Just like you and me, Brandon Prust is home watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The big difference between us and him, though, is that Prust has more than 500 games of experience playing in the NHL, including 53 in the postseason, and we, well, do not.
After an extended tryout with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs last fall, Prust played in Germany this season, returning home convinced that he can still help an NHL club with his combination of grit (nearly 1200 career penalty minutes) and veteran leadership.
This past week Prust sat down with Yahoo Canada Sports to discuss a variety of hockey-related topics.
Yahoo Canada Sports: Why did you decide to play in Europe this year, and what was that experience like?
Brandon Prust: I was with the Leafs for a couple months and they wanted me to hang around and see what happened with their lineup, but I kept getting offers from Europe. I turned down a lot of offers, but I finally had to make a decision, and chose to go over (to Germany) in November. It was really a great experience, and I’m really glad I did it. The experience with the Leafs was great, too. One of the reasons I picked them is because it’s the team I always dreamed of playing for, and it was a young team, and I thought I could really help them as a veteran player.
YS: Is it frustrating then to see Toronto go out at the trade deadline and acquire Brian Boyle and Eric Fehr, character veterans like yourself?
BP: Yeah, it is. I feel I belonged there and I could have helped that team; but what are you going to do? That’s hockey. I felt they really needed a guy like me; and I know I could have helped them. Then they go and make trades for players similar to me. It’s tough. Maybe I pulled the trigger on going to Europe too soon, but it had been a couple months and I really couldn’t wait around.
YS: Being such an intense competitor, how antsy do you get watching the Stanley Cup playoffs on television?
BP: It’s tough knowing I can still play at that level; and I know I could make a big impact in those games, just as I always did, and not too long ago either. You see some players out there who you know you can do a better job than, so it makes it tough on you. But I still watch the games.
YS: You played for both the Canadiens and Rangers. How closely are you watching that series, and are you rooting for one team or the other?
BP: That’s a series I’m watching because, obviously, I know a lot of guys on both teams. I can’t really say I’m rooting for either team. I root for certain guys, like I texted (Henrik Lundqvist) after his shutout in Game One, and I text guys on Montreal, too. I’m just looking for good hockey, good plays, big plays, in all the games – like even out in Edmonton (Thursday), David Desharnais scores in overtime, he’s one of my good buddies, that was pretty special to see, and I’m really happy for him.
YS: Oscar Lindberg of the Rangers left Thursday’s game in Montreal briefly for concussion protocol after a big hit left him somewhat dazed. What do you think of the league’s new concussion protocol; and what do you make of the ultra-physical play in the postseason?
BP: I think (the protocol) is a good thing. Sometimes a trainer on the ice or on the bench might not see something someone upstairs might see. It’s good for the players. But I will say that you see so many guys running around in the playoffs, taking runs at people, and hitting harder than they’ve ever hit before, because they know they don’t have to fight. For me, you see the intensity level go up and guys do things they would never do in the regular season because you’d probably have to fight somebody during the season. Every playoffs there’s a ton of injuries, and concussions, because guys are running around 100 mph and know they don’t have to answer to anybody in the playoffs. That’s not a good thing.
YS: The Penguins just eliminated John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets. You played for Torts in New York for 2 ½ seasons. What was that experience like?
BP: We played that Tortorella way: right in your face, moving the puck quick and getting in on the forecheck, hitting, not taking any crap from anybody. Torts was very intense, very honest. For me, he was one of the better coaches I’ve had in my whole hockey career. I still keep in touch with Torts. I have a ton of respect for the man.
YS: You played in three Canadian markets – Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver. Which did you enjoy the most?
BP: Montreal, that’s the hockey mecca, the center of it all. Those were three of the best years of my hockey career. There’s no place like going to a game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, especially during the playoffs. There’s nothing that can compare to it. Madison Square Garden is close, just that MSG aura, playing in the middle of New York City; but the Bell Centre is something you have to experience to actually appreciate how special it really is.
Calgary was the team that drafted me. My experience there was great, and my first couple of years in the NHL were there. That’s something you never forget. Great town, great fans.
Then last year in Vancouver, obviously, was a tough year, had an injury, and that team and organization is going through a tough time right now, so it wasn’t an ideal place for me. I loved the city. It’s beautiful, great, but my time there as a hockey player was not one of the best experiences.