By Mark Madden
In business, there’s something called the Peter Principle. You do a good job, you get promoted. You do a good job again, you get promoted again. Eventually, you get promoted to a job you’re NO GOOD AT. You rise to your level of incompetence.
Remember that when someone tells you the Penguins’ jobronis are capable of more. Even when the person saying it is Dan Byslma.
It’s not exactly earth-shattering to say the Penguins miss Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, or to opine that their playoff chances – making or winning – are minimal without Sid and Geno. But when stars are sidelined, marginal talents must be elevated. That’s reality.
But when Mark Letestu got his rookie year off to a hot start (seven points in his first seven games), his coaches made noise about Letestu being capable of skating on one of the top two lines, perhaps moving from center to wing if necessary.
But when Crosby got hurt, Letestu replaced Crosby between Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. It didn’t work. Letestu struggled.
It was the Peter Principle, NHL-style. Letestu is an EXCELLENT third- or fourth-line player, and has a new two-year contract extension to prove it. Letestu can have a long and lucrative career as a role player. But it’s very unlikely he can do any better.
The Penguins have lots of forwards in that vein: Max Talbot and Matt Cooke can deal with sporadic duty in the top six, but no more. Tyler Kennedy is in Letestu’s mold. Mike Rupp, an occasional shift.
More worrisome still: The reality that the Pens’ farm system has few in the pipeline with that sort of potential. Eric Tangradi, hopefully. Dustin Jeffrey, maybe (but probably not). The jury’s still out on recent draft picks like 2010 first-rounder Beau Bennett.
Bylsma LOVES underdogs. Loves giving scrubs a shot at overachieving. Admirable, but unrealistic. If the Penguins are to fill out their top two lines with any sort of class, it will mostly have to come from without. Attempts otherwise just won’t work.
Pascal Dupuis is one guy that deserves more credit than he gets. He can play either wing, any line. He can jump from role to role, understanding and embracing all demands and situations. His speed can make him a determined first-line forechecker. His smarts can make him a trapping, no-nonsense fourth-liner. Dupuis is never going to fill the net, but he gets his share: 18-20 goals suit him fine.
I like what we’ve seen of Jeffrey during his stints in Pittsburgh. If Crosby and Malkin remained sidelined, I’d like to see Jeffrey get a shot between Dupuis and Kunitz. Jeffrey is slightly more of that pedigree, having topped 90 points twice in Major Jr. A.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).