Penguins Update: Patsies No More – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Patsies No More

Rail-thin and timid as a kid, I often was the target of a neighborhood bully named Tommy S (I’ll withhold his last name). Beefier by far and a year or two older, he picked on me mercilessly, often causing me to retreat to the safety of my bedroom.

During those moments of isolation and despair I became fixated on those old Dynamic Tension ads that ran in the comic books of the day. For the unfamiliar, the illustrations depicted a skinny fellow named Mac enjoying a pleasant day at beach with his girlfriend. The bucolic scene is suddenly interrupted by a boisterous lout who kicks sand in Mac’s face. When Mac protests, the bully returns, shakes him down and steals his girl to boot!

Angry and frustrated, Mac sends away for the muscle-building system. As advertised, in one week he transforms from 98-pound weakling into a veritable he-man, rippling with muscles. Bursting with new-found confidence, he confronts the bully, puts him down, and reclaims his girl.

“Oh Mac, you are a real man after all,” she cooed.

I’d close my eyes and dream of one day exacting similar revenge…

A long-winded lead in, I know. But somehow appropriate.

You see, Penguins’ foes are liable to notice a not-so-subtle change in our collective demeanor this fall. Similar to Mac, when shoved we’re liable shove back…hard.

Following several seasons of playing the patsy, there seems to be a pronounced shift in the Pens’ mind set when it comes to physical play. Not just at the big-league level, but on an organizational basis.

Jim Rutherford suggested as much shortly after the postseason ended. After watching antagonists like Washington’s Tom Wilson regularly kick ice chips in our faces during the team’s Cup run, the Pens’ GM vowed to take the steps necessary to protect his players.


True to his word, Rutherford swung a deal with St. Louis on draft day for Ryan Reaves, a burly right wing widely regarded as the NHL’s reigning heavyweight champ.

Turns out, it was only the beginning of the Pens’ muscle-building spree. Faster than you can say Charles Atlas, JR re-signed hulking enforcer Tom Sestito and added brawny defensemen Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman on the first day of free agency. He also re-signed Garrett Wilson, an aggressive left wing who notched 11 goals in 59 games with the Baby Pens last season.

The moves already have had a ripple effect. The Capitals quickly added heavyweight contender Anthony Peluso in an effort to keep pace in the arms race.

Still, don’t expect our Pens to morph into the second coming of the Broad Street Bullies…or our games to dissolve into WWE-style battle royals. On the contrary, I anticipate the newcomers—Reaves in particular—will have a settling effect on proceedings. Much in the way folks mind their manners with a policeman walking the beat. However, it’s nice to have options, especially on defense.

With the notable exception of Steve Oleksy, a gritty but undersized bull terrier dealt to Toronto last spring, the Pens had almost no organizational punch from the backline. The landscape changed dramatically with the dual additions of Tinordi and Trotman.

The son of former NHL defenseman Mark Tinordi, Jarred inherited his dad’s size (6’6” 230) and taste for the rough stuff. A junior teammate of Olli Maatta’s with the London Knights, Tinordi showed enough promise to be taken 22nd overall by Montreal at the 2010 Entry Draft. The native of Burnsville, Minnesota skates fairly well for a big man, although with six points in 53 NHL games he’s not much of an offensive threat.

A reclamation project of sorts, the 25-year-old was socked with a 20-game suspension in 2015-16 after testing positive for PEDs. He was unable to crack Arizona’s lineup last season, spending the entire year with the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate. Still, Tinordi remains an intriguing option should Pens coach Mike Sullivan elect to beef up his backline.

Trotman, who goes 6’3” 219, may have an even better shot at spot or semi-regular duty. A seventh-round pick of Boston in 2010, the 26-year-old scored 11 goals his senior year at Lake Superior State. Since then, he’s worked hard to bring his skating and overall game up to pro standards. With a career Corsi of 50.6 percent (Tinordi’s is 50.9), he’s capable of supporting a puck-possession style.

Although not known for dropping the gloves, Trotman makes good use of his frame. He dished out 71 hits in 38 games with the Bruins in 2015-16, including a career-high 10 hits against Ottawa on December 27, 2015. And, the Indiana native’s a right-handed shot, an attribute in short supply among black-and-gold defenders.

