TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. It’s been clear for a while now that the Pittsburgh Penguins are a group that just doesn’t know how to win. Last night’s game was another perfect example of that. From the head coach to the players, they are a group that has no answers and remain a mentally weak group when there’s a push back or the going gets tough.
Some Quotes out of last night’s game:
Yet, the head coach felt the Penguins were very good for “3/4” of the game. It’s over for Mike Johnston and he knows that and while the Penguins have a coaching problem, the issues go well beyond that.
Big picture, things are going to get worse before they get better for an organization that has a coach, GM and a roster problem.
2. A huge problem for the Penguins right now is they can’t get the puck up to the forwards in transition and they’re going to be in big trouble vs the Islanders Friday night. When a team forchecks the Penguins hard, even when healthy they are on their heels but without Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff, they are a disaster in getting the puck cleanly out of the zone.
Ben Lovejoy is a huge problem. Lovejoy’s media buddies have touted his ability to retrieve pucks as a huge asset but it means nothing when his first instinct is to throw the puck around the boards at nearly every instance, killing any chance to break the puck out and create offense. He’s the same exact player he was during his first stint with the Penguins as mentioned the other day.
Simon Despres ceiling may only end up being that of a No. 5, No. 6 defenseman, but he is greatly missed right now in his ability on the breakout and zone entries, an area he was much improved at this season. Despres at least had some poise with the puck and couldn’t be any worse than Lovejoy has been in defending the front of the net.
The Penguins issues go well beyond Lovejoy but that trade has backfired on them in a big way.
I asked one Western Conference scout about Lovejoy and how he was regarded as a reliable, stable defenseman during his stint in Anaheim.
3. For those banking on the Penguins to magically become a Stanley Cup team starting next week in round 1 if they get Kris Letang back, first they have to get in, Evgeni Malkin is a good example of a player who missed a little bit of time of late and is nowhere near being in hockey shape right now. Malkin was dealing with some knee discomfort which kept him from doing any strenuous exercise during his short stint out of the lineup but he was absolutely gassed in the third period vs Ottawa. Malkin is not in game shape and who knows how long it would take Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff to be in game shape.
A potential first round matchup with the Rangers gets more daunting at every moment you think about it.
Kris Letang is a much better conditioned athlete than Malkin but will still be something to ponder for the small crowd still out there that buys into the injury excuse.
What stood out with Malkin looking so gassed last night, is the Penguins had two forwards in the lineup they couldn’t trust to play at even strength. Craig Adams played just 3:11 at even strength, Max Lapierre 3:48.
So much for being a deeper team that Jim Rutherford likes to talk about.
4. The Evgeni Malkin
trade talk is going to be in full steam this summer as Pierre LeBrun
who covered the Penguins – Senators game notes in his column at ESPN.
Trading Malkin is extremely complicated and there are so many factors to weigh.
Jim Rutherford would have no interest in trading Malkin but he’s unlikely to make it to year two, anyways. The thought of trading Malkin would have to come down to ownership and for them to reach the point that this just isn’t working.
Still there are so many complicated factors that would come into play and Malkin would hold the keys to any trade.
1. Malkin controls the situation with a no movement clause. Last summer some in the organization believed if the Penguins ever tried to trade Malkin or came to him with a scenario, he would threaten that he’s heading to Russia or tell them to buy him out, a scenario that obviously wouldn’t happen. However, has Malkin become frustrated enough where he wants out? Certainly can’t be ruled out and the same for Crosby.
2. Malkin, Crosby have become very close and does trading Malkin lead the risk of Crosby forcing his way out of Pittsburgh, a worse case scenario for an organization that will likely be given out free tickets to fans next week if the Penguins get in the playoffs. Crosby has a ton of pressure from his inner circle that this is a toxic situation that’s only going to get worse. That’s only increasing.
3. Can the Penguins even get a proper return for Malkin? Likely not. If the Penguins explore trade scenarios for Malkin this summer, they better keep it dead quiet or be fully prepared to trade him as the situation will end up like a Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau situation where management puts you on the trade block but doesn’t have the guts to go through with a deal. A trust factor will be gone for good.
When Malkin or Crosby aren’t on the ice, this is a lottery team and that’s why they’re backed into a corner.
I was discussing hypothetical Malkin trade scenarios with an NHL executive during the week the Blues were in town and the executive was adamant if the Penguins trade Malkin, they have to get four pieces, at the top of the list, a top flight dominant two-way center who brings a different demeanor and style than Malkin.
The two players the executive mentioned:
1. David Backes
2. Patrice Bergeron
5. Josh Harrison
new contract is a great story. Hard work, having great character got Harrison to the point of sticking around in the Majors as a bench player and then when given the opportunity, his talent took over. The crowd that believes Harrison is a fluke will be ripping the contract but despite the low pedigree, this is a talented player who can play.
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