Penguins Update: A Tale of Two Cities – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: A Tale of Two Cities

Celebrated author Charles Dickens opened his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with the famous phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It sounds like he was describing the present state of Penguins hockey.

pp0439On one hand, the Pens remain perched atop the leaderboard of a weak Eastern Conference. However, in the wake of ugly losses to Montreal and Chicago, they more closely resemble a team that’s coming apart at the seams than one that’s ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

“We weren’t good enough,” coach Dan Bylsma noted following a dismal 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks at snowy Soldier Field. “We didn’t compete at a high enough level. We weren’t mentally ready to play this game.”

To remedy the situation, there are rumblings that GM Ray Shero is pulling out all stops to acquire Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler. While the gritty 29-year-old Olympian would be a welcome addition, he carries a heavy price tag—$5 million/year to be exact. To say nothing of the black-and-gold’s recent practice of mortgaging the future for now.

Deal or no deal, the Penguins aren’t likely to win the Stanley Cup this year. They’re missing too many key players, and simply have too many holes.

While the temptation to grab for the brass ring is understandable—especially with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the prime of their respective careers—perhaps it’s time for Shero to back away from the trading table and plot a new course. He need look no further than Chicago GM Stan Bowman for a blueprint on how it’s done.

Following their Cup victory in 2010, the Blackhawks faced dire salary-cap issues. To his credit, Bowman didn’t flinch. Rather than take halfway measures to prop the ‘Hawks up for another immediate run at the Cup, he bit the bullet and cut loose a host of good young players, including Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi, and Kris Versteeg.

Bowman knew full well the Blackhawks would endure a couple of down years. But it also bought him time to build a cap-healthy team around Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews through an adroit combination of trades, drafting and savvy free-agent pickups. Now the Blackhawks seem poised to capture their third Cup in five years, while the Pens appear to be stuck in a snowdrift.

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  1. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    March 2, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    We don’t need Kesler, not with the injury problems to our D-man.
    Ray doesn’t have to ” mortgage ” the future to be a player on trade deadline day…
    a pick to get Tallinder from Buffalo
    a another pick for maybe a David Moss from Coyotes or Lee Stepniak from Calgary
    Or a couple picks and Depres for Andy MacDonald
    Just add some pieces that could help out this playoff

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 3, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      All good thoughts, pen’s 4ever. Perhaps Shero will be able to shore the team up without giving up too much in return, as you suggest.

      Still, I’d be leery of trading away too many prospects and draft picks. In my opinion, one of the things the Pens must start to do is draft and develop players from within the organization, rather than always relying on trades or pricey free-agents to plug gaps. They’ve done a pretty good job on the defensive side (Maatta, Despres, Harrington, Pouliot, and Samuelsson) but not so good up front, where the cupboard is still largely bare.

      Following the two Cups in the early 1990s, Penguins GM Craig Patrick repeatedly went the trade/free agent route, while hardly developing anyone from within the organization. The Pens came close in 1995-96, but Patrick’s teams never did win another Cup. When the Pens could no longer afford to keep all the high-priced talent in the early 2000s, there weren’t any good young players to take their place and the team collapsed.

      Ironically, it forced Patrick and his staff to refocus on drafting and player development, which resulted in a stream of young talent coming to the Pens (Armstrong, Fleury, Goligoski, Kennedy, Letang, Malone, Orpik, Scuderi, Talbot, and Whitney—not to mention Sid and Geno).

      I know we’re a ways back up the road, but I’d hate to see Shero take us down the same path. Not to be negative, but I just don’t see us winning a Cup this year, no matter what moves he makes at the trade deadline. I think we may be better served by keeping our picks and prospects and building towards a legitimate shot at the Cup in a year or two.


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