Despite all the talk, by media and fans, about the Penguins big four needing to be split up, General Manger Jim Rutherford brushed off all of that and proved to everyone that he could better this team without moving one or more of Malkin, Crosby, Fleury or Letang. So have the Penguins problems been fixed?
With Free Agency only 8 days old and 3 months until the start of the Penguins season there is, without a doubt, a plethora of moves GMJR will make between now and October. But as we sit here now and look at what the Penguins have done since the end of their season I think we can look and see what, if any, problems have been fixed.
Below I decided to put together what the lines would probably look like if the season started today. Obviously there is a lot that can happen between now and October, but unfortunately I do not have magical powers to see what the future holds so we will have to determine what we can with what they have.
Perron – Crosby – Kessel
Plotnikov – Malkin – Hornqvist
Kunitz – Sutter – Dupuis
Sheary – Sundqvist – Wilson
Letang – Maatta
Pouliot – Cole
Love-joy – Dumoulin
Fleury – Zatkoff
Scratched: Scuderi – Oleksy
One of the most infuriating aspects from last season was how far the Penguins scoring dropped off from February until they were eliminated in the Playoffs. Looking at the league average compared to what Pittsburgh put up in goals is a bit shocking. Who would have thought a team that boasted, Malkin, Crosby, Perron, Hornqvist and Letang would be below the league average?
Penguins: GF – 210
Leag. Avg: GF – 224
What has been done to fix it?
Well GMJR went out and traded for one of the top 3 goal scorers in the NHL, Phil Kessel. Some will try to argue that he has dropped off as he only scored 25 goals last season, some will say he has a bad attitude or that he is even out of shape.
For those of you who believe those remarks to be true I urge you to watch the following videos.
And this one
Kessel brings exactly what the Penguins have needed for a few years now. A top six forward who has a knack for scoring from nearly anywhere on the ice. He has a wicked wrist shot, a nasty snap shot and a booming slapper. Kessel surely improves the Penguins, and GMJR essentially gave up unproven prospects for him.
Another area of struggle for the Penguins last season was their Power Play. Early on in the season they dominated succeeding at nearly 80% of their chances. But much like their 5 on 5 scoring their Power play scoring dipped as well. Succeeding at 19.3% good enough for tenth place by the end of the season.
Leag Avg: 18.66%
Luckily still above the average but definitely not what is expected from a team with players like the Penguins have. But again this should be rectified this coming season with the Penguins now having Phil Kessel in their line-up. Imagine this…
Phil Kessel on the left half boards, Crosby on the right half boards, Malkin atop of the right circle, Letang and Pouliot taking up shop on the blue-line. (WOW!) Literally a threat to score at every position. Oh let’s not forget Kessel and Crosby have the ability to be the garbage men on the PP as well and smack in any rebound they can get their stick on.
Unfortunately though the Powerplay still concerns me a bit. While everyone on the proposed line above can shoot, play make and score they are in need of a bonafide PP Quarterback. Someone who can carry the puck into the offensive zone, control the play and distribute the puck. Sure Pouliot has the potential to do this, and maybe he will surprise everyone this year and be everything the team needs him to be, but if I were a part of Penguins management I would look to Free Agency in attempts to snag up someone on the cheap to help Pouliot transition into that role.
Moving on from there what about the Penguins size and grit? One of the biggest struggles the past couple seasons was the Penguins lack in big gritty players who weren’t afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice. These are the guys you want to have in games against the Flyers and (now to a lesser extent) the Bruins. Two teams that have bullied Pittsburgh over the last few seasons.
Jimmy Rutherford needs to focus on this aspect now, not later. The team needs to sign one or two of the Free Agents that are still available who fits that big gritty mold.
Lastly the teams age. Allowing Craig Adams to try and find a new team to call home was a BIG step in the right direction, as was not re-signing Paul Martin. The team is slightly younger than they were last year but it would be nice to move one of, if not both of, Scuderi (36) and Kunitz (35). It may not be possible at this point, but without a doubt the Penguins will need to sign a few more NHL players and some may be closer to 35 than 20, so ridding the ones they can and should needs to be a priority.
As of now the Penguins have shored up a few aspects of the team and we will see if GMJR and his staff finds a way to fill the remaining holes as we head deeper into the off season.
Thanks for reading!
– Robert Slavinsky