TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. The Pirates have the farm system to acquire pretty much anyone they wanted on the trade market and Neal Huntington would have loved to have made another run at David Price, but for whatever reason, there was no green light from ownership like last July to bring on that type of salary so the Pirates never seriously looked into Price like some in the organization had hoped they would.
The good news at least for the Pirates is all the game changers went to the American League in Cole Hamels to Texas, Johnny Cueto to Kansas City and David Price, Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto.
San Francisco reportedly made a late push for Hamels, Price, and many insiders believed the Dodgers were going to get at least one of Cueto or Price.
2. From a size, athletic ability standpoint, some are drawing Dwight Freeney comparisons for Bud Dupree during the early stages of camp. One feeling around the team is (over time as he is very raw) Dupree will be a natural to play as a defensive end when the Steelers use some 4-3 schemes
3. Are the Penguins a substantially better hockey team than they were when they ended last season? The best way is to look at it as kind of a two-part answer.
When you acquire Phil Kessel to put on Sidney Crosby’s line, you are a substantially better hockey team, but when it comes to the question of whether the Penguins have crept back into the discussion of being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender again, the answer is no for now.
At the forward position, the argument can surely be made that on paper it sets up as potentially the deepest forward group they’ve had since after the trade deadline of the lockout shortened 2013 season.
The Penguins have made the proper changes to taking the first step of having an identity upfront after severely lacking one last season under Mike Johnston when the team averaged under 2.4 goals per game in their final 65 games (including playoffs).
The Penguins believe they are going to be a skilled, fast/aggressive team, similar to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The first step this off-season that had to happen was developing an identity and no longer saying you want a skilled bottom-6 and having players who can’t create their own shot filled throughout the bottom-6 with the likes of Lapierre, Spaling, Adams, Sill, ect.
Put a check mark to that.
Now we wait and see if they stick with their plan of trying to be the Tampa Bay Lightning/Chicago Blackhawks upfront or get spooked when the Columbus Blue Jackets rough them up which is going to happen.
While developing an identity was the first step, it doesn’t mean this group doesn’t have flaws or question marks. I believe an in your face team like the Blue Jackets is going to be a problem for this group and don’t be surprised by mid-season if fans, pundits are yapping that there isn’t enough youth in the bottom-6.
4. What about the backend? No one looks at this group on the blue line as one of a Stanley Cup contender.
The Penguins are taking a very small sampling of being able to play the Rangers in a tight defensive series without Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff and Olli Maatta into believing that they can get away with the group they have.
It’s Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and a bunch of 5-7’s.
“They’re an injury to Letang from having a disaster on their hands,” one NHL scout said. “They need another minutes eater. The Pouliot kid is not going to be that player. I like Cole a lot as a #5…. not as a 3 or 4.”
Another NHL evaluator said it comes down to Fleury for him.
“It all comes down to Fleury for me,” a second NHL scout said. “If he’s around that .925+ save percentage range, I think they have a chance to get by fine.”
5. Will Tyler Kennedy sign with the Penguins next month on a two-way contract?
Kennedy, unsigned, continues to hold out hope of landing with the Penguins. “TK would love to come back,” his agent Steve Bartlett told me again this morning when we talked.
The Penguins have told Bartlett they planned to circle back on Kennedy next month as no decision internally has been made. To keep a spot open for a young player, the route the Penguins would prefer to go I’m told is a two-way contract and an offer is likely coming.