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Insider Only Player Exit Interviews: With changes looming, uncomfortable feeling among players today

With so much uncertainty, there was a real uncomfortable feeling among Penguins players today during today’s exit meetings and final media availability.
The sense among players is that they really have no clue how things are going to shake out, though, the vibe from just about every player that spoke is that changes are obviously going to happen and I got the sense they’ve been told that.
Sidney Crosby, as expected, shot down reports of there being dis-connect between him and head coach Dan Bylsma. Crosby took the high road when it came to the coaching staff, just like all the select players who decided to speak. However, Crosby said it’s up to others to decide on whether Bylsma should be back.
“I think that’s for other people to decide but I think when you don’t meet the expectations you understand as a athlete, part of this team expectations are high and if you don’t deliver you have to own up to that as players and organization…We’ll see what happens.”
“I don’t think we really know,” Crosby said of changes.
“There’s a lot of questions and a lot of things being talked bout, but it’s a lot disappointing here right now,” Crosby said.
The one thing that caught my attention with Crosby is that he seemed to hint that if the NHL is evolving back to a clutch and grab league, than maybe it’s time the Penguins start joining those teams that do it.
“If it is going to be that type of style than maybe we need to adjust the way we play a little better,” Crosby said. “Either play more physical and if they’re going to let a lot go, than maybe use that to our advantage more too.”
Crosby didn’t feel it was necessarily fair to say the Penguins are underachievers. “It’s difficult to win,” Crosby said. To say we’re underachievers that’s up to anyone.”
“Team like Chicago, it’s impressive to see what they’ve done.”

Chris Kunitz on whether there was any disconnect with Bylsma: “Not at all,” Kunitz said. Kunitz praised the information that the coaches provided. “I enjoy coming here every single day. Think the message is strong to go play your game,” Kunitz said of the coaches.
Kunitz called “Game 1 a missed opportunity” and was out of answers as to why the Penguins just weren’t able to finish the Rangers off after playing so well in Games 2-4. “Look at mindset, we should have played every single one of those games as a Game 7,” Kunitz said. Kunitz noted they went into every game thinking that way but it didn’t parlay onto the ice.
Kunitz who the starts the beginning of a new three year contract next season, turns 35 in September. He plays the type of style where he could hit a wall at any point.

Whether there’s a new GM coming in or not, there’s going to be a shakeup with the roster regardless of what decisions ownership make.
Marc Andre Fleury tops the list of players whose future could hinge on if there’s a GM change or not. Shero returns, Fleury is locked in to return most team sources feel, but the feeling around the league is that a new GM is highly unlikely to hitch his wagon to Fleury who is not thought of real well around the league.
“I really hope I get to stay, Fleury said. “It’s my team here. It’s where I want to stay.”
Kris Letang is another player who could be a part of a big shakeup as his NTC doesn’t take effect until July 1 when his new deal kicks in.
As for rumblings about the coaches being fired:
“Talking about coaches, that’s not something I really worry about,” Letang said of the increasing speculation. “My job is to play hockey…..Coach is a coach. Doesn’t really matter. {We} have to do a job out there and that was up to us [players] to win those,” Letang said.
Letang indicated he will be able to go through a normal regiment this summer.

— A number of coaches and front office members were all around this morning at Consol. Dan Bylsma was not made available to speak.

— Will Jussi Jokinen be back next season? The pending free agent would like to come back but is likely to have priced himself out of Pittsburgh. Executives, scouts I polled about Jokinen prior to the Olympics, felt he could be in contention to command at least $4 million per season with a strong Olympics and post-season. Playing with a bad right wrist, all he did was lead the Penguins with 7 post-season goals.
“I hope I can come back but this organization obviously has a lot of decisions to make,” Jokinen said.

Beau Bennett will have a second wrist surgery this off-season but claims he will be ready to play for the start of next season. The wrist injuries obviously getting concerning with Bennett. Bennett said he was given the option of having the second surgery in February but held off to come back for the stretch run.
Bennett emerging as a true top-6 forward would be a key for the Penguins next season. “I think the pieces are there,” Bennett said. “We’re lacking that killer instinct, hurt a team when they’re down,” said Bennett of what the Penguins are lacking.

Pascal Dupuis on relationships this season between the players and coaches: “I was not in here [much], so it’s hard to get a pulse of the team.” Dupuis noted he would like the same core to return and expects to be ready for the start of the season.

Brandon Sutter, a pending RFA, on mood of the team: “Lot of talk, speculation right now, as players obviously disappointing. “Think our job is just to play and not think about it.”
Sutter like others praised the coaching staff. “Love the staff we have here,” Sutter said. “I like the coaches.” Sutter said the coaches did a good job with their preparation and didn’t see any concerns with relationships.
Sutter who you could tell is unsure of whether he’ll even be back next season, believed that the Penguins just need a few fixes.

“Think it’s more little things,” Sutter said of fixing the Penguins problems. “Don’t think much need to be fixed”

Tanner Glass expressed frustrations about not playing much in the post-season but said that on good teams, good players have to sit and at least took the high road in saying that he wouldn’t mind coming back. “I’d like to come back. Lot of factors that go into it. We’ll see.”
Glass knows that changes are coming. “Anytime you fall short, there’s going to be changes,” Glass said.

Marcel Goc said he enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh and that the relationship between coaches and players was good. “Great organization. It’s been fun,” Goc said. “It’s a pretty good team. Lot of talent. Defensemen move puck well. I thought we had team to play in playoffs for long time.”
Goc on relationship with coaches: “Good. Thought there was good relationship. When I got here, atmosphere was positive, loose.”

— After a grinding season, Olli Maatta who struggled late in the Rangers series, has opted not to play in the World Championships. “It’s a long season, is a grind,” Maatta said. “Something new for me. Got to play a lot of games. Guys here did great job [grooming me].”

Notable players who opted not to speak included Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

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

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