By MARK MADDEN
HBO’s “Penguins/Capitals 24/7” did a lot to win me over concerning Dan Bylsma. I don’t agree with some of his decisions, but he handles the dressing room PERFECTLY. Coach Disco clearly has the players WITH HIM. That’s important.
But, to reiterate: I DON’T AGREE with some of his decisions.
Playing Tyler Kennedy with Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin is one of the decisions I disagree with.
Honestly, I can’t think of a WORSE choice. You’re rewarding a winger who hasn’t scored in 12 games (one in his last 19). He carries and shoots WAY TOO MUCH. Kennedy almost never “gets to his game,” as I’ve heard it said. In fact, it appears Kennedy has forgotten WHAT HIS GAME IS. Maybe Bylsma has, too.
When Bob Errey was on my show, he pointed out that both Malkin and Kennedy playing on their off-wings could cause problems when it comes to getting the puck out of the defensive zone. (Kennedy has almost NEVER played left wing.) Errey also said what many of you say: Malkin is better at center.
That last part is tricky to address.
Malkin IS better at center. But he’s a better choice to move to wing than Staal, and Malkin seems willing to do it (though I don’t know that Staal isn’t). No matter who plays where, you’ve got to find a way to get Staal on one of the top two lines if you want to keep him happy (and keep him) for the long haul. It’s not JUST about pleasing Staal, either: His talents merit such elevation.
Malkin isn’t exactly lighting up the scoresheet. You can’t point at what he’s done and say, “We’ve got to keep this guy at center.”
Errey made a good point when it comes to compromise: Keep Staal in the middle. Maintain the three-center model. Put Staal on the top power play. Staal’s talents probably merit ice time with the man advantage, too.
Since you asked, here’s what my lines would be:
*Crosby-Dupuis-Kunitz. It works.
*Staal-Malkin-Talbot. Staal and Malkin together has been the plan since summer. You’ve got to try it. Talbot has always been a good fit for Malkin.
*Letestu-Cooke-Kennedy. Letestu’s no Staal. But he’s a good third-line center, and he’d be in the middle of what was already a good third line.
*Adams-Rupp-Asham. The perfect fourth line in so many ways.
Coach Disco has a real affinity for the Letestu-Conner-Kennedy line. But Conner is the least talented of the forwards available (save Eric Godard, a specialist). If the Pens don’t win the Stanley Cup, it won’t be because Conner started getting scratched.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).