He’s not going to wow you with his speed. He isn’t going to turn heads with his skill. His playmaking ability? Nothing to write home about. Yet, Taylor Pyatt provides valuable contribution to the New York Rangers, whether you like it or not.
Somewhere along the line in Rangerland, fans were taught that unless you score goals on command or have blazing fast speed, you are essentially “useless”. Take Brian Boyle for example. Boyle scored his first goal of the season last night and was finally lauded for his work ethic and defensive ability this season, things that have absolutely nothing to do with scoring a goal.
It took people up until the 15th game of the season to recognize that Boyle has arguably been one of the top five forwards for New York this year.
There are important aspects of hockey other than just scoring, no matter what position you play. Pyatt’s leadership in the locker room is unquestioned. His experience in the NHL has turned him into a strong and respected voice on any team that he is a part of. Alain Vigneault gave him the “A” to wear on his sweater for several games this preseason, something that went unrecognized by fans and media. Why? Because everyone needs a whipping boy.
Maybe fans should look at Benoit Pouliot. He has scored a game-winning goal this year, but what has he contributed other than that? He’s lazy defensively, terrible in the neutral zone, is an afterthought on the second unit of the power play and outside of decent skating ability and owning an above-average wrist shot, he has really given nothing to the team. Pouliot is much more deserving of criticism than Pyatt.
It’s time people stop overlooking Pyatt’s responsible efforts in the defensive end. His penalty kill is invaluable to this team. He may make a few mistakes here and there, but who doesn’t? The difference is that fans are waiting to pounce at the first sign of a miscue because they don’t want him to take the roster spot of a young forward, someone who is not ready to compete at the NHL level.
Pyatt has played over 800 games in his career. He hasn’t been out of work since he came into the league in 2000. There’s a reason why he keeps playing, and although it may not be evident to you, it’s evident to coaches and management teams throughout the NHL. He won’t provide flash, but he will provide under-the-radar experience and leadership. For the Rangers, that’s more than enough.
Martin Burns covers New York Rangers hockey for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter (@martin_burns) for more thoughts and news on the Blueshirts as well as the rest of the NHL!