Insider Only TIOPS Daily Five: Kunitz’ Last Season in Pittsburgh?

TIOPS Daily Five

*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*


jj1.If anyone wonders why the Penguins didn’t jump at an opportunity to move Chris Kunitz this summer for cap space and to clear a spot for a young player, all you have to do is look at Mike Sullivan’s comments about Kunitz following last night’s preseason game.

This is a player who is loved in the organization.

“He’s a guy, when he’s as old as he is, he’s more of an ageless wonder for me.” Sullivan said. “He’s 37 [years old] but he plays like he’s 27. He’s full of energy. He keeps himself in such great shape, he lives his life the right way. That’s what allows him to play to his age level.”

Sullivan even with his famous line in describing Kunitz last night — “Certainly he was inspiring for our group tonight.”

The hands have gone away to the point where Kunitz isn’t the impact forward he used to be, but he skates well enough where team officials believe he may have a couple more productive years in him as a bottom-6 forward.

In the last year of his current deal that carries a $3.85 million cap hit, Kunitz turned 37 a few days ago.


world-cup-of-hockeyu2. Sidney Crosby is on top of the world. Stanley Cup champion (playoff MVP) in June and now on the verge of a World Cup Championship (likely to be named MVP) to bolster his resume as a generational player. It was only nine months ago that Crosby looked like a broken player under Mike Johnston.

Playing at an unbelievable level in the World Cup, to go with his dominant 200 ft game in the post-season, now Crosby has that “best player in the world” label solely to himself again.

For how long remains to be seen because there’s a kid named Connor McDavid over in Edmonton ready to take Crosby’s throne, but the way Crosby looks right now in playing at an all-world level, the chances of the Penguins coming out of the gates like a team having a Stanley Cup hangover diminish.

The previous two Cup winners, Chicago and Los Angeles,  played around .500 hockey through the first two months of the season following their championship seasons. Chicago didn’t get out of the first round last post-season and Los Angeles missed the playoffs all together in 2014-2015.

Blackhawks 15-9-4 in first 28 games
Kings 14-9-5 in first 28 games.

What many will be watching with Crosby as the season progresses is whether he’s bound to slow down.

This is a player who played 104 games last season and didn’t even have three months to rest before going to Canada’s World Cup training camp and this tournament means the world to Crosby. He takes no days off with his training.  Assuming Canada wins tonight, Crosby will have played 110 hockey games in a 355 day span.


3. What is Tristan Jarry’s ceiling? When the Penguins traded up for Jarry in the 2013 draft, the organization’s amateur scouts strongly saw a ceiling of a No. 1 goaltender. They loved the kid coming out. This was the same summer where former GM Ray Shero nearly pulled off a trade for Jonathan Bernier from the LA Kings that would have ended Marc Andre Fleury’s tenure as a Penguin.

A little over three years later, there’s a lot less No. 1 goaltender talk surrounding Jarry, especially from scouts around the league, but the tools are obviously there for Jarry to become a solid No. 2 NHL goaltender and that would be a win for the Penguins.

Mike Sullivan was gushing about Jarry last night and pointed out an interesting aspect of Jarry’s game in how he handles the puck extremely well.

“I think we are all excited about Tristan’s potential,” Sullivan said.  “He has the ability to be a real good goalie. Handles the puck extremely well. When he adds that element to his game, I think it helps the defensemen. They don’t have to take as many hits. We can get out of our end zone more efficiently and cleaner.”


Pitt4. Kevin Stallings was a hiring that Pitt AD Scott Barnes was highly criticized for but I think many will be changing their tune shortly.

Stallings is going to be a breath of fresh air for that program with an offensive first mentality. Ball handlers are being influenced to push the floor and be creative, the total opposite of Jamie Dixon who often had players being scared to not make mistakes.

Maybe Stallings doesn’t get Pitt back to the 2003-2009 type level but a more exciting offensive brand of basketball is going to be seen on the court and it’s the best route to take in becoming a dangerous team again in the tournament that can get hot out of the blue. Trying to play Big East defensive brand of basketball doesn’t work in 2016 anymore as an ACC team.

On the personnel front, Stallings move to play Jamel Artis at point guard is an interesting one that could pay off big time.

“I see a lot of upside for our team with Jamel at point guard,” Stallings said earlier this week. “Initially there may be a greater risk, but eventually, I think there will be a greater reward if that’s something that pans out the way my mind’s eye sees it.”

Artis averaged 14.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3 assists per game last season.

“This is a team that is going to have more freedom than past years that I’ve been here, and I like that a lot, because I don’t really think I could show my talents [under Jamie Dixon],” Artis said. “Teams let point guards push the ball down the court, and for me to push the ball down the court is a good thing.”

Before Pitt has even played a game yet, Stallings surely won a lot of fans over today in putting WVU back on Pitt’s schedule for the next four seasons.


Pirates5. When the Pirates and Ivan Nova’s representative Greg Genske engaged in contract talks earlier this month, the two sides were about Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

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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