Janne Pesonen’s short tenure in the NHL ended just like I expected it too; Back to Europe.
Pesonen, 27, signed a contract to play for Ak Bars Kazan of the Kontinental Hockey League (Russia) early last week after totaling 32 goals and 82 points in 70 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
Despite putting up impressive numbers in the American Hockey League, scouts and league executives saw Pesonen as nothing more than a fringe NHL player.
Pesonen explored the free agent market for over a month with the hopes of landing a one-way contract but there was not one team willing to offer Pesonen a one-way deal.
Pesonen received a number of two-way offers from Cup contenders like Pittsburgh, Chicago and two-way offers from rebuilding teams Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders.
Pesonen appeared in 7 games last season for the Penguins registering 0 points, a -3 plus/minus rating and averaged 7:25 of ice time.
Pesonen had 14:24 of ice time, against the Anaheim Ducks on January 16, 2009 but failed to register a shot. It was the last game Pesonen played in a Penguins uniform.
Many fans becamed enamored with Janne Pesonen before they ever saw him play in person, based on his stats in the Finnish Hockey league and you-tube video’s.
For those fans and Pesonen’s agent Todd Diamond, the blame for Pesonen not getting a chance to showcase his talent at the NHL level has been put on former head coach Michel Therrien.
Speaking to the media about Pesonen’s decision to sign in the KHL, Diamond had this to say.
“A lot of that had to do with (Former-Penguins coach) Michel Therrien, and then the moves and trades they made at the deadline made it more difficult for him. He’s not bitter. He’s a class act. He would like to play in the NHL in the future if there is a one-way contract.”
Putting the blame on Therrien is not right as Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach on February 15, 2009 and had just as much of an opportunity to call-up Pesonen as Michel Therrien did.
When Bylsma was hired, the Penguins were sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin were not with the team yet. In fact, Guerin didn’t join the team until March 5th.
It said a lot for Bylsma to not even give Pesonen a look after coaching him for 5 months in Wilkes Barre.
Like many inside the organization, Bylsma didn’t see Pesonen as a top-6 forward in the NHL.
In the NHL action that Pesonen saw, he was a perimeter player, and lacked the strength, intensity to win battles in the corners.
This was a common theme dating back to the preseason where he struggled mightily in his own end, such as clearing the puck out of the zone when pressured.
Also, Pesonen’s offensive skills were not over-whelming for Michel Therrien to give him a strong look on the top two lines and over-look Pesonen’s struggles in other areas of his game.
Therrien’s job was to win games and you can’t fault him for not giving Pesonen a chance as Bylsma didn’t and neither has the rest of the NHL.