Pittsburgh Penguins Season Review

Part 2: A Season that began with high expectations and ended with 60 losses

Mario Lemieux’s unexpected retirement was just one of many dissapointments

Who would have thought a team the likes of Lemieux, Recchi, Palffy, Leclair, Gonchar, Malone and Crosby would end up being the second worst team in the league. Aside from Sidney Crosby it was the most disappointing season that I have endured as a Penguin fan. First the team starts out 0-4-5 and never rebounds from that start. Disappointing management moves by not putting Ryan Whitney and Marc Andre Fleury on the roster out of training camp. Thibault plays like he belongs in Wheeling, Super Mario retires, Ziggy retires, Gonchar underachives and to make matters worse a 4th straight season of missing the playoffs.

Can’t point the finger on one person but heres my top 10 reasons why this season was a nightmare.

10. Not bringing back Morozov. You think this team could have used a right winger who can get you 20-25 goals. It is obvious that Morozov has underachieved but he plays well with Lemieux and comes cheap at 1.5 a year. End result: Morozov finishes third in scoring the Russian Elite League

9. The signings of Lyle Odeline and Steve Poapst. By signing those two journeymen to one way contracts it made it impossible to bring up Ryan Whitney at the beginning of the season. End Result- Poaspt traded, Odeline done for the year in January

8. Lasse Pirjeta: it’s hard to blame him for the assumption that management thought this guy could be a #2 center in this league after having a few good games at the end of the 03-04 season. End result: wavied and is playing in Europe

7. Sergei Gonchar: He was awful for the first half of the season but the last 30 games was the defenseman we thought he was going to be. If he plays the way he did at the end of the year the whole season, this team doesn’t start 0-4-5 and wins some of them one goal losses they had. End result: finally looks comfortable playing in Pittsburgh which is a bright sign for next season

6. November 16, 2005: 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Marc Andre Fleury is phenomenal making 45 saves and gaining the confidence of his team. Following the game management sends him back to Wilkes Barrie. Could have been a turning point of the season. Next game 5-3 loss to the Flyers. End result 22-60 record

5. Ziggy Palffy: He was brought in to score big goals and he never delivered. For some odd reason he thought he was Adam Oates and wanted to a playmaker instead of the sniper he was. To make things worse he bails out on the team and retires citing a shoulder injury. Don’t surprised if Palffy returns next season and signs with the LA Kings. End result – retired in January after recording 11 goals 31 assists in 42 games

4. Mark Recchi: The guy did produce in spirts but he was a detriment to the team in the lockeroom. His antics of making a divided dressing room could be a huge reason why we saw no chemistry between this talented bunch. He was effective the first 15-20 games but in the middle of the season he wasn’t a factor offensively until late January. End result traded to Carolina at the deadline.

3. Eddie Olczyk: He was one of the biggest question marks coming into the season. A couple TSN analysts made bold statements at the draft that Eddie Olczyk was the wrong guy to coach a team with stars like Lemieux and Crosby. Eddie O made sure those guys would look like rocket scientists. You can’t blame him for all the one goal losses but where was the system. With a talented sqaud i expected to see some sort of a offensive attack with the likes of Gonchar, Tarnstrom and Jackman jumping into the play to turn 2-2’s into 3-2’s like what you see from the Maple Leafs with offensive defensemen McCabe and Kaberle. To make matters worst he never kept Lemieux and Crosby together for a long period. Mario was at the stage where he needed a player to elevate his game like he had done for some many years. Night after night i attend games and see Mario centering the likes of Matt Hussey. No wonder the guy wasn’t producing. In Lemieux’s second to final game of his career we did see him centering Sid and Ryan Malone so maybe Olczyk caught on but for his sake it was to late. End result fired on December 14th following a 8-17-6 start

2. Jocelyn Thibault: The guy was brought in to be the #1 goaltender and he failed miserably. Hands down he was awful from day 1. After watching him against the Devils on opening night i knew things weren’t good. He was flopping around and constantly out of position. It was something we were use to seeing for most of the year until he was out for the season in January. By the end of November management lost confidence in him and brought Fleury up for good. Thibault was put on waivers but wasn’t claimed. End result: 1-9-3 and still on the payroll for the upcoming season.

