Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What to Expect From: Vinnie Prospal

In this series, we're going to go through each player, examine what they have been able to produce in the past and what it would be reasonable to expect from them in the coming season, mostly using logic. The goal is to have a statistical expectation for the team as a whole, to see how well they might fare in 2012-13. This is an alternative to just throwing your hands up in the air, crying, drinking excessively (although this activity doesn't exclude drinking) and playing russian roulette alone in my basement all summer.

The third candidate in this series is another person who established himself as a leader last year, Vinnie Prospal.

"We call this fisting, right? I love fisting"

2011-12 was his first season in Columbus, but it was one to be remembered for Vinny Prospal. Late in the offseason it became apparent that another forward was needed and Howson called upon a grizzled veteran who was getting desperate for a contract and another chance in the NHL. Both got more than they bargained for.

Wait, this is starting to sound like an inspiring sports movie. Or a bromance. Let's get back on track.

Prospal is a 37 year old Czech who was originally drafted back in '93. I'm pretty sure there was at least one guy not wearing a helmet in the NHL then (MacTavish) just to give you a frame of reference for how long Vinny P has been around. He's now played for 7 NHL teams, including two separate stints with the Lightning and the Flyers. When Howson offered him a contract, there were few teams biting and Prospal took it because he needed the money and still had the fire. It didn't hurt that he knew he would get top-billing and PP time as Huselius was going to be out for nearly the entire season.

What we CBJ fans got to start the 2011 season was an absolute atrocity. But Vinny was one of a few who was not gonna take it lying down. We saw his intensity come through in a way that it really hadn't ever before in his 18 year career. Especially early on, he was intense. He won puck battles and contributed more to the offense than any other player, including Nash. For a while, he was the team's leading scorer. 

Prospal's tangible intensity earned him two things: the A for alternate captain and the trust of the management, who gave him a gentlemen's agreement (possibly forged in a gentlemen's club) to be a Blue Jacket for life. The agreement is to keep renewing 1-year contracts as long as they both can stomach it and having a warm seat waiting in management for Prospal after he retires.

Vinny's main assets on the ice are good hockey sense and hands, with decent size and willingness to win puck battles and go to the net with sneaky effectiveness. His compete level seemed to wane in the middle of the season, but this was bookended by very productive periods at the beginning and the end. He's also apparently quite durable, having played all 82 games last season. The main drawbacks to his game are his lack of speed and- to be honest I'm just postulating on this one- I've never seen the guy take a real good shot. His plus/minus wasn't too shabby but I've never really seen him impress me in the defensive zone. Ryan Smyth seems to be doing ok with no shot and poor skating so these criticisms shouldn't be taken to heavily.

The Dispatch reporters gave him a B+ for his efforts, and I'm in the same ballpark. If I'm curving the grade against other CBJ players and weighing in what it took to get him ($1.75M, no players traded in exchange for his services), I'd be tempted to go up to an A or an A+.

Here are his recent stats from HockeyDB.

Regular SeasonPlayoffs

2003-04Anaheim Mighty DucksNHL8219355454-9----------
2005-06Tampa Bay LightningNHL8125558050-350220
2006-07Tampa Bay LightningNHL8214415536-2461454
2007-08Tampa Bay LightningNHL6229285739-7----------
2007-08Philadelphia FlyersNHL18410146717310136
2008-09Tampa Bay LightningNHL8219264552-20----------
2009-10New York RangersNHL75203858328----------
2010-11New York RangersNHL29914238451010
2011-12Columbus Blue JacketsNHL8216395536-11----------
NHL Totals10602434927355496510253526

So this is what we can say about him: 37 year old, effective top 6 winger (and occasional center) capable of scoring 50+ points per season. Doesn't rely on speed too much but battles hard enough that you should worry about injuries.

With the dynamic changing after Nash's departure, I'd assume that Vinny will be given the opportunity to play in the top-6 and on the PP again. Given his reasons for past success, it would be safe to assume that he can continue to put up around 50 points per season as long as his body can put up with the punishment. Which eventually, it won't. I like Vinny and wish him all the success in the world, but if I'm being realistic I'd bet he ends the season on the IR and retires to his safe european (or ohioan) home.

Off the ice, Prospal will continue to be a vocal leader. If we are looking for captains, I'd put him on the list of possibilities because he won't be around for too long so it would be a smaller risk relative to other guys.

Bieksa: "well at least we got to see that fat guy dance again tonight."

Prediction for Vinny Prospal in 2012-13: 50GP, 10G, 25A, 35PTS.

Let's hope he can finish this season and possibly give us another. If the CBJ need more of one thing, it's fisting!

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