Latest Pens Buzz

*Replacing what Guerin brought to table not easy task
*Kessel’s ‘steep’ 5vs5 Regression Penguins bought into
*Another season of around 18 ESP for Galchenyuk would be a disaster for PIT
*Scouts Buzz on Penguins Depth, Onus on Evgeni Malkin shouldering heavy load

1. Based on the chatter, the Minnesota Wild naming Bill Guerin General Manager this week didn’t catch many by surprise, but when this job immediately opened up, NHL executives were certain the Wild wouldn’t go the ‘No’ General Manager experience route again.

And that was believed to be the Wild’s thinking going into this and it says a lot of how Guerin went in and won this job with the Wild’s owner citing Guerin having that “IT” factor.

As mentioned before, Guerin’s ability to command a room, communicate at all levels was a big drawing point for him being named General Manager and these are important characteristics a GM needs to have to install confidence throughout the organization. But, this knock on Guerin that he can’t evaluate talent is grossly inaccurate.

Over the last four years, few worked harder in the Penguins organization in getting out there and scouting all over the hockey world and the last year or so saw Jim Rutherford really lean on Guerin with some around the league going as far to say Guerin was a strong presence in keeping Rutherford in check.

Sources say Guerin was a driving force in the Penguins making an attempt To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”! He was the go-to executive in targeting To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”! “It’s not easy to replace those type of guys.”

2. With Guerin being named General Manager of the Wild, it would have been something if Phil Kessel had accepted a trade to the Wild in June and Guerin inherited Kessel in Minnesota.

Guerin was among several others in the organization front and center who felt trading Kessel was a must for the organization dating back to the summer of 2018 and was said to be ecstatic about the possibility of acquiring Jason Zucker.

After almost being traded twice by Paul Fenton, Zucker and his family should now feel some job security in Minnesota for the first time in a year with Guerin at the helm.

3. Beyond the obvious off-ice concerns the Penguins privately had about Phil Kessel for years that were building and building, the team prior to trading Kessel in June also talked themselves into that a regression in 5-on-5 play was only going to continue. During the course of their pro scouting meetings in April and May, the Penguins coaches were often vocal of how they felt Kessel’s 5-on-5 play had regressed so much Kessel was tracking to be nothing more than a p[hide]ower play specialist in the coming years. Some of coaching staff’s beliefs of a significant regression from Kessel was backed up in the Penguins player tracking system that proved Kessel was playing much slower in several key areas.

Still, this is a production business and replacing 40+ 5 vs 5 points sounds easier on paper than it actually is.[/hide]

Meanwhile, the view in Arizona from an analytic obsessed front office is that playing away from a dominant puck carrier in Evgeni Malkin will actually help Kessel be a more impactful 5-on-5 player in 2019-2020 that will lead to him playing faster. Arizona’s models did not backup Pittsburgh’s belief Kessel is on a steep decline at even strength.

4. The Phil Kessel – Alex Galchenyuk swap was also a situation of two coaches in Mike Sullivan and Rick Tocchet that spent one and a half seasons coaching together who couldn’t wait for their front office to get rid of the particular player.

How long the honeymoon lasts between Kessel and Tocchet remains to be seen as an assistant coach/player relationship is much different than an head coach/player relationship, but few see Alex Galchenyuk, a notoriously bad defensive zone player, being a Mike Sullivan type of player when it’s all said and done.

For Galchenyuk this season, his 5-on-5 production is going to have to out-weigh everything else if he’s going to be trusted in a top-9 role, let alone a top-6 role where he’ll get an opportunity early on.

Producing just 18 points at even strength (5-on-5), Arizona coaches viewed Galchenyuk as a 4th line level player by the end of last season.


Nothing the Penguins have done this off-season has moved the needle by any means, but there has been praise around the league this summer for a team that looks for now to be trying to get back to being a four-line team that has a mix of skill and two-way play.

It started last winter when Pittsburgh turned two duds in Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan into long-term players in Jared McCann and Nick Blugstad. Cheap labor is also a little bit of a theme with the likes of Jared McCann, Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, Dominik Kuhn and Teddy Blueger making $1.25 million or less.

“They’ve put together To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

Brandon Tanev getting a six year deal certainly raised eye brows around the league as it should have, especially when the agent was somehow able to net a 10-team no trade list, but Tanev plays the type of hard-nosed style that makes him a favorite among old school scouts and coaches.

“The coaching staff is going to love Brandon,” To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

With the Penguins in a bit of a cap crunch and needing to move a salary, Bryan Rust has been a popular name among the fans and some pundits as a player the Penguins should look to move in a deal similar to the type of move they made with the Olli Maatta.

Decision makers, though, I’ve heard from beg to differ.

“Look [hide] back to 16 and 17……when the Penguins are going well in playing fast and being hard to play against, Bryan Rust was their engine,” the scout said. “Go ask Barry Trotz what he thinks of Rust,” the scout exclaimed.

A former NHL assistant coach I spoke with recently also sung the praises of Rust.

“What’s not to like,” the coach said of Rust. “Taking 80 points [Phil Kessel] out of your lineup like Pittsburgh has, have to act with caution in getting rid of guys like Rusty that [you know] will give you 17-18 goals.”

And that’s one of the questions with the makeup of this forward group.

It’s an intriguing group that the makings of a bunch of 10-12 goals, 30+ point type players, but expecting 3-4 role players to make up Phil Kessel’s production can be a risky proposition, especially if Evgeni Malkin has an encore of last season.

A consensus among evaluators this summer is that the onus of this believed deeper forward group Pittsburgh thinks they have is going to fall on the shoulders of what Evgeni Malkin shows up. Does he get anywhere close to the 2017-2018 level or was last season a sign of things to come?[/hide]

One thing that gets overlooked with Phil Kessel is you knew he’d be there for all 82 games. With Evgeni Malkin you know he’s going to miss 10-15 games each season and Malkin’s past five seasons show the percentages are greater of expecting another 70 point type season than a 90+ point season.

Malkin has topped more than 72 points just once since the 2013-2014 season. [hide][/hide]