Fixing the Pirri Problem; How to best use the new breakout Ranger

Bobby Bevilacqua


Brandon Pirri needs to get into the lineup one way or another, but which option is the best? Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

When the Rangers signed Brandon Pirri, my first thought was that there had to be a trade in the team’s future. Pirri is a goal scoring threat and an underutilized top-nine talent, so they needed to make space for him.

The Rangers had already signed Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich, filled out their bottom six, and re-signed Chris Kreider and JT Miller. I was thrilled with the signing because I had been watching Pirri since his 22 goal 2014-25 season, but I was just a bit confused.

It’s baffling that Brandon Pirri hasn’t secured a regular roster spot anywhere because he’s been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for a while now. He’s scoring at a right of 1.31 goals per 60 minutes, which is higher than Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, James Neal, Brad Marchand and Zach Parise over the last three years.

I’m afraid that Pirri will fall into the same problems with the Rangers that he did on other teams; bounce around the lineup and not secure one spot, get scratched for lesser talent and not get a chance to retain a top-six or top-nine roster spot.

The option to trade someone to get a defenseman and open up a spot for Pirri is there, but we’ll save that for another article. For this one, we’ll look at how they can use him with the current roster.

Use him on the fourth line

Alain Vigneault has already spoken about how he doesn’t see Pirri as your prototypical fourth line type of play. To an extent, that’s true, because he’s not the best defensively or on the penalty kill. But why do we have to stick to the traditional fourth line grinder/defensive player?

Pirri does not have to be the 13th forward, he can play the fourth line. While Jooris and Lindberg are out, Pirri can play center even though that’s an unnatural position for him. He did it against the Devils and played well, scoring twice and adding an assist. A line of Grabner-Pirri-Fast could be a really good blend of skills.

Pirri has outplayed Grabner, Gerbe, Hrivik, Lapierre and anyone else fighting for that fourth line spot. He went 4-2 on faceoffs and showed he’s capable of handling the position. Also, he loves to shoot and can finally bring some scoring and generate shots on the bottom line. Fast and Grabner are good enough defensively to make up for whatever defense he’s lacking. When Lindberg is healthy, you can go with Pirri-Lindberg-Fast.

And lastly, when Pirri is in the lineup it means that he can play on the power play. The Rangers power play has looked fantastic and it’s because they have guys line Zibanejad and Pirri on their top unit. He’s willing to take a ton of shots, which is great, and he has a point on all four PP goals this preaseason.

Use him as 13th forward

If Alain Vigneault decides that he doesn’t want to use Pirri on the fourth line, he HAS to make the opening night roster as the 13th forward, instead of the typical fourth line grinder spare forward. Having Pirri as the extra forward has a lot of benefits.

If one of the skilled players gets injured, then there’s no struggle to fill their spot with someone that can replicate their talent. Pirri can score, and could jump right in if someone like Nash or Krieder or Miller gets injured.

If one of the team’s stars is struggling, you can scratch them as a statement or to give them a bit of a mental break and still substitute in a talented forward. Kreider hasn’t scored in 12 games? Give him two games off and throw Pirri on that line. Things like this don’t become a problem anymore because you’re not throwing Jarret Stoll or Jayson Megna onto the second line.

Also, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich will be adapting to the rigors of an 82 game NHL schedule. It’ll be tougher for Vesey since he’s coming from the NCAA, not the KHL, but Buchnevich might tire as well. Every once in a while it wouldn’t be bad to give them a day off to keep their fitness up or give them a game off when they’re struggling. This should never be a permanent solution because Vesey and Buch are the future of the franchise and need to develop, but it’s certainly a good way to get Pirri involved and let the rookies relax.

Pirri can get a lot of valuable usage as the 13th forward. Not as much as he’d like, but still a good amount of games.

Move someone from the top nine and let Pirri play there

To reiterate from the last segment, this means someone not named Vesey or Buchnevich because sticking them on the fourth line does nothing for their development. This is the hardest option because you really can’t reasonably demote someone like JT Miller or Chris Kreider to the fourth line.

Also, moving Buchnevich to the AHL could be dangerous since he has the option to go back to the KHL, so you don’t want to do that. It’s very hard to find someone to move to let Pirri play in the top nine, even if he deserve to play there so this is a last resprt.

Make a trade

Jacob Trouba is on the trade market and Pierre McGuire says that the Ducks are looking to unload a significant contract with an Eastern Conference team, which could mean that a defenseman is on the move there as well. The Rangers need defense and suddenly have a plethora of top-nine talent and forwards. If they trade someone like a JT Miller, then Pirri could slot right in and there doesn’t seem to be any offense lost, right?

This is a tough decision to make and will likely be explored in a later article. But it’s an option nonetheless.

What do you think is the best way to get Pirri some playing time?

Posted on October 1, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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