Penguins Sign “Sarge” to a Tryout – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Sign “Sarge” to a Tryout

In his latest in a string of head-turner moves, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford signed veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a tryout contract yesterday.

One of the most popular and revered players ever to don the black and gold, Sergei’s happy about the prospect of returning to the ‘Burgh.

“I just wanted to play for that team,” he said. “It’s not about the money or the years. It’s going to be special. Being with Pittsburgh is the reason I’m doing it. I still have a lot of friends on that team, in that town. It was a special place for me and my family.”

In a best-case scenario, “Sarge” could help the Pens in a number of ways. In addition to providing depth and leadership—not to mention an experienced quarterback for the power-play—the 20-year NHL vet might aid in the development of youngsters such as Adam Clendening, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, and Derrick Pouliot.

A calming presence both on the ice and in the locker room, No. 55 could also serve as a stabilizer for a team that’s experienced significant turnover during a whirlwind summer. Especially for close friend and former house guest Evgeni Malkin—who appears to require steadying from time to time—and Russian newcomer Sergei Plotnikov.

Can he still get ‘er done? As of last season the answer was yes—in a limited role. Skating for Dallas and Montreal, Gonchar appeared in 48 games, tallied 14 points, and was a plus-6. He averaged a shade under 18 minutes of ice time per game.

Obviously, 41-year-old legs are a concern. While Gonchar’s skating isn’t what it used to be, the savvy defender always relied more on intelligence and agility rather than flat-out foot speed. And he still possesses those marvelous hands and instincts.

“He really is a smart player,” Rutherford said. “He’s one of those guys who still has a chance to play at this point in his career. I wouldn’t give him an invitation to camp if he didn’t have a chance. He doesn’t have to out-do himself. He just has to play.”

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    August 16, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    What’s next? We need team toughness and leadership…maybe JR will sign Gary Roberts to a PTO or how about Assistant GM Bill Guren? Sarge played for Montreal,( a team I never have supported) but they play a four line, team defense strategy.20 guys all playing TEAM defense first. Not pretty to watch, but effective.The Pens simply do not have the personnel to do the same.Crosby,Letang and Malkin do not play that style.Their attack the puck and offense at all cost will not be an environment which an old Sarge will shine.He is not the Gonchar of 2009. The same thing can be said about Scudrei after they traded away Simon Depres. Scuds flaws became very apparent in that he could not play at the same level as he once did. This is not a criticism of him, but a statement that time eventually time catches up to all of us.It is nobody’s fault.Except when your paying 3.3 million dollars a year for it.
    I think it is a media stunt to drive up season ticket sales, which from many reports say are not what they once were.Sarge,do yourself a favor and retire a Hero to most Pens fans.If you sign and when Letang or Pouliot goes down to injury,you may find yourself in an impossible situation !
    Lets go Pens.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      August 17, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Your points are very well expressed…and on the money. Frankly, I was surprised (again) when the Pens announced this signing.

      I loved Sarge when he was here before. But as you pointed out, that was 5 years ago. At 41, you’ve really got to question what he has left.

      I guess JR sees it as a no-risk move. If Gonchar is done—no big deal. If he can still play, he could provide some depth and a ton of intangibles. Of course, they already have Scuderi more or less filling that role, albeit with a totally different skill set. I’m not sure you need both of them.

      I agree 100% that we desperately need some size and toughness back there. (The Despres deal is looking worse and worse.) They did sign Baby Pen Reid McNeill … a Bortuzzo type. Roughly the same size as Bortz, probably not quite as mobile, maybe a little tougher. It’s hard to imagine Mike Johnston giving him a shot.

      I know I’m a dinosaur when it comes to the physical aspect of the game. I’ll admit it…I liked when the Pens had guys like Deryk Engelland, Mike Rupp, and Gary Roberts to take care of business. That just doesn’t seem to be a priority under the new regime.

      I’ll be curious to see how they handle (or get handled by) tough teams like Washington and Columbus.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        August 17, 2015 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        Curious? Rick you are being to polite. Derrick Pouliot, 21 years old has already had two major injuries in his brief career.Once in junior and again last year.He is 5.11 and listed at 205 pounds.Letang is the same size, only 7 years older and has had 4 concussions that we know about. 4 !! Olli Matta also 21 years old is about 6.2 and listed at 210 pounds.He has already had a major shoulder operation that put him out of commission for many month’s. Crosby,Kunitz,Perron,are all small guys with a history of health issues.
        So,if I am Washington,Philli,Boston,Tampa Bay,Columbus and many others I am going to pound the small, frail Pens D night after night. Do not let up.Same with Crosby and Kunitz.
        My prediction is Ovi and the boys are going to hammer Letang, Matta and Pouliot every chance they can and the Pens are not going to hold up. Knock out Letang, Matta,and Pouliot we are in deep trouble.
        Beau Bennett anyone?
        The reason our team has so many damn injuries is that we are an old, small team filled with players that have had histories of Major health problems.The rest of the league knows this is the Pens real weakness. But we as fans over look the obvious.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          August 19, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

          Once again, Jim, you said a mouthful. And, as much as I wish I didn’t agree with you, I do. 100 percent.

          Opponents really started to target Letang after the deadline deals. Guys were running him practically every shift. No great surprise that he got hurt.

          To me, having a few bigger, tougher guys to handle the rough stuff is a no brainer. In addition to adding a physical element that other teams to have deal with, you shield your star players from the type of abuse “Tanger” absorbed. Apparently, the Pens don’t see it that way.

          I don’t know if JR & Co. think Sergei Plotnikov–who does play with an edge–can be a protector of sorts. But you need more than one guy who’s willing to mix it up.

          Perhaps they plan to call up guys like Bobby Farnham (tons of heart but no real deterrent) and Reid McNeill (genuinely tough) against more physical foes.

          I doubt it.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            August 20, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

            Thank you for the comments Rick. To be clear to anyone reading,I want to add that I am a 100 % proud,proud supporter of the Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey club.I know you are as well. However I do not accept the idea that as FANS we are simply to blindly believe everything Management and its spin doctors try to sell us.For example, that we are the Favored Team to win a Stanley Cup every year and Crosby and Malkin will lead us victory every year. Crosby has been in the league 10 years now. ?? Malkin as well.?? How many cups do we have since 2005 ? ONE ! I believe it is time to rethink the game plan. Something is not working and it has not worked for a few years now.
            I do not need 10 different Pens media outlets telling that is.
            I find your Blog Rick to be a good mix of both sides of the story. As a team, we are a top 10-12 contender if we can stay healthy, but we need to get much bigger and faster if we want to win it all. Thanks again.


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