Oh, whatever happened between me and Tommy S? One summer day he turned his nefarious attention to my younger brother, Dan, who was peaceably slurping on a Black Cow sucker. Without warning or provocation, Tommy violently shoved poor Dan to the ground.

At the sight of my brother…a really sweet kid…choking on his sucker and writhing in pain, I snapped. Fists clenched, yelling at the top of my lungs, I flew at his attacker with a blind rage I never knew existed. Shocked by my reaction, Tommy ran for his life.

Never had trouble with him again.

Tocchet on the Move?

Our players and executives aren’t the only ones in demand. According to reports, Pens assistant Rick Tocchet appears to be the front-runner for the vacant Arizona head coaching slot.

Tocchet certainly has the credentials. The three-time Cup winner (once as a player, twice as a coach) served as an assistant from 2002-06 with Colorado and Phoenix before moving on to Tampa Bay. Assuming the head coaching duties from Barry Melrose early in the 2008-09 campaign, Tocchet guided the Lightning to a 53-69-26 record before being dismissed on April 12, 2010.

A fiery power forward during his playing days, Rick rejoined the NHL coaching ranks as part of Mike Johnston’s staff in 2014. Working primarily with the Pens’ forwards, he developed a special rapport with Phil Kessel, the popular superstar who travels to the beat of his own drum.

“He just gets it,” Kessel said. “He understands what it’s like to play the game, to be a player. He makes it fun. If he gets that opportunity, it would be unbelievable for him. I don’t want to see him go, right? Because he’s a great guy and a great coach.”

All Quiet on the Free-Agent Front

No further word on the status of restricted free agents Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary, who opted for arbitration. If deals aren’t struck in the meantime, hearings for the two players will be scheduled in Toronto later this month or early in August.

Also, there’s been no official announcement regarding fellow RFAs Josh Archibald, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Derrick Pouliot.

In other free-agent news, center Kevin Porter signed a two-year, two-way deal with Buffalo on July 1. The 2007-08 Hobey Baker winner tallied three assists in 43 games with the Pens over the past two seasons.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    July 11, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Just an update,

    Tocchet is out and Recchi is in. Tocchet was hired by Az as HC while Recchi was hired as an asst by the pens.

    Funny how things go, Pens traded Recchi for Tocchet as a player and now replace Tocchet with Recchi as Asst coaches.

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 11, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Hey all,

    The Pens added another depth defenseman, Kevin Czuczman. JR signed him to a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level.

    Apparently Czuczman, 26, was highly regarded when the Islanders initially signed him out of Lake Superior State in 2014. Decent size (listed as 6’2″ 206 or 6’3″ 210), good offensive skills and a good shot. Had 9 goals and 32 points with Manitoba (AHL) last season.

    Defensive side of his game (-23) needs work.

    Looks like Czuczman, Summers, Tinordi and Trotman are this season’s Gaunce, Percy, Ruhwedel and Warsofsky.


  3. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    July 10, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Hey Guys,
    I see that Tyler Johnson, 26 year old center for Tampa Bay just signed a seven year, 35 million dollar deal. He had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points. FYI, he is 5’8″ and listed at 181 pounds. His previous contract paid him $ 3.3 million a year. His last years production was 45 points, 38 points, and 72 points. That is a rich deal ???

    Conner Sheary had 53 points with 23 goals in this regular season . I hope that
    this does not affect the expected pay day for Sheary. Even 3 million a year is way overpaying him in my opinion.
    Lots of cash being spent in 2017.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I think we’re all aghast at the money that’s being tossed around. Not that Johnson isn’t a good player (nice parallel to Sheary), but sheesh.

      It really underscores and re-emphasizes the importance of building through the draft and/or with kid free agents. Fortunately, the Pens are stocked with a lot of talented young players–especially up front.

      I sure would hate to have to rely on signing pricey free agents to significantly upgrade my team. Still can’t believe Radulov–an 18-goal scorer–got $6 million a year.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 10, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Wow, I had been out for a while so I missed that.

      Agreed, Sheary isn’t worth that much. I am I right in my interpretation that the arbiter chooses between the the two offers that have already been put on the table so that what happened tin the Johnson case should only affect which offer is chosen, that is to say, Sheary can’t up his demands now?

