Life on the Farm: Part II – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Life on the Farm: Part II

Yesterday I examined the basic components of an NHL farm system—scouting, developmental teams and coaching. Today I’ll delve into the true lifeblood of any hockey team…the players.


They say all men are created equal. I’m sorry to tell you, fellow Pens fans, that does not apply on a hockey rink. Men are not all equal in hockey ability.

The NHL created a system called the Entry Draft whereby the best and most talented players are taken first and then in a descending order, usually based on hockey talent. Usually the top five drafted players are special and have unique qualities that set them apart from the other players. They become stars overnight in most cases.

The next 6 to 20 players drafted usually take a year or two to fully develop and then have very productive NHL careers. Some are late bloomers, take a growth spurt and put on 25 pounds of muscle and become very different players than when they were first drafted. We all can name several players like that. The top 20 taken usually go on to be leaders and big contributors on any team.

The 21st to the 62nd player taken in a given draft will develop most of the time into NHL players. How good they will be depends on a lot of factors. If they get drafted by a progressive organization with great coaching, lots of money and a ton of patience, they will become top-six NHL forwards or top-four d-men in most cases. However, just as many of this group get drafted by organisations that don’t take the time or invest the money to properly train these players. They never make it to the NHL. Lost opportunities.

Once you get to the third round (63rd pick and beyond) anything can happen. Less than 20 percent of players drafted in these slots ever play in the NHL. Unless you have spent a lot of money and time on your worldwide scouting system you simply are flying blind. Teams like Detroit have often been able to find good NHL players in the third and fourth rounds because they had superior scouting operations.

Do the simple math, my fellow Pens fans. Thirty-one NHL teams times 23 players on a regular season roster. That’s 713 available NHL positions! Most NHL players are playing at least 10 years or more it seems. Sixty-two new players come in every year to the NHL. The 63rd to the last player drafted at 217th do not have much of a chance to ever see the big league. There are exceptions to every rule but that is what they are…exceptions!

For some strange reason goaltenders are often taken in the third round or later. That distorts the averages even further against you if you are a forward or defenseman.

I am going to list the 31 NHL teams as reported by The Hockey Writers in terms of their minor-league systems. It will definitely surprise you.

I will also attempt to list the number of first- and second-round picks in each organization at the development level. As mentioned above, third- to seventh-round picks are really only AHL-caliber talent in the majority of the situations. Teams that have more first- and second-round picks generally have a superior talent pool of future NHL-caliber talent.

When doing the research for this article, I spent 11 hours examining all the first-and second-round draft picks for all 31 NHL franchises. I would not advise you to do so unless you really want to be fully discouraged.

The Hockey Writers 2017-18 Rankings of NHL Teams Farm Systems




5 first-round picks in their development system;

7 second-round picks in their development system

2. Tampa Bay 3 first round; 10 second round
3. Carolina 4 first round; 7 second round
4. Winnipeg 5 first round; 5 second round
5. Arizona 6 first round; 5 second round
6. New Jersey 4 first round; 5 second round
7. Vancouver 5 first round; 4 second round
8. Calgary 5 first round; 5 second round
9. Toronto 3 first round; 5 second round
10. Detroit 4 first round; 5 second round
11. Dallas 7 first round; 3 second round
12. Boston 7 first round; 3 second round
13. Columbus 3 first round; 3 second round
14. Vegas 4 first round; 2 second round
15. NY Islanders 5 first round; 2 second round
16. St. Louis 5 first round; 4 second round
17. Nashville 3 first round; 6 second round
18. Colorado 3 first round; 4 second round
19. Minnesota 2 first round; 3 second round
20. Buffalo 2 first round; 6 second round
21. Edmonton 2 first round; 4 second round
22. Florida 2 first round; 4 second round
23. NY Rangers 2 first round; 3 second round
24. Los Angeles 2 first round; 3 second round
25. Washington 3 first round; 2 second round
26. Anaheim 3 first round; 5 second round
27. Ottawa 4 first round; 3 second round
28. Montreal 4 first round; 2 second round
29. Chicago 3 first round; 5 second round




0 first round  (Yes ZERO! We are the only team in this situation in the NHL!); 5 second round (Jarry 44th, Sprong 46th, Gustavsson 55th, Bjorkqvist 61st, Lauzon 51st)
31. San Jose 2 first round; 3 second round

That, my friends, is the state of the NHL according to The Hockey Writers as of July 21, 2017.

We have a real problem in Pittsburgh! The cupboard is bare compared to almost every other NHL team!

Why is it that we are the only NHL organization to have no first-round picks in our minor league system? Three of our second-round picks, 51, 55, and 61 were all in the lower third of the second round. A weak talent pool at this level.

Filip Gustavsson is a goalie and he was our first pick in his draft year at 55th, so that offsets a bit. It certainly doesn’t cover the glaring shortcomings of our farm system.

When is a Farm not Really a Farm?

At Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton, our Baby Pens have a winning tradition. They always do very well in the first round or two of the Calder Cup playoffs and seem to be a model of consistency. Upon closer examination, you find that the Baby Pens win because the parent club hires older former NHL players, or career minor-leaguers to keep the team competitive.

