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Penguins Update: Too Many Vets Spoil the Stew – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Too Many Vets Spoil the Stew

As I watched the Penguins take one on the chin last night at the hands of the Dallas Stars, I couldn’t help but note that for the second time in the past four games the black and gold got lit up by a younger, faster, hungrier team.

pp0433It made me wistful for the time when injuries forced the Penguins to dress some of their kids. Remember how it felt back in mid-December when the “Wilkes-Barre Seven” were playing? Their fire and enthusiasm was infectious. It seemed like we had a brand-new team.

And now? The Pens remind me of a bunch of businessmen in suits taking the T to work.

It’s not the players’ fault. Like anything in life, if you do something long enough, you’re bound to lose some enthusiasm along the way. It’s up to GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma to develop younger players and integrate them into the lineup to keep the mix fresh. On that count they’ve failed miserably.

Bylsma’s affinity for veterans is a major stumbling block. Craig Adams is a prime example. Great team guy, terrific penalty killer, gives you everything he’s got. The downside is, he produces next to nothing. Since a rare scoring spree to open the season, Craig’s gone 48 games without a goal. He hasn’t picked up so much as an assist since November 1. He’s got the worst plus-minus on the team. Yet Bylsma pencils him into the lineup night after night.

It’s an ideal spot for a younger player such as Harry Zolnierczyk or Zach Sill. “Dirty Harry” displayed an abundance of speed, energy and grit, along with a knack for drawing penalties during his all-too-brief cameos. He appears to have run afoul of Bylsma. Sill is comparable to Adams, but he’s younger, tougher and more aggressive. What’s not to like?

Same thing on defense. Twin towers Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres should be in the mix instead of watching from the press box or, worse yet, being exiled to the Baby Pens. If it means bumping aside a hallowed but battle-worn vet like Rob Scuderi, so be it.

Unfortunately, you’ll never see the Penguins’ brain trust make those types of moves. Instead, they’ll stick with essentially the same cast that came up short the past few postseasons, and likely endure yet another early playoff exit. Meanwhile, the window for this talented but top-heavy team to win another Cup will keep on shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking.

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11 Comments

  1. January 28, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Another great one from Buker! The Pens are definitely set on sticking with the same old, same old regardless post-season failure as fully evidenced by their decisions to stand by the coaches and Fleury. Regular season success obviously does not translate to the playoffs for this group.

    And, and excellent point about the return of the veterans. I remember how nervous I was when we seem to be hit worse than previous seasons by the injury bug (and, we have been hit bad). There seemed to be no way we could win with so many Baby Pens on the roster, especially 4 defensemen. That was the best hockey this team played all season, and boy was it fun to watch!

    ~Coach

  2. January 27, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    :)))

  3. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    January 26, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I agree, Rick. I’m all in on this. It’s time. After four years of post-season choking, what’s to lose? I haven’t run the numbers, but it’s apparent that as the average age of the players on the ice has increased, so, too, has the goals against. I find that troublesome, though not yet cause for panic. Just the same it’s time to give up the ghost and make some decisions and some moves. They’re too close to let it pass.

    Your points re: Scuderi and Adams are also spot on, and punctuated for me as I just watched a wheezing Martin Brodeur get vamoosed from the net after surrendering 5 to the Rangers because he doesn’t get around much anymore. Yeah, it’s time.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      January 26, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Always good to hear from you, 55 on Point.

      Going back to a 4-3 OT win over Carolina on Dec. 27, when the vets started to return, the Pens have yielded 40 goals in their past 13 games. Factoring in overtime, that’s a 3.03 goals against average, which–frankly–is horrible. It’s truly remarkable that the team managed to go 9-3-1 during that stretch.

      Not to belabor the point, but our top four d-men–Letang (Jan. 5), Orpik (Dec. 27), Scuderi (Dec. 29) and Martin (Jan. 20) all returned during that span, and all have contributed to the team’s lackluster defensive play.

      • 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
        January 30, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the numbers. I was assuming it was 3 or over. It’s a valid concern that no one seems to be talking much about at this point. If a team goes into the playoffs with a GA hovering between 3-4, it’s just about a lock that they won’t come out the other end skating around the rink waving a cup over their heads. There’s defensive tightening to be done.

  4. January 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Wow someone sees the big picture unlike a lot of other people the pens are built to win now but they are letting the good days of winning slip right out of their hands

  5. January 26, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I say this everytime I see Adams in the lineup he is a great penalty killer but that’s about it I’m sure someone from the AHL could do the same job and help us at other places like scoring goals.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      January 26, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Hey Carrie,

      I think the same way. Steigerwald and Errey always rave about Adams’ penalty killing, like he’s the only player in the system who can do it. (If he is, we’re in big trouble.)

      I don’t mean to sound like I’m totally down on him. Adams works his tail off and he’s a good team guy. But I think he should be the spare forward and the kids should play, instead of the other way around. That was his role with Carolina and Chicago before he arrived in the ‘Burgh.

      • 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
        January 30, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        I feel compelled to weigh in on Adams a little more as I don’t want to appear as having casually dismissed him in my last post. For much of the time he has been here in Pittsburgh, he has been my favorite player. I admired his basic hockey skills (hockey 101), his grit, his work ethic and his sense of the game. He was always prudent and smart with the puck, an excellent passer and, of course, a tenacious penalty killer. I wish he would have scored a little more often but that really wasn’t his job. He was a good acquisition and he earned every dollar of his barely better than entry level salary. He’s still a good penalty killer, but other than that he has less to offer now that age creeps up. I will hate to see him go but that time comes for everyone.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          February 1, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          Nicely put, 55 on Point.

          Contrary to how it may seem, it wasn’t my intent to denigrate Adams. As you so eloquently expressed, he’s been an ultra-reliable foot soldier—and more—ever since Ray Shero plucked him off the waiver wire in 2009.

          During a game with Philly on Feb. 18, 2012, he gave one of the most remarkable penalty-killing efforts I’ve ever seen. The Pens trailed 2-1 and were shorthanded by two men. Adams cleared the zone single-handed not once but twice (once diving on his belly) before setting up Jordan Staal for a 3-on-5 goal. The Pens rallied to beat the Flyers 6-4.

          I do feel that as Craig’s career winds down, he doesn’t need to be in the lineup every night. But my frustration with the Pens not developing and/or integrating younger players into the lineup lies more with Shero and Dan Bylsma.


            

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