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

        Agreed..100%.They can not up the 2 offers but this could influence the arbitrator to choose the top contract.
        So it could have an affect.

  4. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 10, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Just saw on NHL.com that Dumoulin’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 24. Sheary’s is set for August 4.

    I’m assuming that since Archibald, Dea and Pouliot didn’t file for arbitration, they agreed to the team’s terms. Strange that there’s been no official mention of it.

    Anyways, I wonder if this kind of puts us in short-term limbo, since we don’t know what we’ll be paying for Dumo or Sheary.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 10, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,

      I don’t think that the Sheary/Dumoulin distraction is going to help either the players or the team. It would seem to me that if the players win the arbitration hearing the team will look to trade them and if the team wins the arbitration the players will be gone like a shot as soon as the contract is up. Even if there is a sort of reconciliation, before the hearings, it would seem the disagreement over their values will cause problems.

      As for Archibald, Pouliot and Dea, honestly the only one I would worry any about would be Archibald, but even there, wtih Reaves, he may not see much NHL ice-time, particularly with Sprong and Aston – Reese more than likely ready to reach critical mass.

      Strange as it may seem, after reading some current scouting reports there are some people out there that still think well of Pouliot and I would love to see them proved right, I am resigned to being wrong on him. As for Dea, I was never impressed. My only thought would be in evaluating his value for WBS.

  5. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    July 9, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    The NHL is its own worst enemy in some ways. Bobby Orr, yes the Bobby Orr had his knees and back literally beaten to pieces by players who had no respect for their fellow NHL participants.Mario suffered the same treatment which shortened his career as well.
    Pat Lafontaine had 6, Eric Lindross had 5, Mike Ritchter had 2, Scott Stevens had 3, Keith Primeau had 4 and Nick Kypreos had 5 ,and to many other NHL players to mention in one post. Career ending Concussions !!
    You would think that they, the owners and the players would get the message that we have rules to play the game by and if we would just enforce them on a consistent basis a lot of this foolish thuggery would stop.It is for everyone’s benefit.
    Now JR has to beef up his line up to compete, or more appropriately protect his star players. Problem is for me, a lot of the damage has already been done.
    Letang? Crosby? Sheary? Maatta ? others ?
    I am glad to finally see some action being taken by JR but I hope it does not disrupt the chemistry of our team !

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 10, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Hey Rick and Jim,

      I love hardnosed, tough hockey but for me hardnosed tough hockey doesn’t mean fighting. Yes when I was a kid I loved the circus antics as much everyone else and players like Buggsy Watson, Battleship Kelly, Steve Durbano, Dave “the Hammer” Schultz, and Paul Baxter will always have a place in my memory, having grown up watching them. However, for me, hardnosed, tough hockey means winning puck battles on along the boards, winning positional battles infront of both nets, seperating players from pucks with clean open ice hits, taking hits to open up plays for teammates, lowering the shoulder and driving the net, and taking the puck into the highpercentage scoring areas to get a good scoring opportunity rather than just tossing the puck into the goalies bread basket to help inflate his Sv%.

      I am no fan of referees who actively choose to decide games with their non-calls because they are too dumb to understand that calling the game by the rules is not deciding the game but not calling the game by the rules is.

      I would be all for a rules change that made all penalties last the full time, including all obstruction penalties, regardless of the number of PPG scored. I wrote including obstruction penaties but I should have written particularly obstruction penalties and obstruction penalties are what precipitates most of the other garbage play, the retalitory slash or cross-check borne out of the frustration of watching opponents get away with rule infractions because the bone head refs are actively choosing to try and influence the outcome of the game with their non-calls.

      The great benefit from enforcing the full penalty time on all calls would be two fold; in the short term scoring would once again go through the roof and long term the game would eventually clean up and the goon would naturally disappear from hockey, becoming a serious liability.

      If PP lasted the full time, even if multiple goal 2 min penalties only occured in 5% or less of the penalties, fatigue would eventually start to set in so that even strength goals would concurrently go up as well.

      Of course to make all of it work then the league would have to change the on ice officials or change the on ice officials. If the mentality of even up hockey remained then nothing would be gained. Bad officiating would still keep the goons in the game if officials would feel bad and start look for excuses to even up the calls rather than keep piling up the penalties on the goons. So, the league would have to start weeding out officials that couldn’t get it through their thick skulls that the higher incidence of concussions and other dangerous play is their fault for not enforcing the rules, that if they truly did their job in the penalty department a large percentage of those injuries wouldn’t happen.