1. General manager Craig Patrick: He is the guy who built this team so in the end he has to take the blame. For one it’s not his fault Palffy, Leclair and Gonchar didn’t pan out as expected but Craig certainly deserves the blame for the signings of Thibault, Poapst, Odeline and giving a guy who has no coaching expierence your head coaching vacancy.

Patrick’s inability to land Kovalev proved to be costly

1. His first mistake began at the start of free agency when he didn’t make signing Kovalev a priority when Kovalev even stated that if the Penguins would have came to him early in free agency he would most likely would be a Penguin. Second the signing of Thibault. He brought in a guy who just came off of major hip surgery and passed on a proven goalie in Curtis Joseph. A side not here – Joseph signed for 1.5 million in Phoenix.

2.Giving Andre Roy 3 year – 3 million deal. Good old Craig gives a enforcer 1 million a year when all stars Petr Bondra and Teemu Selane sign with the Thrashers and Ducks for 500k.

3. Going into the season without a proven face off guy. Lets see here faceoff specialist Yanic Perreault was on the market for over a month and gets a tryout offer from the Predators. Perreault ends up making the team ends up with 22 goals, 35 assists and is in the top three in faceoff percentage. Im pretty sure we could have used him in those one goal losses.

4. Not having the best team coming out of training camp. Whitney, Fleury and Armstrong to name a few should have been on this team from the start of the season and those three would have made a difference.

5. End result is the Craig Patrick era is over. For most of the 90’s he was one of the best GM’s in sports. He delivered two Stanley Cups and possibly a few more if his superstar Mario Lemieux would have been healthy for the most part. He was once the guy who could find players like Robert Lang, Jiri Slegir, Marty Straka, Brad Werenka, Johan Hedberg and make them into solid NHL players. He is also the guy who traded away Marcus Naslund, Jagr, Kovalev and got nothing in return. If you look at his track record since 2001 it is terrible. 2001-02 season he hangs on to Robert Lang all season when everyone knows the Penguins can’t afford him when he hits free agency. End of story Robby Lang signs with the Capitals for 5yrs-25 million. Why would you hang on to him when your out of the playoff race and Lang was a player who was in high camand at the deadline. Financial concerns were the reason Jagr and Kovalev were traded but atleast
get a 1st round pick out of it. Not Kris Beech. I could rant on all day of the mistakes he has made the past five years but i’ll give the guy a break and stop on this note: The Craig Patrick era is over

Sidney Crosby surpassed Mario Lemieux’s Penguins rookie record by scoring 102 pts

Key stats – The Penguins had 28 one goal losses counting overtime and shootouts.
– Sidney Crosby recorded 102 pts becoming the youngest player in NHL history to record 100pts
– Sergei Gonchar recorded 34 points in his last 31 games
– John Leclair scored 16 goals since January 1st 2006 after scoring only 6 the first half of the season.
– Mario Lemieux’s final game would be Friday December 16, 2005. He would end up with one assist that would send the game in overtime.

