Penguins Update: The Small Dog Syndrome – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: The Small Dog Syndrome

Ever observe the behavior of a little dog when it comes within close proximity to a bigger one? It yips. It yaps. It strains at the leash and gnashes its teeth. All the while the larger dog looks on with a mixture of bemusement and disdain.


Like so many Chihuahuas having a conniption at the sight of a Rottweiler, the Penguins have adopted a small-dog mentality. The tendency to overreact—as they did during Sunday’s embarrassing 5-1 loss to Detroit—stems, in part, from being stripped down to bare bones physically.

Coach Mike Johnston can preach “team toughness” all he wants. All for one and one for all. It may have worked for the Three Musketeers. But no matter how the Pens spin it the naked truth is obvious—they don’t have the size or toughness to keep foes honest.

It’s not the players’ fault. Nor is it a reflection of their collective character. Craig Adams, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, and David Perron (to name a few) have plenty of heart and soul. They’re just too darn small.

When GM Jim Rutherford acquired husky Daniel Winnik from Toronto on February 25, it was a step in the right direction. Indeed, in the one game the Pens played with a larger lineup, they thumped a rugged Columbus team and looked good doing it. Then came the stunning about-face at the trade deadline, when JR dealt Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres—the team’s biggest and, arguably, most effective physical players.

The moves left the black-and-gold especially vulnerable on defense, where no one takes the body with any consistency. Can you say “stick check?” Or “look out Flower?”

I suspect Johnston—in his quest for puck-possession nirvana—endorsed the trades wholeheartedly. But this ain’t hockey heaven. The Pens, as presently constructed, are more suited to the Swiss Super League than the obstruction-happy NHL.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    March 20, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    The Pens are in real trouble. They are going to be eliminated in the first round. They are to small,old,and do not have the physical presence to win the close checking,hard hitting,seven game series play off format.
    They miss Jordan Stall, Mat Cook,Brooks Orpik…Gary Roberts. These players who could handle the physical side of the game and still contribute offensively.
    Crosby, Malkin, Sutter are not going to win you the cup ! It takes 3 good lines to win the cup.Something will have to change in near the future.
    ( Even Gretzky was traded.)
    We need several large, skilled wingers and at least 2 large, physical ( 6ft 4inch 225 pound ) d men to handle the rigors of the playoffs. Where is Hal Gill
    when you need him? Our small d men are going to get pounded in the play offs and we will be left blaming the Goalie for not winning the cup for us.
    The Pens are not feared anymore….Other teams know our weakness…
    Hope I am wrong !

    • pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
      March 20, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Jim you are right on, I’ve been saying it since Gill left.
      And maybe it is time to trade Sid??

  2. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    March 19, 2015 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    When all the deals and changes went down this season and in the summer..I said it we are too small and the d-man are weak. Well it shows on the ice, Pen’s at this rate will be lucky if they make the playoffs.
    And if they make it?? Well out in first round b ynot scoring and having the crap beat out if them..hey JR, yeah forget about toughness for the playoffs, that is not necessary!! LOL
    Hope he is not re-signed for next year

  3. March 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    done pen

  4. March 18, 2015 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    This weekend has really been the worse I’ve seen the Penguins play in years. I’m going to try to reserve judgment until the playoffs though. That is what it is all about, is it not?

    I do like that the new group of guys are willing to mix it up in front of the other teams net. Perhaps they are biding their time trying to stay healthy until the playoffs.

    The sad truth is that the Penguins are about to play through the NHL bottom rung teams and everyone is going to think that they have righted their ship.

    I wonder if the benching of Pouliot could have anything to do with their offensive woes??

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      This will sound like double-talk, but I like most of the guys Rutherford brought in, too. Overall, this team competes much harder than last year’s version. And yet…

      …they’re just too small. They have to work so hard to fight through opposing checks (i.e.; obstruction) that it’s tough for them to finish once they get there. A big body or two (in addition to Winnik) to play a straight-ahead power game would’ve worked wonders.

      The situation’s even worse on defense. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the deadline deals. Lovejoy’s a reasonably proven commodity, and he’s displayed good chemistry with Pouliot. Cole has a little scrap to his game and possesses a wicked shot.

      Bottom line…the Pens have too many of the same type of guy back there. Ideally, you want at least two pairings with a physical player teamed with a puck mover. Which is kind of what they had when Bortuzzo and Despres were here. Now they have virtually zero size and strength on ‘d.’ You’re just not going to go very far with such a one-dimensional mix.

      I agree…they miss Pouliot. He sees the ice so well and does so much…with (and without) the puck.


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