      Don’t worry, I am not holding my breath. I am well aware of the h. Neanderthals running the corporate offices of the league. Cleaning up hockey may mot come in my life time. Teams will more than likely have to engage in arms races as a sort of hockey equivalent to nuclear stockpiles and all of these SALT II discussions that we may have here or in any other forum will be just as ineffectual as the ones warring nations have had.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 10, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Hey guys,

      Great comments, as usual.

      Honestly, I don’t anticipate a return to the wild-west days of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the gloves went flying at the slightest provocation. I really do feel Reaves’ presence will serve to keep the peace, not inspire mayhem.

      I, for one, am happy the Pens can gear up for uber-physical foes like Columbus, Winnipeg and Washington if they choose to. And I’m pleased to have a physical option or two on defense, instead of an endless stream of David Warsofskys.

      In particular, I think Trotman may establish himself the way Chad Ruhwedel did last season, albeit employing a bit more of a physical style.

      I do wish we had a suitable replacement for Chris Kunitz, who embodied playing toughness. Tom Kuhnhackl, who’s likely to replace “Kuny”, has at least some grind in his game. And I wouldn’t be averse to seeing Tom Sestito get another shot…again I think he’s more of a player than people give him credit for.

      My bottom line? When push comes to shove, I think having a physical deterrent will create a badly needed buffer for our stars. I’m all for any move that lessens the abuse they have to absorb.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        July 10, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Hey Rick,

        Agreed I doubt the NHL will return to the 70s circus, although I would think that actual fighting isn’t the real problem but the dangerous play like Ovie’s stick to Crosby’s followed by his kicking of Crosby’s Skate from under him, Subban’s attempt to break Crosby’s ankle, or I forget the Jacket who broke his stick across Kuhnhackl then skated around a punched him, however, I am not a fan of tying up a roster spot for a hired gun.

        You know, like you Rick I am not a fan of a midget players but I am going to wait until I see how all of JRs changes affect the team. I have not see, players like Trotman or Tonordi play but the scouting reports I read were not that glowing.

        However, again like you I am all for giving Sestito an expanded role. He may not be the second coming of Artie, but I do think he would fill a very important role. I still say he would be my net front presence on the PP. He seems to have a good S% and with his size he should open up a ton of ice for Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel.

        AS for Kuhnhackl, you know I like Kuhnhackl. I would have been giving him more ice time. He responded really well in his rookie season but ice time seemed to be doled out to him with a thimble this past season. I don’t think any one LW on this roster could fill Kunitz’s skates but maybe between Wilson’s hitting and Guentzel scoring the team can make do.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          July 10, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          Hey Other Rick,

          Depending on which sites you look at, you can get decidedly different opinions on a player’s potential.

          I like to look at the Hockey News for quickie takes. They’re okay with Tinordi and not real high on Trotman.

          Hockey’s Future is much more upbeat about both. They claim Trotman has worked really hard to upgrade his game, and has gone from a guy who was taken last in his draft to a player on the cusp of establishing himself in the NHL.

          The fact that he’s played 67 games at the big-league level and even made the Bruins out of training camp in 2015-16 seem to bear that out.

          I think he’s had some injury issues, though, including concussions. He missed most of last season with an upper-body injury.

          Tinordi’s rated as a strong skater for a big man, with a heavy shot. Not surprisingly, a potent hitter. Not much flair for offense, though.

          Obviously, we’re not looking at potential top-four guys. More like seventh or eighth d-men. But, as we learned last year, we’ll likely need ’em at some point.

          Like you, I was really impressed with Pouliot during his first handful of games. Unfortunately, he seemed to top out early and has struggled to a certain degree ever since.

          The skill is definitely there. I think the instincts are, too, at least on offense. I’m not so sure on the defensive side of the equation. I question his intensity and willingness to compete. He just let guys blow past him last year.

          From what I understand, he’s kind of a laid-back kid. Awfully hard to go against your grain.

          Agree about Kuhnhackl and Sestito. Really like ’em both.



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