According to one of The Hockey Writers, “The Baby Pens are stacked with players that are not good enough to play regularly in the NHL but are too good to play against 20- to 22-year-old AHL kids trying to learn the pro hockey game. The Penguins simply do not have enough talent in their draft system to field a 20-man roster with NHL prospects. It is a self-inflicted wound.”

For me, this exercise pointed to the fact that the Pens’ management simply doesn’t want to wait for first or second round draft picks to develop. That costs money and time.

The Pens do not want to wait. The Pens want to trade and buy their way to another Cup!

I have heard the same story year after year. We must win now while we have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. Do you know how crazy that sounds? Chicago has Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Washington has Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and the others. They still build for the future.

There are 30 other teams in the NHL and they all want to win, but they will not sacrifice the future for the present. That is just good business sense. It is ridiculous that we have no talent to fill the needs for 2017. We need two centers, two defensemen and at least two wingers if we hope to repeat in 2018 and we have no available talent.

Brian Dumoulin will make $4.1 million for the next six years. A very big pay increase that will set off a chain reaction that will enable Conor Sheary to also get a big pay increase. That could cost us between $7 and $8 million when the dust all settles. That will change everything!

It could cost us another Cup in 2018.

Every other team in the NHL have first round picks that can play on the third line or the second defense pairing and it only costs less than a million dollars for each player. We, because of past foolishness, now have to pay top dollar for the same talent level. As much as three to four times as much as if we had proper first-round picks to secure our future. Poor planning.

My final point? When the New York Islanders lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Cup Final over 30 years ago, the Islanders never recovered. It turned into a complete financial disaster for them because they didn’t have the talent in their farm system to quickly rebuild. Ironically, the Oilers had the same thing occur to them about 15 years ago. They are just starting to recover now.

Look at the state of the farm system in Pittsburgh today. If we fail to win the Cup this year, we are in for a lot of trouble for many years to come. We simply will not be able to buy cheap talent anymore, and the trade value of thirtysomething players with big salaries will diminish greatly.

Our college kids are not Hobey Baker winners. One is a finalist. But most of them are below average talent when compared to the first-round draft picks from all over the world.

A lot of our kids’ productivity stems from playing on a team with veteran stars like Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Phil Kessel.

They would not fare so well if they had to compete with other first-round draft picks with elite talent on an average team. If we had a real farm system like other NHL teams with five first-round and three high second-round draft picks, many of our college kids would never crack our lineup.

To the point: Can you imagine having 6-foot-5-inch Patrik Laine and his 105 miles-per-hour slap shot playing along Crosby. Or would you rather have Jake Guentzel?

How about big Leon Draisaitl as a right winger for Malkin, instead of Bryan Rust these past two years?

Always said life on a farm can be pretty tough!

Thanks for reading. I hope we still can be friends…

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  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    July 30, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Sheary is in the fold and there is still ~$3mil to spare to sign Cullen.
    Sheary will get $3mil per year for 3yrs. I think that may be a good contract.

    Also they have used 45 of 50 contracts, so if the sign Cullen, they can still sign 4 more players, Butcher? Dea is also still unsigned.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Hey Coach
      That is a good number and again for 3 years. If it had gone to arbitration it could have been much worst.
      They still do not have a lot of money to get a quality 3rd center.
      Should be interesting.

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 30, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Hi Coach,
        I have printed the latest cap friendly report which includes Shearys new salary. Here is the facts,
        Projected cap hit is $ 71,720,000 now.
        Projected Cap space $ 3,280,000 now.
        We have 7 defense men in that total of $ 71,720,000.
        We have 2 Goaltenders in that total of ” ” .
        We have 13 forwards in that total of ” ” .

        WE do NOT have Matt Cullen signed.
        We do NOT have the elusive 3rd center man signed.
        We do not have the reserve fund needed to operate during the regular season. ( 800K to 1 million).

        If we were to leave 1 d man in the minors, the logical choice is
        Chad Ruhwedel and he would save you $ 650,000.
        If you were to move 3 forwards in the minors, you would save $625,000,another $ 625,000 and possibly $ 675,000.
        Then resign Cullen for the 1 million, keep the 1 million reserve
        needed to operate, you would have left $ 3,855,000 left to sign a
        name 3rd line center. Otherwise you need to make a BIG trade with Sheary, or ( Hagelin or Hornqvist and their 4 million plus salaries ).
        Otherwise we have only $ 1,280,000 to sign a third line center with talent. Very hard to do.
        That is how it looks to me anyway.
        Plus I never looked to see how many of the 4 players I would want to send to the AHL would have to clear waivers !! That could be a problem.
        Your thoughts…

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          July 31, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          I think the Pens are going to try and start the season going with Cullen (I believe he will sign with the Pens) and either Rowney or Aston-Reese moved back to Center from RW and see how it plays out. If the Pens find a need for a veteran 3rd line C, they have several pieces they could move.

  2. James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
    July 28, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey Coach
    Just a rumor from the Hockey Writers today.
    Bozak going to Rangers….Rangers buying out Marc Staal contract .
    Maybe we can get him cheap if this happened? ?

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 28, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Interesting Jim,

      If Bozak goes to NYR, that will cut the field even smaller on 3rd line Cs.