Stats
Penguins Leaders
PLAYER GP G A PTS +/- PIM TOI PPG PPA SHG SHA SOG SPCT
Sidney Crosby, C 81 39 63 102 -1 110 1630:16 16 31 0 2 278 14.0
Sergei Gonchar, D 75 12 46 58 -13 100 1850:08 8 30 0 2 192 6.3
Mark Recchi, RW 63 24 33 57 -28 56 1341:09 11 19 0 2 164 14.6
John LeClair, LW 73 22 29 51 -24 61 1150:16 8 19 1 0 135 16.3
Ryan Malone, LW 77 22 22 44 -22 63 1393:07 10 7 5 2 153 14.4
Zigmund Palffy,rw 42 11 31 42 5 12 811:35 2 9 0 0 112 9.8
Colby Armstrong, 47 16 24 40 15 58 896:15 7 5 2 0 86 18.6
Ryan Whitney, D 68 6 32 38 -7 85 1620:09 2 14 0 1 113 5.3
Michel Ouellet,RW 50 16 16 32 -13 16 701:26 11 7 0 1 87 18.4
Ric Jackman, D 49 6 22 28 -20 46 899:21 3 9 0 1 95 6.3
Tomas Surovy, LW 53 12 13 25 -13 45 720:06 3 5 0 0 107 11.2
Mario Lemieux, C 26 7 15 22 -16 16 503:43 3 12 0 0 77 9.1
Andy Hilbert, C 19 7 11 18 8 16 331:36 3 4 0 1 51 13.7
Josef Melichar, D 72 3 12 15 -2 66 1255:37 0 0 1 1 53 5.7
Erik Christensen, 33 6 7 13 -3 34 471:19 2 3 0 0 85 7.1
Eric Boguniecki,rw38 5 6 11 -2 29 411:43 1 1 0 0 36 13.9
Dick Tarnstrom, D 33 5 5 10 -10 52 557:52 4 3 0 0 40 12.5
Brooks Orpik, D 64 2 7 9 -3 124 1205:34 0 1 0 0 32 6.3
Konstantin Koltsov60 3 6 9 -10 20 794:31 0 1 1 1 72 4.2
Maxime Talbot, C 48 5 3 8 -12 59 526:20 0 0 2 0 45 11.1
Lasse Pirjeta, LW 25 4 3 7 4 18 231:08 0 0 0 0 30 13.3
Jani Rita, RW 30 3 4 7 -6 4 302:47 0 0 0 0 36 8.3
Matt Murley, LW 41 1 5 6 -9 24 470:29 0 0 0 1 48 2.1
Steve Poapst, D 21 0 4 4 -5 10 369:46 0 0 0 0 4 0.0
Robert Scuderi, D 57 0 4 4 -18 36 1154:24 0 0 0 0 28 0.0
Noah Welch, D 5 1 3 4 E 2 87:02 0 2 0 0 5 20.0
Andre Roy, RW 42 2 1 3 -3 116 212:07 0 0 0 0 11 18.2
Shane Endicott, C 41 1 1 2 -9 43 480:23 0 0 1 0 44 2.3
Matt Hussey, C 13 0 1 1 -5 0 133:38 0 0 0 0 17 0.0
Eric Cairns, D 27 1 0 1 E 87 147:42 0 0 0 0 8 12.5
Cory Cross, D 6 0 1 1 -1 6 79:17 0 0 0 0 1 0.0
Lyle Odelein, D 27 0 1 1 -10 50 437:59 0 0 0 0 17 0.0
Ryan VandenBussche 20 1 0 1 E 42 86:37 0 0 0 0 5 20.0
Rico Fata, LW 20 0 0 0 -5 10 262:07 0 0 0 0 18 0.0
Guillaume Lefebvre 9 0 0 0 -3 9 111:08 0 0 0 0 3 0.0
Alain Nasreddine,D 6 0 0 0 2 8 91:08 0 0 0 0 3 0.0
Niklas Nordgren,LW15 0 0 0 -4 4 89:41 0 0 0 0 6 0.0

Penguins Goalies
PLAYER GP W L GAA TOI SV SV% SHO TGA TSA PIM ENG
Marc-Andre Fleury 50 13 27 3.25 2809:13 1333 .898 1 152 1485 0 3
Sebastien Caron 26 8 9 3.98 1312:18 646 .881 1 87 733 0 3
Jocelyn Thibault 16 1 9 4.46 806:42 424 .876 0 60 484 2 1
Dany Sabourin 1 0 1 11.68 20:33 10 .714 0 4 14 0 0

Check in Thursday morning for my evaluations on who to bring back next year and three off season moves that could put the Penguins back in the playoffs.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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