Penguins Try Everyman Approach: Add Goc and Stempniak – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Try Everyman Approach: Add Goc and Stempniak

What a difference a year makes. Eleven months ago Penguins fans were dancing in the streets following GM Ray Shero’s blockbuster deadline deals for Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray.

pp0440And this season? Not so much.

Shero tried to add some glitter. He vigorously pursued Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, only to be rebuffed. Nor was he able to land speedy Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky (traded to Ottawa) or puck-moving Devils defender Marek Zidlicky, two other prime targets.

Still, the Pens didn’t come away empty handed. Shero swung deals for a pair of foot soldiers—Florida center Marcel Goc and Flames winger Lee Stempniak. The black and gold surrendered two third-round picks (2014 and 2015) and a fifth-round pick (2015) in return.

Perhaps the everyman approach will work where the star-power method failed.

A native of Germany, Goc was San Jose’s No. 1 pick in the 2001 Entry Draft. Although not a big-time scorer, he’s a solid third-line center who wins draws (52.8%), kills penalties, and provides occasional offense (11 goals). Versatile and quick, the 30-year-old can play on the wing as well.

Stempniak employs a rugged, straightforward style that should blend nicely with coach Dan Bylsma’s puck-possession game. While not a huge scorer, the Buffalo native has a pair of 20-goal seasons on his resume. After joining Phoenix at the 2010 trade deadline he ripped home 14 goals (in 18 games). Stempniak’s also an established and respected leader.

Goc figures to slot in at wing or center on the much-maligned third line. Stempniak likely will join the top unit with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

The newcomers make the Penguins better up front. However, Shero neglected to shore up the club’s weak underbelly—a suddenly shaky defense. Given the potential long-term absences of Kris Letang and Paul Martin and the recent struggles of veterans Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi, the oversight could cost the Pens dearly come playoff time.

Backup goaltender remains a question-mark. With veteran Tomas Vokoun practicing but still on the mend and rookie Jeff Zatkoff the only viable option, it’s Marc-Andre Fleury or bust between the pipes.

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  1. March 6, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick, I’m a huge fan of the no team changing moves. Last years moves cost the team chemistry, that and the fact that Crosby was eating from a straw for a month before the playoffs. Look at the moves the pens made before they won the cup in 2009. Guerin, Adams & Kunitz. The key to the whole of the trades in my opinion was not as much the players they gained, as to who they lost. The removing of a problem defenseman Ryan Whitney made the team that much stronger.

    Last year the bringing in of tough guy Doug Murray destroyed the defense. He came in and was supposed to hit people and be tough around the net. Excuse my French, but the guy sucked. He was slow, plodding and couldn’t hurt a fly. Shero brought the best guys in he could with no concern whether they would fit into his coaches system.

    I personally can’t wait to see how the team does with a healthy Malkin & Crosby for the first time since 2010. The defense can hold there own. They proved it when just about all of the regulars were out at the same time this season. Scuderi is looking a little shaky, he usually becomes a rock in the playoffs. Despres needs more playing time. They guy has tons of skill, and if he wasn’t so nervous about not being sent back down, I bet he will prove to be a great defenseman. A shot of confidence is all he needs.

    As for Crosby’s line, I was hoping for Vanek or Kesler. Out of the list of players possibly moving, I didn’t see others any that were a good fit. Maybe Bennett will make it back before the playoffs.

    It will also be nice to go into the playoffs without everyone thinking they should just hand the Penguins the cup.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 6, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Hey Phil. Always great to read your opinions.

      I agree with you on the no team-changing moves. I’m concerned that we’ve already hemorrhaged too many picks and prospects over the past few seasons. I’m glad they didn’t move Simon Despres or Derrick Pouliot.

      Speaking of Despres, I really hope he can grab this opportunity and run with it. The Penguins have done so much to screw him up over the past couple of years. Perhaps he’ll be able to relax and play his game without having to look over his shoulder.

      I wish I felt as comfortable with the rest of the defense. I hate to seem like I’m picking on him, but Scuderi’s looked really slowwwwww. Guys are just blowing past him. I know speed’s never been his strong suit, and perhaps his ankle’s still bothering him. But unless he’s paired with a mobile, puck-moving partner, Scuds has become a liability.

      I’m also uncomfortable going into the postseason without a proven backup for Fleury. As terrific as he was in the first half, I think he’s slipped a bit of late. It doesn’t help that the team hangs him out to dry a lot.

      Anyways, enough of the negative. I do think Goc and Stempniak were great under-the-radar additions. If Stempniak meshes with Sid and Kunitz, he could turn out to be a real prize. I just wish our defense was more intact.

      Speaking of defense, your description of Douglas Murray cracked me up. Poor Matt Niskanen had to cover literally the entire defensive zone by himself, while Murray stood anchored to one spot. And I was all for acquiring him. Shows you what I know …

      • Travis's Gravatar Travis
        March 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        I would have liked to have seen Shero bring in Matt Moulson instead of Stempniak. But everything we have heard about Stempniak so far sounds very encouraging. I’m a little confused with the Goc deal unless he’s going to play on the 3rd line as a winger. I think all of this trade talk has made Sutter a little fragile and brittle. If Bylsma moves Sutter to the wing on the 3rd line i don’t see it working out. Sort of like how Dustin Jeffery didn’t work on the wing.

        As far as the Defense, I am OK with it. They know what they need to do (It’s that why they brought in Jacques Martin?). It’s true that Orpik and Scuderi have lost a step or two but I’m hoping come playoff time they will tighten up. Whatever the Penguins have done to ruin Simon Depres I’m not sure, but if he has any heart at all he will step it up and improve his value.

        Last off season the Pen’s made it very clear that it was Fleury or bust, well they got what they wished for.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          March 6, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          Hey Travis.

          I’m guessing the Pens went for Stempniak over Moulson because a) he’s a better skater; b) he’s more affordable; and c) they like his leadership skills. Also, as a right wing he’s a more natural fit for Kunitz and Sid than Moulson, who plays left wing.

          Surprisingly, they’re just about the same age (Stempniak’s a half-year older). I seem to recall the Pens were looking at Stempniak last season, too.

          Regarding Goc, my thought is they’ll probably try him and Sutter on the wing, and see who works best. Personally, I’ve always thought Sutter has untapped potential as a right wing—just by the way he carries the puck over the blue line and sets up for his (very good) shot.


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