      I read someone suggesting moving Aston – Reese back to C for the 3rd line C. Considering how log jammed RW is, that may make some sense, but I am not sure if I see the Pens trying that. Aston – Reese would have to have a monster camp.

  3. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    July 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jim,

    With all of this talk about the Pens farm system and development model I just wanted to toss another log on the fire and see what happens;

    Mark Easson, on another site, in an article about Will Butcher quoted Butcher’s agent as follows;

    “Pittsburgh has a good development model,” Bartlett said. “They’re also back-to-back Stanley Cup champs. Those things are always interesting for free agents.”

    He also quoted Butcher as saying;

    come the 15th of August if the Pens call, they will definitely answer the phone

    he (Bartlett) noted Pens scouts at some of Butcher’s games

    and that Butcher isn’t going to demand to play immediately in the NHL, but would play in the AHL.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Hey Coach,
      As I mentioned in an earlier post yesterday maybe Butcher could be a cheap signing to add some depth. He is an offensive defense man but he is on the small side. He is 5’10” and about 190 pounds.Does not play a physical game.
      Coach,I wonder if he can translate his College success to the NHL. Both Canadian and US College systems have far less physicality than the pro game. So I do not think he would be the physical presence you and I are looking for on our defense, but he may be a good AHL player or future trade bait.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 28, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Hey Coach, FYI
      I just noticed on the NHL.Com site that Butcher’s agent is also Rust’s, Wilson’s and Archibald’s agent and he said ” if Pittsburgh called, we would definitely talk to them.” That is a good sign. He mentioned Vancouver as well.
      On another note, Boston forward,25 year old Ryan Spooner just signed yesterday, a one year deal for $ 2.825 million. He is 5’10” and 182 # . He scored 39 points this year with 11 goals. Last year he scored 13 goals.
      Almost 3 million contract.
      I wonder how much Conner will get ? August 4th is not that far away.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        July 28, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        No I agree with you about Butcher’s size. They say he play much larger. I guess they are saying he is a younger Kris Letang? I don’t know. But the interesting thing about what I read was that his agent thought the Pens had a “good development model”

        • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
          July 28, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          Hey Coach.
          Letang is 5′ 11″ and 200+ pounds. I could be wrong but this guy needs to get stronger for NHL play and he is already 23. He is not going to get much bigger.
          He is not a kid. So how does he get bigger?
          Just a question?

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            July 28, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

            Hey Jim,

            You are right, at 23 he will not get any taller, nor will he expand his frame any appreciable amount. However, he can add weight, and since the numbers I read on Hockeysfuture list him at 175, he needs to put some weight on if he wants to try and play large in the NHL; at 175lbs he won’t last that long. If Butcher is committed, he can try and put some mass on, but let’s face it, hockey players really only have 2 – 4 months to really try and pack muscle on, with the Penguins getting only roughly 2 months. Once the season starts, strength training programs will not be all that effective since travel and games stress will keep them around just treading water during the season.

            But to answer your question, Strength and Power training programs will get him bigger, but the real question becomes how big can he really get without sacrificing speed.

            I do think he may be worth a look.

            Phil reminded me of my pet peeve of this past season a couple of days ago, my rants about the Pens D. With that in mind I have been pouring over a lot of data to possibly do an article on, but the long and short of it comes out to be that although digging deeper into the objective evidence, I may have been over-reacting to a small degree, but the Pens do have some significant gaps in their D so looking for help is still a good thing.

  4. James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
    July 28, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Hey everyone,
    Just a quick follow up to my article.
    I did not put this information in my post due to the length of it and I did not want to indulge your patience any further originally.
    I wanted to review the drafting record for the Pen’s.
    My research for this article showed that in the last 5 years, since the 2013 entry level draft : 2013 Pens’s drafted 44th and 77th, in 2014 drafted 22nd, in 2015 drafted 46th, in 2016 drafted 55th,61 st,77 th and this year the Pen’s drafted 51st and 93 rd !
    I wanted to see how many picks we had drafted in the top 100 of each draft year. Given the stats I read and the ones Phil published below you can get an overview of the talent pool in our Farm System.
    Compare that record to Tampa Bay or the dreaded Orange and Black.
    It certainly is an eye opener Pen’s fans.

    Thanks for reading !

  5. James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
    July 26, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Hey Guys and Gals,
    In a some what related story just published late today,NCAA Hobey Baker Winner William Butcher, defense man will not sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him 123rd in the 5th round of the 2013 NHL entry level draft.
    The article says he will test free agency on August 15 th.
    Interesting to note is that 122 players of equal or much superior talent were taken in 2013 before Butcher. Because he felt he could not compete in the junior system he chose the US College route. He excelled and was voted the best, but when you compare him today with the top 20 players of the 2013 draft class, his talent is no where equal.
    Jake Guentzel was drafted in the 3rd round at 77th of the same year. His talent level is quite a bit higher than Butcher.
    Matt Murray, because goalies are taken in lower rounds usually was drafted 83rd in 2012.That actually was a pretty high number for goalies on 2012.

    Josh Archibald was drafted 174th,Scott Wilson 209th in 2011.
    Not the same talent levels at all.

