Penguins in a Bind – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins in a Bind

Thanks to Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Arizona, the Penguins’ prospects are a little brighter. With the postseason just around the corner, the black and gold moved into second place in the Metropolitan Division. They hold a seemingly insurmountable seven-point cushion over Ottawa.


Don’t be fooled. This team isn’t a legit Cup contender…not by a long shot. Indeed, the Pens have enough holes to rival a Swiss cheese factory. Especially if Kris Letang’s latest injury turns out to be serious. Here are some issues:

Eggs in One Basket

The Pens have gone all in for puck possession, coach Mike Johnston’s favored style. However, they’re so tailored to this approach they can’t play any other way.

In the rare recent instances when the Penguins held a lead (versus Anaheim, Edmonton and St. Louis) they struggled to protect it. That’s because they aren’t capable of playing a shutdown game. They have to keep attacking…or else.

Bigger is Better

Seen the Penguins win many puck battles lately? It’s a direct correlation to their collective lack of size. Too small to be consistently effective in the dirty areas, they appear to be wearing down at precisely the wrong time. Everybody seems aware of it…except the front office.

Surely Bill Guerin and Jason Botterill—both former power forwards—know the value of seasoning the mix with some muscle.

Alas, there’s little beef in the pipeline. With the exception of pacifist Brian Dumoulin and fringe prospects Reid McNeill and Adam Payerl, none of the Baby Pens weigh more than 210 pounds. Which leads to…

A Bunch of Marcantuonis

The black and gold is addicted to small, speedy forwards. Indeed, the minor-league system is rife with them. Josh Archibald, Conor Sheary, and Matia Marcantuoni to name a few.

Trouble is, these guys rarely morph into bona fide NHLers. Remember Konstantin Koltsov? Jim McGeough? And more recently, Brian Gibbons? All could fly. All were undersized. They combined for 24 goals (in 267 games) at the big-league level.

Say Goodbye

It’s tough to part with players who’ve been heart-and-soul contributors. Such is the case with Craig Adams and Rob Scuderi. Each is penciled into the lineup on a nightly basis. Both have seen better days.

Cinched in a salary-cap straight jacket, the Pens can’t replace them. Nor would it be prudent to pull the battle-tested vets during the caldron of playoff competition. But next season? Give the kids a shot.

The Pens have nothing to lose.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    March 29, 2015 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    Great article.You make a lot of good points. Pens are not going to get very far in the play offs with this bunch. Too many past their prime players,(old) with multi year contracts, getting paid big money and not producing results. Hockey…It is not a personality contest…It is a business.You get paid to produce …Period ! We can not even afford to dress 20 legitimate NHL caliber players because of the salary cap.There is something drastically wrong with our Pens management when this situation is allowed to occur. Typically if you have younger players with high skill levels and good size, they do not get injured as often as smaller, older players do.( Except Beau Bennet. Just our luck ).
    JR did not cause this mess. He inherited it. But unless we do something drastic in the off season with a major roster shuffle,nothing is going to change.The problem is we do not have much in the farm system to fix the situation and no high end draft picks.We got a great future goalie in Murray.
    Kasperi Kapenen is listed at 5 foot 10 inches, 170 pounds…..This kid is our number one pick last year.Florida’s 2014 first round pick is now 6 ft 5 inches, close to 230 pounds and still growing.( Rumored to be a Calder Cup finalist), and plays 20 minutes a game.The Pens have not drafted a player of that size or skill in the first round since Jordan Stall and Simon Depres.
    It appears in the Salary Cap era you can not buy a Stanley Cup thru free agency and or signing un drafted,under sized,college players. You need to draft high, and DEVELOP your own talent.Not trade them away.
    Thanks for letting me rant ! Still upset that the Canes beat us and Arizona gave us a game. The WB pens should be able to beat Arizona !

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 29, 2015 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Your comment about ranting made me laugh. That’s about all I do these days…rant about the Penguins. Either verbally, or in writing on PP. Every time I talk to a hockey buddy about them I get all worked up.

      I keep wishing we could somehow erase the Bortuzzo and Despres deals. I think we were closer to the right on-ice mix before those trades than we are now.

      Despres, in particular, was the perfect partner for Scuderi. Now that he’s gone the weaknesses in Scuds’ game are more apparent. In essence that trade cost us two defensemen…Despres and an effective Scuderi. Not what we need at all, especially with Letang and Ehrhoff possibly down for the count.

      The size issue has bothered me all year. I simply don’t understand how the front office can overlook the need to have some bigger guys in the lineup. Take Daniel Winnik, for example. He isn’t an all-star or overly tough. But his size and presence really seem to have helped Crosby these last few games. Imagine if we had a couple more guys like that, instead of our cookie cutter 5’11” 190-pounders who get knocked off the puck with relative ease.

      The problem is, the Pens can’t alter the mix even if they wanted to, due to the overall lack of size in the organization. They’ve literally painted themselves into a corner in that regard.

      Again, it just doesn’t make sense…

      • jim's Gravatar jim
        March 29, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Right on the money Rick !
        In this off season,I truly believe that there will be major changes to the Core group… Sid,Geno,Letang,Kunitz, MAF,Paul Martin,Pascal D, and Brandon Suter. It will be tough to do,but if we do not go deep in the play offs this year,it will happen.I do not know which ones will be moved but it will be significant.Not just replacing a Coach !
        Like Calgary,Buffalo,Ottawa,Florida,Tampa, the Islanders and others have all done it.Not because they wanted to,but it was their only option moving forward. Nobody wants to put their fan base thru the Toronto experience.
        As you said, we have 5 foot 11 inch,190 pound players that can not beat the larger,more physical teams in the play offs.When playing for the Cup,and all the money that goes with it, the Refs put away the whistle and let the players play.With out scoring at least 2 goals a game on the power play, we can not compete 5 on 5 in a seven game physical series.Then have to repeat it three more times !
        I really hope Sid can win another points championship,( he has a 2 point lead with seven games to go,)because I think you are seeing the changing of the guard in the NHL. Without new elite level talent on his line to play with on a constant basis,he may never win another title again.The NHL has changed that much.
        Please dear God, do not give us the Islanders in a first round match up.Or the Capitals,or the Rangers ,or even Montreal,…

        It will be interesting to see what happens especially if Letang is gone for the season.

  2. Pen's 4ever's Gravatar Pen's 4ever
    March 28, 2015 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    WOW!! Another exciting win over Arizona, oh wait they are at the bottom.

    So what is to get excited about??

  3. March 28, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Letang’s injury looks bad. Like a really bad out until next season concussion bad.

    These games are tough to watch. All I have been hearing from the anti Bylsma era people is that the regular season means nothing. I’m going to reserve overall judgment until the playoff are over, maybe they built a playoff team. This years team looks way better than the team has the last three years. They also look really good when they try.

  4. March 28, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    hope ok

  5. March 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    your msg is highlighted on #theneeds #Hockey! Check it out http://t.co/LSTga6WTfp & RT to boost it!


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