As Ray Shero returned to Pittsburgh with last night’s game between the Penguins and Devils, it brought a lot of discussion this week about Shero’s tenure in Pittsburgh.
Some certainly seem to view it as a failure due to the multiple playoff disappointments from 2010-2014 and that’s warranted. The lack of drafting forwards, the Rob Scuderi contract, giving up two second round picks for Douglas Murray of all people, signing an old friend in Mark Eaton — being too loyal to players who won him a Cup — Shero had his share of flaws.
He became emotionally tied to players which is a bad thing for a General Manager and one reason he needed to go.
The ultimate failure, though, of the Shero/Bylsma era post Stanley Cup was certainly Marc Andre Fleury in the post-season. There’s no way around it.
When it comes to the drafting under Shero, passing up an impact forward like a Brandon Saad or Boone Jenner who the Penguins each had first round grades on was a major miscue in the 2011 draft that set the Penguins back. The infatuation of drafting puck moving defenseman because of a belief that they could become trade assets to land top-6 wingers — a quicker approach than waiting for forwards to develop — was a poor organizational philosophy that backfired.
However, time will prove that Shero’s last couple drafts with Randy Sexton running the show were improved. The 2012 draft isn’t looking too bad right now with a stud goaltender in Matt Murray, defensemen Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot. Oskar Sundqvist, though, having a poor first pro season, could also emerge into an NHL player, giving the Penguins four quality NHL players out of the 2012 class, and the Penguins might still have something in Tristan Jarry who the Penguins traded up for in the 2013 draft.
Jarry has bounced back from a poor final junior season to playing lights out in the AHL.
That said the Penguins were right to make a change when they did. Shero had to go and I said it at the time, but the problem the Penguins have ran into is they hired a General Manager to replace Shero who is on his last rodeo as an NHL GM and operates with an even worst win-at-all cost mindset.
The Penguins will probably get in the playoffs this season, maybe win a round if the blueline can hold up as Marc Andre Fleury looks to be evolving into a goaltender who can steal a series, but because of the failure to bring in a General Manager with a vision who was willing to make hard decisions and come in with an honest assessment of the organization is what has and will keep the Penguins from being anything more than a second or third tier team for the foreseeable future.
They hired a GM who told them what they wanted to hear in the interview process and that’s where they went wrong.
Did the Penguins make a mistake in firing Shero?
The mistake was ownership botching the process afterwards. That’s not to say Jim Rutherford is a bad GM. He was just a poor fit for what the Penguins needed.
DEVILS FIT SHERO’S EARLY PHILOSOPHIES
For Shero in New Jersey has all of the makings of being the perfect fit for him and it’s surely looking that way so far.
Shero is a small market GM at heart. He did his best work as GM in his first couple seasons when the Penguins were not yet operating under a win-at-all cost mindset.
He came in during the 2006-2007 season, identified need for key role players like Jarkko Ruutu, added players like Petr Sykora on value type deals early in his tenure and we’re already seeing similar type of moves transpire for Shero in New Jersey with success.
What Devil fans better hope is Shero gets back to his previous mandate of not giving out contracts of more than two years to players in their 30’s. Things started going south for Shero in Pittsburgh once he went away from that.
PENGUINS AGGRESSIVE PK
Under Mike Sullivan the Penguins have altered their penalty kill structure with a much more aggressive approach. Against a team like the Devils that doesn’t have high end talent, it’s a masterful strategy.
“What I liked about our penalty kill tonight is I thought we were aggressive, and I thought we made good reads on when to be aggressive and when not to and just protect the most dangerous part of the ice,” Sullivan said.
Being overly aggressive in a good way like they were vs the Devils personnel or scaling back the aggressiveness, moving forward the Penguins will have to walk that fine line depending on what type of personnel they’re playing. Being that type of aggressive vs the Capitals, the Penguins are going to get smoked.
Hagelin, Perron benefiting from playing in systems that suit their games
David Perron has 2 goals and 3 assists in four games with the Ducks. Carl Hagelin has points in four straight games with the Penguins.
There should always be a pause in evaluating a small sample for when players first join teams via trades or signings, but the Hagelin – Perron trade has been a perfect example of both players going to situations that suit their style of play.
David Perron does not do well with players who want to play with pace. Playing with a Ryan Getzlaf who likes to slow the play down is a good combination for Perron.
Hagelin is the opposite. He was a bad fit in Anaheim but in Pittsburgh he’s back to playing a similar type of game he played in New York. An aggressive skating under Sullivan with a lot more stretch passes down the left side.