    Just another example of drafting high and keeping your high picks.

    PS.. Maybe we can pick up some more depth players cheap.

    • July 27, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Percentage chance a draft pick will play in the NHL:
      1st round – 80%
      2nd round – 44%
      3rd round – 30%
      4th round – 22%
      5th or more rounds 19%

      This is just the percentage that play at least one game, some of them did just play one game. Playing two full seasons is way less of a percentage.

      Statistically if you trade two 2nd round draft picks for a proven NHL player you have won.

      Keep in mind the Penguins picks are at the bottom of first and second round for the last bunch of years. The draft picks probably aren’t going to be getting batter anytime soon losing Randy Sexton.

      Pavel Datsyuk, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Pavel Bure all taken after 100th pick. It’s a crap shoot. Detroit’s scouting department is the best and they have picked many great ones from deep in the draft that everyone missed. Like Henrik Zetterberg picked 210th. What I’m getting at here is that the 122 players picked before Butcher are not necessarily equal or better talent 🙂

      I’m not against draft picks by any means. I’m just pointing out that statistically what they have done is not the end of the world!

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 27, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Hi Phil,
        I respect your graph and its showing of the differences of success % by rounds. It actually illustrates THE point of my article !
        In my references that I read, the article stated, as have other sources from the NHL that anyone below the second round,62 nd, has a 20 % chance or less of having a NHL career. Not just playing a few games.
        They did stress there are exceptions but that was because often the team drafting them in the lower rounds did a better job in the full development process.
        (scouting, drafting, training, coaching,diet,competition, managing).
        The lower half of the draft round would most likely mean that their numbers for success were lower than the top half of any particular draft round as well. Especially in the first and second rounds. Meaning that the top 15 picks in round one would have a higher % of success ratio than the bottom 16 to 31 picks. You chart says 80% of all first round picks go in to the NHL. Using this logic the top 15 selected would have a higher success ratio than 80 %. Maybe 90 % ???
        So would it not be BETTER to have a top 15 pick than 2 or 3 picks at 124,155 or 186 ? ( 22% to 19 % success rates by your stats.) I think so.
        The NHL entry level draft system is built on the notion that the higher the number drafted then the better the player until you reach a point whereby a lot of players have equal talent and their success depends on other factors.
        Last point is these charts do not show the productivity of the players in each round either. Meaning that a player taken top 15 as compared to a player taken 150 will have a much more productive career points wise.Another reason to have high draft caliber players on your team and in your system.
        So I respectfully have a slightly different opinion than your Phil.

        With regards to trading two second round picks for a seasoned player I would do it if and only if it made sense. Some of Shero’s moves were very questionable when he traded too much away for what he got in return.
        Good points…good discussion.

  6. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jim,

    You did a ton of great work on this. And it’s a really interesting and thought-provoking article with some truly eye-catching info regarding the farm systems. But with all due respect, I think you may be overlooking a key piece of the puzzle or two.

    The Penguins have been on a short list of Stanley Cup contenders for over a decade. No other team can match their four trips to the Final, and only Chicago can match our three Cups during that span. Interesting that the ‘Hawks are right there with us at the bottom of the farm-system ratings.

    In fact, the majority of the teams in the top half of the farm system list are the have-nots, while the perennial playoff teams and Cup contenders are in the bottom portion, with Tampa Bay being the one glaring exception.

    The reality is, when you’re a Cup contender, you often trade off draft picks to fill in missing pieces. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, I admit. Sometimes it works great…like when we landed Justin Schultz for a third-round pick. Other times, like in the Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray and Brendan Morrow deals back in 2013…not so great.

    In terms of getting guys like Leon Draisaitl and Patrik Laine, don’t forget, their respective teams had to finish near the bottom of the barrel to pick ‘em. Competitive teams simply don’t have the option of securing that kind of talent through the draft. Unless, of course, you’re Sam Pollock, GM of the mid-70s Canadiens, and you made a career out of fleecing weaker teams of their high picks.

    Remember, we had to finish dead last in order to draft the likes of Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You just don’t find those guys with…say…the 25th overall pick.

    Frankly, I think our scouts have done marvelous work to find gems like Jake Guentzel and Matt Murray in the later rounds, to say nothing of guys like Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson. Certainly not stars (at least the latter two), but good complementary players. Precisely the kind we need to flesh out our roster.

    Yes, eventually a dearth of top-end talent will undermine us. Likely a few years down the road, when our core stars begin to fade and, as you’ve duly noted, we don’t have the front-end talent in the system to replace them. But that’s sports. Everything runs in cycles.

    In the meantime, we Pens fans sure have been blessed with a good, long winning cycle, haven’t we?


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 25, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,

      I had been writing a long, long reply for Jim but when I got back to this page I see you have already mention some stuff that I had been writing.

      What I wrote in the unpublished comment where I agree with you Rick is that success can most certainly hurt the farm system when a team is regularly drafting in the bottom third of the draft. I also talked about development of players like Guentzel, Sheary, Rust, Wilson, and Kuhnhackl.

      However, I do tend to agree with Jim’s overall assessment. The team has thrown way too much away on ridiculous trades. Let’s face it, out of the above 5 players, only Guentzel really looks like a top 6 forward. Yes Sheary did put up 23gs last year but he was also the worst forward in the playoffs and never showed any ability to play bottom 6 or even play with Malkin. He appears very one dimensional.

