Here at PenguinPoop we are taking a hard look at whether or not the Pittsburgh Penguins organization needs to make any changes. Fourth up is Reg Dunlop.
So the Pens disappointed everyone for a second straight season by taking a first round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It couldn’t be more disappointing considering the loss came at the hands of the dreaded Philly Flyers. Add to that, the Pens were picked by many to be Stanley Cup favorites and it becomes that much more disappointing.
Where do the Pens go from here? What changes need to be made to ensure that they do not see another disappointing showing in the playoffs? The feedback I am hearing ranges from replacing Dan Bylsma to starting over with whole new defense. These are obviously extreme scenarios.
One thing that almost everyone agrees on is that the defense was not good throughout the series with the Flyers. Most will also agree that Fleury did not have a very good showing. To be sure, he did not play well. He is not, however, the sole reason the Pens failed. They Penguins are not going to get rid of Fleury. If anything, they are probably considering finding a back-up goalie to replace Johnson.
There are a lot of reasons that the Pens lost this series. Let’s start with the Pens losing a lead to the Flyers late in the season that could have enabled them to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Had they held on to that lead, and gone on to gain the top spot, they would not have had to play the Flyers in the first round. I, for one, would have been more comfortable getting some momentum going against Ottawa in the first round. Chalk this, in part, to a bad playoff seeding system in the NHL.
What do I think the Pens need to change to be more competitive? I don’t think that major changes are in order. Sure, the team did not play well. I still don’t think they need to make major changes. The defense could use some tweaking. I, for one, don’t think that Martin and Michalek “suck”. These are very good players. I feel that maybe they are just not the right players for the system that Bylsma is running with this team. Getting rid of them is not as easy as everybody thinks. They both make a lot of money and will be difficult to trade. The Pens would probably have a better chance trading them at the trade deadline. With all of that said, the Pens do have a couple of guys, who could move up to the big team and contribute right now. Both Simon Despres and Brian Strait could fill important and different roles with the Pens. Maybe adding a solid, veteran defenseman could be useful.
Martin and Michalek were not the only defensemen to have struggled in these playoffs. I thought Brooks Orpik had a tough series and I felt Letang did not play to the very high level that we have come to expect from him. In fact, he played poorly at times. I expect both of these guys to bounce back and continue play at a high level.
The stars did not come through for the team as we would expect. Malkin and Crosby did not have the kind of effect on the series that we need from these guys. Neal looked lost for much of the series. Much of the lack of production from these guys can be attributed to the Flyers play and strategy to contain them.
Dan Bylsma was out-coached. The Flyers had answers….the Pens did not. As with Fleury, I have not lost faith in our coach. He just had a bad series.