The Enigma That is Benoit Pouliot

The rainbow of hockey players. - Jim McIsaac

So much beautiful skill and we so rarely get to see it... he's like the rainbow of hockey players.

Benoit Pouliot helped the Rangers win last night. Take a minute to really soak those words in because I sincerely doubt that you'll be reading them again anytime soon. In the seventh round of the shootout, when Rangers fans were begging for Alain Vigneault to send out Chris Kreider, the coach called Benoit Pouliot's number and he skated to center ice. What happened next can only be described as unbelievable.

Pouliot, who must have balls the size of heavy bags, "Forsberg'd" around Karri Ramo to the shock, disbelief, and joy of the Garden Faithful. For just a brief moment, Pouliot showed us some of the skill that made him the 4th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. It was glorious and painful all at once and had me wondering, "Where in the hell did that come from?"


Three Notes from the Highlight:

  • Listen for Giannone's goofy yokel-like laugh 11 seconds into the video.
  • Joe Michelleti's quote: "That's why the coaches keep giving this a guy a chance isn't it Dave? You see skill like that..."
  • This isn't the first time that Pouliot has pulled this move off in the shootout: He did it as a Hab too.

Watching Benoit Pouliot play this season has been an infuriating adventure. Fans from his previous teams warned us to steel ourselves for his maddening inconsistency and ability to disappear for games on end but most of us laughed their warnings away. After all, we Rangers fans have recently endured Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski... how frustrating could Pouliot actually be? What fools we were.... what beautiful, naïve fools.

Through 32 games this season Pouliot has 3 goals and 4 assists and has gone from a player some Rangers fans were excited about in the preseason to a player that is barely holding on to a roster spot. The most optimistic of us saw him as a clever bottom-six signing that would (and should) provide invaluable depth scoring and maybe make it onto the second line if the Rangers were unlucky with injuries while the most cynical of us were just glad that the $1.3 million that the Rangers offered him this past offseason didn't go towards bringing in yet another goon. What did we get? We got what we should have been expected to get when we signed the 27 year old unrestricted free agent; a disappointment.

In 34 games last season as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning Pouliot had 8 goals and 12 assists. Last season he averaged 13:14 TOI/G and in New York he's getting just 11:39 TOI/G because he has played himself out of ice time. As we near the halfway mark of the season it's clear that Pouliot has and almost certainly will continue to fall short of our modest expectations about what he could bring to the Rangers lineup. I don't know what to expect from Pouliot for the remainder of the 2013-14 season but I do know this; he needs to show us more of what he showed us last night if he wants to save his NHL career and I'm not the only one who thinks that.

"I've had this conversation with Ben, I've had this conversation with a few players in my career. You only get so many kicks at the can here, you only get so many teams... Obviously a guy like Ben, a high pick, a high skill level, you see it now and then and you go, ‘Wow, why does the inconsistency or whatever is, not there on a more regular basis?" -Alain Vigneault.

Seeking consistency from Pouliot is, in my opinion, asking too much of him considering what he's done in his career and what he's shown us this season. So I'm not going to ask for consistency. What I'm going to ask (and hope) for is that he gains some confidence from his big shootout goal and starts to put some more shots on the net with Callahan out of the lineup. At the onset of the season I was telling myself I'd be overjoyed if Pouliot eclipsed fifteen goals... now I am unsure if he'll even make it into double digits. Let's hope that hearing the Garden roar for him last night will light a fire in him and get him motivated to not only start turning things around for the rest of this season... but also to save his NHL career.

Let's go Rangers.

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