      The only player with anything that the Pens traded a 1st round pick for has been Kessel. Schultz was bought with a third round pick. And this year, I know you are a fan of the Reaves trade, but I hate it, hate it with a passion. You don’t trade a 1st round pick for a bottom 3 player. more importantly you don’t trade that first pick for a position you are as deep as the Pens are.

      Maybe Jim was a little too pessimistic, but not that much. The Pens have thrown away way too much for far too little.

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        Hi Other Rick,
        Thanks for the endorsement. Yes I am a little to critical at times. 🙂
        I will have more to say later tonight.
        Have a commitment…

        Thanks for reading

        • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
          July 25, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          Hey Coach
          Sorry to take so long to get back to you…I wanted to save the best for last…..
          What do you really think seeing that graph listing all the draft picks? I was horrified by it….
          Either we are reinventing the wheel or the 30 other teams are using a different play book than us and it will catch up soon.
          I can not help to see that this was an all out effort to win at all costs, to drive up the value of the team and for Mario and Ron to cash out .
          You talk about my vantage point from a far seeing things a little different than you. You maybe right…
          But I sure do not have your analytical abilities.
          3 years ago Mario builds a 25 million dollar mansion in a very exclusive area in Quebec. Same neighborhood as his other billionaire buddy who sold Cirque du Soleil at the same time for about 2 billion US dollars. Lots of rumors were going around Quebec on what they were going to do in Quebec.
          I know when they won the Cup last year in 2016 Mario still wanted to cash out a large portion of his equity. According to the recent Ron Burkle article he mentioned that ” there were means by which Mario could get some of his equity out, (cash) of the team, while still retaining his shares.” I believe that has happened. So now maybe the pressure is off and Mario will be able to live in both worlds.
          FYI Coach. A 25 million dollar house in Quebec would be at least 50 million in Pittsburgh. It is quite a palace by our standards. Given that the Province of Quebec has the highest tax levels of all types in North America,I would not want to see the property tax bill on his Quebec residence.
          Obviously he plans to live in both worlds for a while.
          Burkle being a take over artist probably at first followed along but now that the value of the team is still going up they decided to keep it. Great news for us…
          Nothing else makes sense to me.
          What do you think Coach ?

          • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
            July 25, 2017 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

            I never answered your question from yesterday about Scouts and minor league Coaches.
            I think at the AHL level in the past 10 years we have been fortunate to have very good Coaching.I think 5 WBS Pens Coaches counting Sully went on to be Head Coaches in the NHL. Maybe more.So on that measure we are a success.
            But on the basis of developing talent it is not so clear. D.Sprong: They basically wasted his first year of eligibility by keeping him in the NHL to long and sitting him on the bench and never letting him play. He should have been returned to Charlottetown for more playing time. Beau Bennett: They had him miscast as a defensive winger and he never developed properly.Even JR admitted that. Tristan Jarry: Send him back down for a third year in the AHL? Why not let him play 20 games as a back up? Derrick Pouliot ?? Your guess is as good as mine Coach.
            No idea what is wrong with that boy. He was a 7 th pick !
            Just a poor development strategy.
            So on the basis of player development, the track record is not the greatest. I think the Pen’s could do a much better job at developing talent !
            With regards to other minor leagues, when you draft 121 st, 151st and 181st, you probably realize their future as an NHL player is slim to none so why waste your money? Much easier to cherry pick the US Colleges whereby you do not have to travel as far to see the talent and the US Colleges are paying all the development costs for the players.Go to the Frozen Four Tournament, spend a week and sign a couple of players. Cheap way of doing business Coach.
            I guess that answers the question about Scouting as well.
            Anxious to see your comments…

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            July 26, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

            Hey Jim,

            I am appalled at the Pens current trade away the future mentality. As I mentioned to Rick B, of the 4 or 5 number one picks they traded for players to win the Cup, only Kessel has come thru. The other thing that has bothered me for some time is the Pens lack of trading away redundant pieces when their value was high for draft picks.

            I really like Hornqvist and would prefer to see the Pens resign him but reality he is a great puzzle piece to start rebuilding the future. Nearly all the reports I have read suggest that both Sprong and Aston – Reese are ready to start making an impact in the league. Those same reports suggest that Aston – Reese is a young Hornqvist type player. Of all of this is true, and the Pens still found ways to win without Hornqvist in the line-up last year, the trade dead line is the perfect time to deal him. Unfortunately, I fear although Sully seems willing to the team as a whole is still very much conservative in nature and will not play to win and will will slip back into the Shero mind set of being afraid to lose, holding on to veterans even when kids are ready.

            Just like when Mario, Ron, and Jaromir went for a three peat I fear the Pens will trade away kids for old men and get the doors blown off of them in the playoffs by young guns.

            • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
              July 26, 2017 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              100%… You play to win and not play to try not to lose. Well said.

