Being the current owner of the best player in the NHL (Sidney Crosby), the Pittsburgh Penguins not making it to a Stanley Cup Final, and winning it, is again disappointing for fans. So now that the off-season has started for the Penguins, we fans begin to wonder. The most popular thought is, I’m sure, what the hell can we do to win another Stanley Cup?
Assuming ownership won’t panic and demand the trade of one of the stars, i.e. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, I’ll suggest a few possible outcomes for the in restructuring the Penguins over the summer.
Supporting Cast Rework
This time around in the Playoffs the Penguins did not get the production out of their stars that they expected. It is not good to put pressure on depth players to score on a nightly basis when hoping to win a Stanley Cup. Though Brandon Sutter was great, his and Jussi Jokinen’s efforts were simply not enough to carry the team through Crosby’s slump.
The Penguins have struggled with depth players since they won the Cup in 2009. On SBNation.com it was noted that since 2007 (one year after Ray Shero became GM) not a single Pittsburgh draft pick has scored over 15 goals with the team. That’s right, not one.
So this has got to change. The team must get younger, and goal scoring depth is needed. Fans may have seen the last game Craig Adams and Tanner Glass will play with the team. On the back end, Brooks Orpik may be on the trade block in an effort to bring in a younger face or two.
The easiest way to sort out any problem on the ice is to blame the guy standing in net. Obviously, games in the playoffs are won and lost as a team. But it is easy to look elsewhere in the playoffs and see teams like Chicago who give up 31 shots a game with a goalie boasting a GAA of 1.97 in Corey Crawford. The Pens gave up a similar number in 29, but Marc-Andre Fleury squeaks by with a 2.40 GAA.
While looking at some numbers may lead you to think Fleury was a top performer for the Penguins this postseason. He was decent, and at times brilliant, but it was the types of goals he let in that make one wonder what exactly he’s thinking in net.
It shouldn’t have to be said again, “in big games, big players make big plays.” The Penguins need a goalie who can bear down and play flawless hockey when they need him to. It doesn’t matter how much offense or defense the team provides for a goalie. When the game can be decided by one moment, whether it’s the first period or third, the goalie must play with the same attitude and have confidence and consistency in his game.
Finally, another intriguing option is looking at the coaching and front-office. With Shero’s failure to find and develop talent within the organization since he became GM, a move in replacing him is another possibility. Whether owner Mario Lemieux wants to go down this path or not is unknown, but off-season meetings will surely discuss this.
The only worthwhile player scouted and developed under Shero’s staff has been Olli Maatta. This season’s acquisitions were lackluster. Taylor Pyatt was a waste. Marcel Goc didn’t do much aside from penalty kill. And Lee Stempniak wound up on the third line helping Sutter instead of Crosby.
When pondering over Shero’s existence as the Pens’ GM next season, let’s look at what’s behind the bench, too.
We’ve all seen it in the playoffs, where an opposing team will assign a single man to cause hell for Crosby. This mostly comes in the form of excessive defense and pestering, trying to get in his head. This requires an enforcer on the ice to protect Crosby, to pound the ever lovin’ bejesus out of the a-hole, and let your star get back to being a star.
The players that would have been capable of this for Bylsma weren’t even dressed. Deryk Engelland did not see the ice for one NHL playoff game this season, and Glass was scratched for the bulk of the series with the Rangers. So Crosby was harassed until he was ineffective.
Although both Shero and Bylsma are liked men throughout the franchise, they are likely to be out from their jobs following a round of firings leading up to the draft this off-season. This will be sad for Pittsburgh Nation, but hell, hockey is a business baby.
Anyhow, finding a replacement will be easy. Anyone have recent Gagarin Cup winner Mike Keenan’s phone number?