This level headed behavior is why I believe Dubinsky is going to become a contributor to the Rangers this season. Dubinsky knows he has to work hard every shift in every game if he does not want to find himself back in Hartford.

I got to thank Brandon and his family for helping to bring his story to you guys. Now that he has made it to the Rangers you will see what I have had the pleasure of seeing for the last few years. A really good person.


Nat said...

here's a random question. Has he ever played wing before?

Jess Rubenstein said...

He can play all of the forward positions

Matty said...

Wonderful post Jess, I have grown to become such a fan of Brandon on just your gushing over him lol ...

I am so excited to see him in Ranger Blue getting significant minutes in a fantastic, imo, 3rd line full of energy and grit with Cally and Pruchs ... it will be such a pleasure to see them all this season!

rangerblue said...

I have loved this kid from the first time I saw him play. Just hope the Rangers give him a fair chance to contribute.

The line of Callahan-Dubinsky-Prucha could be real interesting.