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            July 26, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink


            Thinking about the other factors, players coaches, etc;

            I do think that the Pens have had some recent successes. Murray appears to be a top 5 goalie and maybe even a Vezina candidate in the near future, Guentzel also appears to be on the fast track to stardom. However, there is a laundry list of failures; Joe Morrow, Beau Bennett, Simon Despres, and Angelo Esposito of the first round disappointments, not to mention other round failures like Oskar Sundqvist.

            I think part of the problem was the previous regime; Shero/Bylsma. They really didn’t seem to know how to use their first round picks nor did they show any ability to develop players. I do think that Despres and Bortuzzo could have been handle a lot better. They were given extremely mixed signals, they were told to be physical and when they did that, they were given press box time.

            In Bennett’s case, I really don’t think he should have been a 1st or even a high 2nd round pick. At best he was a late 2nd round pick.

            Now Sundqvist is a more recent pick and more interesting; Where the Pens failed him, I believe was keeping him in Europe far too long. You mention that Europe is getting better at developing players for the NHL, but unfortunately, the refereeing in Europe still adheres to the rules as they were written far closer than the NHL, where referees are more worried about not deciding games with calls rather than worrying about deciding games with non-calls. I hadn’t found Penguin Poop when Sundqvist first came on the scene but I complained most vehemently over the way he was mishandled right from the get go. Why I bring this up is that I fear for Bjorqvist. It may not hurt Gustavsson as much as a goalie, but skaters are always in for more than culture shock coming to the US or Canada from a living environment but also from a playing environment.

            As for Pouliot, I am hoping that with Gonchar adding to the staff that maybe Pouliot can be salvaged. If CORSI stats sre of any value than maybe Pouliot can be saved; his even strength numbers have been 54% (2012-2015), 58.5% (2015-2016), and 47.95 (2016-2017). Until last season his numbers were pretty darn good.

            Martin is great but everybody presents information differently, maybe Gonchar will be able to translate that info into terms that will get Pouliot over the hump. No, I am not holding my breath, just hoping for a miracle.

            • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
              July 26, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

              Hey Coach,
              Good point about Bjorqvist. He played at Providence this year and had a rough time with only 6 points in 29 games played. Hopefully the second year will be better for him.
              Some people doubted him going in the second round of the draft. Time will tell.
              Scouting again?

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        July 25, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Hey Other Rick,

        I’m all for setting high standards. Which I think the Penguins have consistently done, season after season, during the Crosby-Malkin era.

        Heck, they fired Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero after a 51-win season. If that’s not having high standards, I don’t know what is.

        But I wonder if, sometimes as fans, we hold our team to too high a standard. I think that’s the case here. No team scores a direct hit on every trade, or doesn’t give up too much now and then. No team develops every prospect. And no team strikes gold through the draft on every pick.

        All-in-all, I think we’ve done a really good job. Nobody wins back-to-back Cups in the salary-cap era. N-o-b-o-d-y. Yet we accomplished it.

        Three Cups in nine years? Pretty darn amazing, if you ask me. We must have made more than our share of good decisions along the way.


        PS–Regarding the Reaves trade, in hindsight I’ll admit that it may have been a bit of a knee-jerk reaction by Rutherford. It kind of reminds me of the Marty McSorley-Shawn McEachern trade in ’93, after we’d been roughed up a bit by the Islanders in the playoffs. A trade that wound up being reversed about 2/3rds of the way through the season.

        I have hopes that the Reaves trade will work out better. I know you vehemently disagree.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,
      Thanks for the excellent feed back. I knew it would be a passionate topic and that is why I wrote it. It was not meant to be a criticism piece but more of an information article to let others know where we stand in comparison to other NHL Franchises. It all stemmed from the Professional Hockey Writers Association article of last Friday.( The guys that get paid the big money to tell us what to think).
      With my small brain and limited analytical ability and after considerable review of their article I found myself disagreeing with some of their conclusions. But what was very clear to me, and somewhat shocking was the stark contrast between our farm system and all 30 other teams. Either we are inventing a new way of doing business in the NHL and all other teams will follow us or we are very lucky to have Crosby and Malkin and their combined unique abilities have been able to over come the need for support players and take us deep into the finals.
      ( That is my conclusion after studying the issue).

      When I looked at the number of third round draft picks in all other 30 NHL teams organizations this contrast became even more apparent.We have very few 3rd round picks and almost everyone else has many on their roster.
      Why ?
      You mentioned Chicago. They too still have several 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks on their development roster, but I agree they have traded a lot away.
      The real issue here is that because of the recent explosion in players salaries in the past 2 years it will affect us moving forward to secure the talent we need to remain competitive.
      That is the real issue of having a strong farm system. It saves you money and gives you the talent needed to keep the dynasty going.
      I really enjoy your comments Rick and I bet most of our readers did not realize the difference in the way the Pen’s operate and most all other NHL Franchises.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        July 25, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        Don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the importance of a strong farm system. In many ways, it’s the lifeblood of any sports organization–especially in the salary-cap/free-agent era. For many of the reasons you mention.

        It’s just that, as a general rule, there’s an inverse relationship between having lots of talent on the farm and winning Stanley Cups.

        The Penguins have followed the same pattern in each of their Cup eras. No need to remind anyone how dreadful we were when we drafted Mario Lemieux. Slowly we built a playoff team with homegrown talent like Phil Bourque, Rob Brown, Bob Errey, Troy Loney, McEachern, etc. Then we traded some of that talent to add missing pieces for the Cup team.

