Penguins training camp is winding down, and most of the guys you expert analysts out there figured had a shot are now apartment-hunting in Wilkes-Barre, and with multiple levels of disgust.
The lone remaining people’s choice is winger Chris Conner, but the only way Conner sticks is if the Penguins can’t agree to a contract with tryout player Ryan Bayda. Bayda is three inches taller than Conner and more aggressive. Each has a journeyman’s resume.
What’s the difference who the 13th forward is? He only dresses when pugilism seems very unlikely; otherwise Eric Godard gets a jersey.
The Penguins are defending Stanley Cup champions. The roster was mostly set in stone before camp started. The only battle at forward was for the 13th spot. The only battle at defense was for the 7th spot. Debates over Eric Tangradi, Luca Caputi, Nick Johnson, etc., were conducted in your head, not Ray Shero’s office.
Tangradi had zero chance, Caputi a slim one. Each needs more minor-league seasoning. The Pens don’t need them NOW. The risk of retarding their development isn’t worth reward not currently required.. You want to groom Tangradi and Caputi to play on the top two lines. The best place to do that is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Either could have temporarily filled in for Max Talbot, but you don’t want a rookie dealing with the added pressure of a ticking clock.
As for Nick Johnson and his ilk, one good camp doesn’t offset lack of experience. Bayda’s NHL tenure and fourth-line outlook make him perfect for the last forward spot. It’s not always about the best player, or the most talent. It’s down to who fits the role.
Which brings me to Pascal Dupuis.
Internet “experts” bray for Shero to trade Dupuis, citing Dupuis’ limited talent and his $1,4m salary. If his talent’s so limited, why do you think Dupuis would be easy to deal? Maybe Shero has tried.
It would be nice to open up a bit more cap space for Shero’s use at the trade deadline, sure. But realize that the drop from Dupuis to Bayda (or Conner, or Johnson) is considerable. Dupuis has seven full seasons in the NHL, all spent as a regular. He’s versatile: A decent fit on the first line, fourth line, any line. Dupuis never cheats you on effort or physicality. He’s a good teammate. Dupuis has averaged 14 goals per NHL season. Bayda has 16 total, Conner 7.
You win Cups with guys like Dupuis. In fact, the Penguins just did. I have no idea why Penguins fans seem anxious to dump him.
The knowledgeable ones aren’t.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).