Penguins Update: Lapierre Deal a Step in the Right Direction – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Lapierre Deal a Step in the Right Direction

At the risk of mimicking that annoying blue jay perched on a branch outside your window that just won’t shut up, I’m once more going to expound on my favorite hockey subject.

The Penguins need to get bigger. Especially up front. In a hurry.

pp0507Last week’s games were a case in point. After delivering a superhuman effort to beat an infinitely larger and tougher Winnipeg squad on January 27, the black and gold went pfft against the equally rugged Capitals the following night. Washington pounded out an embarrassingly easy 4-0 win.

While games are rarely scheduled on back-to-back nights in the postseason, chances are good the Pens will draw a “heavy” team such as the Caps or Boston come playoff time. God help them if they do.

The Penguins’ organizational insistence that all of the forwards fit a mold (i.e.; skilled and undersized) makes no sense. It’s obvious the brass wants to build a team with four interchangeable lines. But it’s flawed logic.

To draw a football analogy, it’s like having three deep threats at receiver, but no Hines Ward or Heath Miller to make the tough catches in traffic.

The “kill ‘em with skill” approach doesn’t work any better on ice than it does on the gridiron. Think all those injuries would occur if the Pens had a beefier team? Think again.

Getting Maxim Lapierre from St. Louis for Marcel Goc will help. While a defensive whiz and solid faceoff man, Goc could’ve played night after night with a carton of eggs tucked safely inside his jersey.

Lapierre’s no enforcer. But he has decent size and plays with an edge, something the Milquetoastish Pens can definitely use. Plus, he has a history of elevating his game come playoff time.

GM Jim Rutherford should go a step further. He should acquire 27-year-old power forward Chris Stewart from Buffalo.

Standing 6’2″ and tipping the scales at 231 pounds, the burly right wing can handle the heavies. No more relying on game but undersized battlers like Steve Downie, Bobby Farnham, and Zach Sill to stick up for the team.

Stewart can play, too. Although he’s having an off year with Buffalo (9 goals), he’s scored 28 goals twice in his NHL career, and notched 18 during the lockout season of 2012-13.

Okay, so he doesn’t skate 90 mph. Neither did former Pens Bill Guerin, Gary Roberts, or Rick Tocchet. But they were highly effective scorer/bodyguards who contributed a great deal to the team’s success.

Salary definitely is an issue. The Toronto native makes $4.15 million. To make room the Pens may need to part with Chris Kunitz ($3.85 million), who is rumored to be seeking a trade. Since Sabres GM Tim Murray most likely would demand prospects and/or draft picks in return for Stewart, Rutherford would have to get creative. Maybe he could work out a three-team deal. If soft, underachieving Beau Bennett was included in such a swap, all the better.

Stewart’s a gamble, to be sure, and a pricey one at that. Especially since he’s eligible for free agency in July. But I’d love to see his big frame parked in the slot on power plays. Or watch him go toe-to-toe with Boston’s Milan Lucic, which he did—quite effectively—back in October.

The brawny winger packs the punch the Pens so desperately need.

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  1. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    February 2, 2015 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Chris from Buffalo is the answer, I hate to say this because I’ m not a fan of him any more but ol’ # 68 would be a good fit, the work ethic alone might rub off on some of these guys in the locker room and he is still tough with the puck and scores.
    Fan since we got some D-man named Paul from Edmonton

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 4, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Hey pen’s 4ever,

      When I first read the part of your post where you mentioned the trade with Edmonton, I thought we’d just acquired another defenseman from the Oilers. I was sitting there thinking “Paul who?” And then it dawned on me…(sometimes I’m a little slowwww).

      I respect your opinion. Given his contract status and the fact that he’s already been traded twice in his relatively short career, Stewart would definitely be a gamble. But I’m intrigued by his combination of size, toughness, and scoring ability.

      The Pens don’t need an enforcer or a fourth-line hack. They need a bruiser who can play on the top two lines. Stewart’s the only guy I can think of who fits the bill and who might be available.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I kind of got sidetracked from your Jaromir Jagr suggestion.

      Every year Jags is rumored to be returning, and every year I have mixed emotions. It has more to do with how he’d fit into the structure of the team than anything else. For example, Jags likes to man the half wall on the power play, as do Crosby and Malkin. How do you make the pieces fit?

      Given his declining speed, how effective would he be five-on-five?

      Having expressed my doubts, Jagr’s still a marvelous player in confined spaces. Nobody uses his body more effectively to shield the puck from defenders. He still has those playmaker instincts, and he can still shoot the puck. Plus, I think his return might supercharge the team and fan base, while providing a heartwarming “prodigal son returns” story.

      Maybe it is time to bring him back.

  2. Sandi's Gravatar Sandi
    February 2, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I would like a stable solid team on the ice. Is this possible?

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 4, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      We can only hope. Maybe when Malkin and Comeau return things will settle down and fall into place.

  3. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    February 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick — While I agree, as always, about size and toughness missing from this team, I wish we could say that was their only shortcoming, or even their primary shortcoming.

    I’m going to assume that someone in the know is aware of these shortcomings and has a plan. I’m going to assume they also know that, unlike last year when they were the cream of the Metro, they’re not going to coast into this post season playing the .500 or worse hockey we’ve seen for the last six weeks, and they have a plan for that, too.

    As for Kunitz and Bennett being traded, I doubt it would net a bonafide scoring winger. I’m surprised to hear Kunitz is seeking a trade. Being on Sid’s wing made his career. I think perhaps he’s overplaying his hand. But, it’s his hand to play.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 4, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Always good to hear from you, 55 on point.

      You’d like to think someone in the know has a handle on the Penguins’ physical shortcomings. Because Rutherford built similar teams in Carolina (speedy, skilled, but generally undersized and non-combative) I’ve been wary that he’d apply the same blueprint here. That’s why I was encouraged when he made the Lapierre-for-Goc swap and inquired about Toronto’s Daniel Winnik (6’2” 213). He appears to have his finger on the Pens’ pulse.

      As you mentioned, there still are some holes to fill. I read a blog post not long ago where the writer suggested it would take Rutherford two years to reconstruct the Pens. It’s the same amount of time Stan Bowman needed to retool the Blackhawks following their Cup win (and subsequent free-agent exodus) in 2010.

      That’s looking more and more reasonable.

      Concerning Kunitz, his trade request was circulating through the same rumor mill that had Jaromir Jagr returning to the ‘Burgh. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it…sometimes I get a little ahead of myself trying to play GM and make all the pieces fit.


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