        After we won the Cups and became a power? We stopped drafting guys like Jaromir Jagr and Markus Naslund and started drafting Robert Dome and Konstantin Koltsov. All the while relying and more on veteran free agents and trades to keep us going.

        Again, everything goes in cycles.

        Same thing with our recent Cup winners. After a dreadful turn in the early 2000s, our first playoff team in 2006-07 was comprised of something like 87 percent of home grown talent (I once did a study on it) based on games played. A core of Crosby, Malkin and Fleury, with Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Ryan Malone, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Max Talbot and Ryan Whitney in support, to name a few.

        Again guys were gradually traded off for missing pieces (e.g., Whitney for Chris Kunitz). And, as we became more successful, we stopped drafting Crosbys and Malkins and picked kids like Carl Sneep and Brian Strait.

        Not that success on the ice has to consign you to failure at the draft table. In fact, I think that’s where the true ability of a scouting staff comes into play. When you’re picking in the top ten, it’s easy to make good selections. It’s a lot more challenging when you’re drafting late in the rounds.

        Call me a Pollyanna. But, to me, that makes the rapid development of our current crop of kids–all lower picks or college free agents–all the more remarkable.


        • July 25, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          Hey Rick, those draft picks almost 100% coincide with the Pens GM going from Patrick to Shero. When you look at the horrendous drafts and what Shero missed (Toews, Saad. Backstrom and others) then throw on top of that the picks and prospects thrown away on rental players that the Pens never signed to future contracts, Shero was not a very good GM at all.

          At least Rutherford uses picks & prospects to get guys that are signed for a few years if not long term.

          • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
            July 25, 2017 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            Hey Phil,

            Patrick did a miserable job of drafting in the mid-to-late ’90s. Again, low draft positions, and a tendency to roll the dice on projects like Dome and Koltsov were a mitigating factor.

            However, he more than redeemed himself in the early 2000s. He and Greg Malone (his head scout) had some incredibly productive drafts.

            Really helped turn the team around and position it for future success in a relatively short period of time.


        • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
          July 25, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          Hey Rick,
          I hear you and understand your thought process. But I would like you to consider this .
          You know I really like Daniel Sprong and since he plays for a junior team that I get to see quite often it pains me to say this. As good as Daniel is, he has never represented Canada on any of our National teams that I am aware of. It is not that he is a bad hockey player, quite the contrary I have sung his praises for the past 6 month’s and I believe by Christmas he will be in Pittsburgh to stay.
          But there at least 15 to 20 more talented right wingers in Canada playing in all 3 major junior leagues,over seas and in the US and Canadian College programs today.If we had a deeper talent pool you would see that more clearly.
          Because of lack of high drafted talent, the Pen’s were forced to get talent anywhere they could and they did a wonderful job with what they had.
          Wilson,Archibald,Sheary, Ruwedel,Tommy K. They do a great job. My argument is if we had first and second and even third round talent consistently we would field a better product.
          Our competitors are doing that.
          Just a little difference in Philosophy .
          Thanks for your comments.

    • July 25, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Hey James,

      Very interesting, great read. My only confusion is with the Chicago, Washington being built for the future and they are right down at the bottom with the Penguins. I have made no attempt to hide my thoughts on this. The teams that build long running teams that have great chances at winning the Cup completely tank and get the top five picks for several years. Then they have a solid 15 year run of high quality Cup caliber teams.

      The Penguins & Chicago have proven that it works. Toews & Kane 3rd & 1st overall picks have brought them 3 championships. Chicago Tanked 9 years. Malkin & Crsoby 2nd & 1st overall picks have brought them 3 championships. Penguins tanked 4-5 years (one was a strike year).

      The Penguins currently have the longest playoff run and probably have been to the 2nd most playoffs since 1990 only missing 4 years. Detroit I believe has only missed one.

      If you go back 31 years, which would be 1 year for each team in the league. The Penguins have won the most Stanley Cups.

      Here is how I would plan the Penguins future.

      I would plan for 4 years of being a top Cup contender, top 10% of the teams.
      Trade every future away for the now. Then 4-5 years of a mediocre chance of winning the Cup while I play out Crosby & Malkin’s contracts to let them retire Penguins. After they retire I tank the team, I mean completely tank it. Trade away anything left with skill for high draft picks. For 5 years I build up the team with as many high draft picks as possible then start the run over again.

      It’s proven to work if you want to win Cups. If you build for the future now, you will end up toiling in mediocrity with less than a 3% chance of winning the Cup each year. I say less than 3% because there will be teams built like the Penguins are now that will be winning the Cups.

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 25, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        Hey Phil,
        Thank you for your observations and insights. I really appreciate your comments on former GM Ray Shero and his lack of true success as a GM.It seems so funny to say that especially when he won a Stanley Cup and a GM of the Year award during his time with the Pen’s. As you accurately stated the real credit was due to the team he inherited.
        I find it really amusing to read Rick’s comment about Greg Malone and his scouting abilities because Greg and I went to High school together. Great guy and even a better center man in High school.
        Quiet as a church mouse in high school.Not your typical jock, but put him on a pair of skates and look out. SMARTEST PLAYER ON THE ICE .

