Latest Penguins Buzz

Insider Only Latest Penguins Buzz: Should Despres be playing over anyone not named Letang, Orpik and Martin?


Simon Despres has been a healthy scratch for two straight games and is skating this afternoon as the fourth pairing with Mark Eaton. There are many different opinions in hockey circles about Despres right now. Some scouts, talent evaluators, see him as more of a No. 3 pairing defenseman at this point in his development, but I’ve heard from enough scouts and a few former players who watch this team closely who believe Despres is a top-4 defenseman right now.
A good argument can be made for Despres that he should be playing over anyone in the lineup except Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. I like Matt Niskanen in Dan Bylsma’s system but defensively Niskanen is not a top-2 pairing defenseman. On a minutes (even strength minutes) per even strength goals against ratio, Niskanen has the worst mark of the Penguins seven defensemen. Niskanen has been on the ice for 9 even strength goals against and when breaking down the numbers/even strength minutes per ratio, Niskanen is on the ice for an even strength goal against nearly every 17 minutes at even strength.
By comparison:

Paul Martin is on the ice for an even strength goal against every 29 minutes at even strength, a strong number for a player seeing the ice against the oppositions top forwards. Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang are on the ice for an even strength goal against nearly every 26 minutes at even strength. Both good numbers for those two in top-2 pairing roles.
Despres has the second best mark on the team being on the ice for just 5 even strength goals against in 163:05 of ice time at even strength. Deryk Engelland who plays a third pairing role, has been on the ice for 6 even strength goals against in 207:44 of ice time at even strength.


The Penguins are giving serious consideration to signing Mark Eaton, team source says. Eaton is practicing again with the team and Penguins would not have brought him up to practice  if they weren’t serious about signing him at a league minimum deal.
The reason is why?
That I don’t have any answers on right now. Scouts I’ve heard from continue to indicate that Eaton appears done as an impact NHL defenseman based on his play from last season. There’s a reason he hasn’t been able to land a job. The tape is not good from last year.
The speculation has been Pittsburgh sending Despres down (Despres also been made available in trade talks) and signing Eaton to give them a veteran presence in the room and another left handed shot, but Eaton does not provide what the Penguins lack; A big defenseman who can clear the front of the net and make life hard on the opposition.


A big need for the Penguins going into April’s trade deadline continues to be a depth forward, preferably a third line forward who makes it tough on the opposition. That became even more evident last night as the Flyers have those type of forwards and I think a team like Boston would give the Penguins fits in a seven game series.
How many of those forwards are out there? Not many but this team really needs a Steve Ott type of player. Shero’s addition of Gary Roberts in the 2006-2007 season is kind of the same situation developing here. They lack that type of top-9 player.
I’d be very surprised if Shero doesn’t address this issue.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

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

Comments Disabled

Comments have been disabled for this post.