Derek Dorsett and the Role of the Agitator

Dorsett could be the first Ranger since Chris Simon to have more than 200 PIM in a season.

When Derek Dorsett became a New York Ranger in the Marian Gaborik trade I was hoping that he would be a poor man's Brandon Prust but thus far he has fallen well short of that. Or perhaps, he was never going to be a poor man's Prust. Perhaps he is more like a poor man's Sean Avery. Don't see it? Let me explain.

Dorsett possesses real hockey skills, including a deceptively good shot and solid skating ability, but is best known for getting under the skin of the opposition and causing havoc in whatever way he can. How much havoc has the twenty-six year old Canadian caused this season? Dorsett currently leads the league in PIM with 73 in 15 GP and is second in the league with five fights. He trails only Buffalo's tough guy Cody McCormick who has six scraps this season. It's worth noting that fighting is down quite a bit this season which would make Dorsett's chances of breaking the 200 PIM mark a little bit more difficult. So he's a guy that can skate, has a pretty good shot, gives the opposition headaches, spends a lot of time in the penalty box, and has a bark that is much worse than his bite. Sound familiar to anyone?

If Dorsett continues on this pace he will almost certainly be the first Ranger to eclipse 170 PIM in a season since... that's right, you guessed it, Sean Avery did in 2010-2011. Dorsett spends a lot of time in the box, just like Avery did, but he also tends to draw more penalties than he takes. Prior to last night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Dorsett was second only to Rick Nash with Penalties Drawn/60 with 2.4 (Nash had 4.0 in the very small sample size of three games). Dorsett has a Penalties Taken/60 of 2.0 so he draws more penalties than he takes which, in my opinion, is quite surprising although that has been true for his entire career.

I understand the value of a guy like Dorsett in the lineup. He is a relentless forechecker, he never takes a shift off, he draws penalties, and he'll drop the gloves to inspire or stick up for his teammates. He also throws pucks at the net when he gets the chance. Despite averaging only 11:29 TOI/G Dorsett is seventh on the team in shots taken and he seems to have a knack for getting quality scoring chances. He belongs in the bottom six and can really thrive in that role.

My biggest problem with Dorsett is that he's been a bit of a headache for me this season. He'll play too aggressively and take stupid penalties one night and the next night he'll be an outstanding role player and forechecker and will infuriate the opposition. Dorsett knows exactly why he is in the lineup and what's expected of him and he does his very best to be a thorn in the side of the opposition and make playing the Rangers a miserable experience. He yaps after the whistle, he takes the body whenever he can, and he plays the role of agitator almost as well as Sean Avery did. Perhaps that is why I see him as more of the Sean Avery type than the Brandon Prust type. Although Dorsett is used on the penalty kill (0:48 SH TOI/G) he isn't used half as much as Prust was when he was on Broadway, Vigneault seems to use him in that role sparingly. Thankfully Dorsett doesn't come with any of the off-the-ice shenanigans and distractions that Avery had buzzing around him when he was a Ranger.

I didn't think it would happen but I am slowly starting to warm up to Derek Dorsett. He could be the first Ranger to approach the 200 PIM mark since Colton Orr had 193 in 2008-2009 (the last Ranger to eclipse 200 PIMs was Chris Simon in 2003-04 with 235 PIM in 65 GP) but don't let that distract you from what he does for the team when he's not in the penalty box. It isn't hard to think of players we'd rather have in the bottom six that have Dorsett's cap hit of $1.633 million but, all things considered, he carries quite a bit of value and plays an important role. Besides, having him in the lineup makes playing a one-dimensional goon unnecessary. For that reason alone I don't mind having him in the bottom six especially if he continues to draw as many penalties as he takes and starts to do this a little more often.

Let me know what you think of Dorsett's game in the comments guys and gals.

Let's go Rangers!

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What do you think of Dorsett?

Like him a lot. The Rangers need some toughness in the lineup and he's the only guy that brings it every night.104
Wish we got something else in the Gaborik trade.20
He's a headache but he's OUR headache. The kind of guy you can only love so long as he's wearing your team's jersey.55
I appreciate what he brings to the team but he needs to start producing more offensively.37