        Phil, on another subject I wanted to clarify the signing of Dumo for 6 years could become a real blessing in the final 3 – 4 years of his contract and the same with Matta because it is very apparent now that defense men and center men are all experiencing major pay raises every year as GM’s go crazy come free agency time.
        I think my early expectations of Maatta has blinded me to his true value. I really thought based on his Major Junior career and his phenomenal rookie season that he would be a 20 goal plus 60 assists type of player. He redeemed himself in my eyes during the final 2 rounds of the playoffs. So now I see him as a more 2 way d man with more usefulness in a defensive roll in the top 4. As you mentioned Dumo as the other defensive d man in the other top four pairing.
        But what concerns me is the flip side to that statement, as we all agreed that the defense corps needed upgrading and to me it looks like nothing has been accomplished.We have the same lot basically plus Matt Hunwick and minus Daley,Hainsey and Streit.
        Hunwick was drafted 224 th in 2004 and played for Boston,Colorado, Rangers and Toronto. To me he is no upgrade over what we lost.I think he is a step backwards really.
        So I know we got the job done in body count, but I really wanted to see another d man with size added.
        With regards to moving forward in the future, I guess we will have slightly different view points on the subject. I really want to 3 peat please know that, but I believe we could do a better job of trading players for top 10 draft picks once in a while and adding some more youth at low cost contracts to keep us winning.
        Last point Phil. In the very old days teams like Toronto and New York Rangers did a lot of cash deals for better draft picks. They used to call it “future considerations”. They would trade the water boy, a bag of pucks, maybe their 40th over all pick and future considerations for a 10th pick. They used to do that all the time. My point being we are the ones winning everything and I read somewhere that each playoff game was worth 2-3 million dollars depending on the round. Why do not the Pens do something like that?

        Thanks for reading…

        • July 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink


          I think the Pens are saving their cash for a rainy day. I believe the NHL put an end to cash deals. I think the Islanders tried to sell Ziggy Palfy.

          I really think the Pens have been doing well with prospects. Guentzel, Dumoulin & Murray are incredible. Rust & Sheary are rocking it. Then you have Kunhackl & Wilson who are great fill in role players. All of them in the last 1-3 years. Then you have Sprong, Aston-Reese and Triston Jarry coming in this year.

          I think what the Pens are missing out on is signing the players to long term contracts early. You really need to be a great judge of talent to do it. The Pens have a lot of money in Crosby, Malkin & Letang. They can’t keep having these players come up through the system then after two years NHL sign a big contract then leave.

          • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
            July 26, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            Hey Phil,
            Who would you trade to get us the much needed 3rd center everyone is talking about ? I think we may get lucky and get Cullen back for one more year because the Wild have approached him twice according to newspaper reports and he has declined them both times.
            So we need that 3rd center and another strong left winger to replace Kunitz, and as I mentioned above I would like to see another big d man if possible.
            With regards to the d man he is not essential right now, but come next March we will need one.
            Your thoughts ?

            • July 26, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

              I also forgot to mention Arichibald & Rowney coming up through the system in the last two years. Rowney played 20 playoff games for the Pens this year.

              My trade likely players would be Hagelin, Pouliot & Sheary. Hagelin was a great acquisition, but the Pens now have plenty of young speedy wingers that can put up Hagelin type numbers. Pouliot is #5 on the left defense chart. Something has to give. Sheary will be getting too much money for his value. Sign him to a 3 year $2 mil a year contract and use him to get a quality center.

              Colorado could be waiting on Sheary’s contract numbers before dealing Duchene.

              gp g a pts cost
              Duchene 77 18 23 41 6 mil
              Sheary 61 23 30 53 ???

              Put Sheary, a 1st pick & a prospect in a package.
              Getting Duchene would be insane.
              Move Hagelin for a defenseman or picks, the Pens would probably need his contract money to sign Duchene.

              One player I would never ever trade is Hornqvist. It took the Pens years to find a quality net front presence. He is extremely needed and way more valuable than just the numbers he puts up.

            • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
              July 26, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

              I really liked the play of Rowney.He surprised me honestly. He liked to get his hands dirty as my father used to say. I hope he plays opening night because he brings that Hornqvist edge.
              I agree with you as well about Pouliot. He needs to go. I keep thinking Shero would take him for a left winger or a Center man as a package….
              Even a prospect is better than we have now.
              Calgary was rumored to be interested a year ago because Pouliot has a big following in the west playing his junior hockey there.
              You may disagree, but also trade Tristan Jarry to one of the Western Canadian teams would get us a good return.

              FYI .. I see 2 more teams settled with their players and avoiding arbitration .
              The GM’s are scared of the arbitrator…

              Good comments…

          • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
            July 27, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

            Hey Phil,

            I’m with you. With the notable exception of Pouliot–and I think some of this falls on him–the Pens have done an outstanding job of developing their current crop of kids.

            Going by draft position, size, etc., I didn’t think any of these kids would pan out a couple of years ago. They completely fooled me and taught me a valuable lesson…never judge a book (or hockey player) by its cover.



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