What’s Next for the Penguins
The organization is stunned at what played out in Toronto this week. While it was a case of drinking too much of their own kool-aid, several members of the organization believed coming out of the two week training camp, the Montreal series was going to be nothing more than a tune-up for an eventual deep run.
High-ranking members were giddy going into the tournament that the four-month layoff gave the Penguins core a significant advantage in this tournament.
Other than Sidney Crosby, no Penguin among their core met or played above expectations against the Habs.
Evgeni Malkin was a complete dog in the tournament. Malkin was certainly in the biggest disappointment category for the Penguins against Montreal and just a four game sample or not, his putrid play in Toronto takes away the bounce-back season he had. It really does. Everything is not about stats when measuring a stars’ play and with Malkin there was just no difference making ability against Montreal. Pittsburgh is 1-9 in their last 10 playoff games and Malkin now has 0 even strength goals over his last 16 playoff games. When the games tighten up in the playoffs, this was another summer where all the signs are there that Malkin no longer has that game changing ability as he’s closer to 35 than 30. It’s a different ball-game in how teams defend and prepare compared to the regular season. Three straight post-seasons have seen a decline for Malkin in the category of being able to impact games.
Kris Letang was meh in the tournament and the Penguins living in a world that Letang is a legitimate No. 1 pairing defenseman just needs to end for this group to properly move forward.
They didn’t go through with it, but was Penguin management onto something last spring/early summer when they believed all the signs were there that a major shakeup was needed to extend the Sidney Crosby era which saw the Penguins at least explore trade scenarios of Evgeni Malkin to the Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" take some calls from the N Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
This year proved they were when you factor in the team we saw from February to now.
“With age, that’s a possibility,” Sidney Crosby said to the media after Friday’s loss. “It’s a really hard one to evaluate.”
Word from the Malkin camp all year has been, the thought of leaving Pittsburgh which Malkin briefly considered last May with his wife Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" and family was going to be t Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
Will this change anything on that front?
The Penguins have a ton of time for self reflection and who knows if we’ll actually have hockey again in December.
Assuming the Penguins don’t win the Lottery, Jim Rutherford has some tough sledding moving forward.
Who should be the building blocks moving forward?
Factoring in age, cap hit & potential and or maintaining current level of play, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Jason Zucker, Bryan Rust up front, John Marino and Brian Dumoulin on the backend. That’s it when you’re trying to revamp this roster. Everyone else, you owe it to your self to listen on if the goal is to re-emerge as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender during Sidney Crosby’s final years as a top 5-10 player.
Just like last summer, the entire defense needs revamped and in a big way. No. 1 d-man don’t grow on trees but Pittsburgh needs about three John Marino’s to fall into their lap.
The Penguins found out last summer, Kris Letang was more valuable to them than he was on the trade market in what he would bring back. Another year older, hard to see that changing especially with the financial times the league is on.
The forward group has a number of questions.
In normal times, there would be a coach or General Manager drawn to Patric Hornqvist even at his age, but these are not normal times. Three years left with a $5.3 million cap hit, that’s a really hard contract to move without taking a significant salary back.
The Good, Samuel Poulin and Nathan Legare could add an infusion of top-9 level talent/skill in the next year or two.
The bad, no cap space, Malkin is an aging superstar with total control….. there’s a major need for a legitimate two-way third line level enter and a player like Jared McCann who once looked like a core second-tier level supporting player (Bryan Rust type) for the next couple years, no longer looks like the case.
And this is all before the major off-season storyline.
Whether the Penguins still have a franchise-level g Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"