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Insider Only Good or Bad? Pens looking to become more of a finesse team

Penguins becoming more of a finesse team?
It has been a quiet off-season for the Penguins since the Jaromir Jagr saga ended on July 1 and it will remain that way.
The team has around $2.9 million in cap space but the Penguins are comfortable with their roster. They are done adding top-9 forwards after the signing of Steve Sullivan on July 1 and the only other move believed to still be under consideration is adding a 4th line role player at the right price.
Management believes with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin hopefully returning at full strength, the Penguins are back to being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
If Crosby and Malkin are back at full health, the Penguins are among the team’s to beat in the East but here are some concerns I have with the makeup of the team:
1. What NHL GM’s should have taken away from the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup was their ability to punish and wear down teams. A glaring mismatch between the Canucks and Bruins was Boston’s physicality and how they wore down Vancouver.
That could become a possible area of concern for the Penguins next season in what should be a very competitive Eastern Conference:
They still have a need to replace the size and toughness they have lost from Mike Rupp’s departure to the New York Rangers.
Hence, the Penguins have become a quicker and smaller team on the wings and 8 of the Penguins top-12 forwards are 6-foot-0 or under/205lbs or under.
The Penguins though have not prioritized replacing the grit and toughness lost from the likes of Rupp and Talbot.
“I think we’re a team that has a lot of grit, ” Pens GM Ray Shero said on Friday during his press conference. “With some of the guys we still have up front and bringing back {Arron} Asham, I like our grit.”
One player who was seen as a perfect fit for the Penguins was former Islanders center Zenon Konopka who recently signed a one year – $700,000 deal with the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins though never placed a call into Konopka’s agent Kevin Epp.
Some intriguing names still out there that are seen as fits when it comes to the “grit” department include Mike Grier, former Penguin Jarkko Ruutu and Brad Winchester.
2. Pens vulnerable on “D”?
Statistically the Penguins were one of the best teams defensively last season. That shouldn’t change next season with Marc Andre Fleury in net and a top-4 of Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.
However, I still have questions about the Penguins group of defensemen in regards to whether they are built for the playoffs.
According to scouts I’ve spoken with, they point to the Penguins being vulnerable last season against teams whose offensive philosophy centers around driving to the net and being able to do it effectively.
That’s a primary area the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to exploit the Penguins on.
Other than Brooks Orpik, the Penguins don’t have a defenseman who can punish players in front of the net. Come playoff time, that’s where defensemen like Hal Gill are so valuable.
As good as Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek are, they are never going to be that type of defenseman.
One prospect who could fill the void is Robert Bortuzzo whose regarded by several Pens officials as NHL ready. However, it’s unlikely the Penguins clear a spot for him in the top-6 to begin the season with seven defensemen on 1-way contracts.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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