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Insider Only The Eric Fehr Dynamic as Top-6 Talk Emerges

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ON ERIC FEHR & TOP-6 TALK

Now that Eric Fehr is healthy and playing with his new Penguin teammates, he is giving the club exactly what it wanted: good two way play with occasional scoring and penalty kill ability in a bottom six forward role.

That’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the Penguins this offseason. And now that the doctors have done their best on his elbow, the Pens are benefiting the way they expected.

So why do some Penguin fans want to change that already?

As a precursor, let me state in advance I realize what I am about to write may be a minority view amongst the Penguin fan base. Being immersed in the sports talk radio world you get exposed to the most microwaved and hyperbolic reactions via tweets, emails, phones, calls etc.

So granted, it’s a limited response that I’m going to describe. But I’d like to nip it in the bud before this becomes…you know….”a thing.”

NO! ERIC FEHR SHOULDN’T BE ELEVATED TO SID OR GENO’S WING!!!!

There. I wanted to get that out early.

Since Fehr has scored twice in his two games with the Penguins (including an absolute beauty in Vancouver Wednesday night) I’ve gotten a few emails, read a tweet or two, and heard at least one on air discussion about trading David Perron and/or Chris Kunitz so Fehr can be moved up to the Malkin line.

Why? Why would the Penguins do that? He’s topped 20 goals just once in his career (21 in ‘10).

Kunitz actually looks like he is settling in on the third line. And while I’ve stated my disappointment in Perron in no uncertain terms and endorsed his departure, he’s at least been more of a positive the last two or three games. And if he is moved, that hole should be where Daniel Sprong ought to play if he is kept in the NHL. Sprong is a skilled player who needs to play with other skilled players to be successful.

Fehr was brought here to provide scoring DEPTH to the team. It’s hard to be considered “depth” if you are on the team’s top line (which the Malkin line certainly is right now). And that depth would be undercut if Perron and/or Kunitz were moved because of the perceived luxury of elevating Fehr.

Fehr was brought here to be good on the penalty kill. Which he has been. As evidenced by his two short-handed goals and Pittsburgh’s 8-for-8 mark while a man down since his debut (for the record, it was 18-for-18 before he got healthy too).

Fehr was brought here to bust his ass on defense and help wear down opposing scorers on other teams. Worrying about offense primarily isn’t in his job description. It would be if he got bumped up to the Malkin or Crosby lines.

“You want to score every game,” said a smiling Fehr after the 3-2 win in Vancouver Wednesday. “But you just want to play the right way and battle hard. Instead of thinking about scoring just be thinking about creating chances and being on the right side of pucks.”

Yup. Perfect. That’s it. Most generic hockey sound bite ever. But for what the Pens should want out of Fehr, no truer words have ever been spoken.

It’s common to see reactions like this from fans in all sports. When your favorite team gets unexpected production from a new player, a natural instinct is to assume your club got a diamond in the rough. Your hope is that your club can get more out of this guy than anyone thought. That’s why you got him late in the draft/free agency. Or that’s why he came out of nowhere in training camp. So, sure, call for the GM to be as reactionary as you are and demand that he cast aside older &/or more expensive guys you’ve grown tired of criticizing.

It’s one thing when fans do that. But when team executives listen or fall into the same trap themselves, that’s when problems occur.

For example, NFL team “X” drafts a nifty, undersized slot receiver in the fourth round and he does surprisingly well as the third guy. So X lets one of its starters go to save cap room that next offseason. The news guy gets a promotion. But now when he’s blocking more often on first and second down, he’s not so good. When he’s working outside instead of exclusively the slot, he’s not getting open downfield.

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About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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