I did not see you posted anything today, Rick, I was busy writing my rant. I have not read your article yet, but if I cover any ground you also covered, my apologies.
In response to a recent post by our very own television star Rick Buker, JCW called our Pittsburgh Penguins “Fool’s Gold”. First of all, thank you JCW, you have given me a new alliteration to use – the Pyrite Penguins. However, more importantly the term is quite appropriate.
Perusing other web sites, I ran across so many naive prospectors mistaking our Pyrite Penguins for true gold as these talking heads discuss the team’s changing needs are as we approach the trade deadline and playoffs. At this point in the season our favorite flightless fowl are 3rd in the division in Pnts% but 2nd in total points (the Pens have played more games). Our hometown heroes even spent a moment at the top of the division and there in lies the Fool’s Gold.
News flash everyone, there are too many holes (in a Mike Sullivan based system) and too few assets to address those needs, to be true Cup contenders. The team’s record was built on a schedule front loaded with non-playoff teams. To date, Sullivan’s boys have compiled an 8 – 12 record against playoff bound teams. Unless a miracle happens, this team is on track for another first round loss, assuming the team survives the stretch run back loaded with playoff teams.
One particular blogger recently chronicled how he viewed the Penguins’ Goaltending as the trade deadline approached. Dan Kingerski of Penguin Hockey Now noted how he went from thinking the team needed a 1A type Goalie to mentor Tristan Jarry through the playoffs, to a solid back-up to cover for a faltering Casey DeSmith, to now thinking the Penguins are pretty solid in net. Hmmm
Maybe…. but let’s consider this;
In 3 of his past 5 starts DeSmith has posted sub 0.900 Save Percentages (Sv%). Yes, he did have a Shut Out against Ottawa in 26 save effort but he followed that up with 4 Goals Against (GA) on 27 Shot effort against the grounded Philadelphia Flyers. Thinking DeSmith has re proven itself as a playoff back-up is jumping the gun a bit.
As for Jarry, I really like him. He has held this team together. However, he is not a brick wall. Looking at his record, through December, he appeared to be solid gold. Since January, yes, he has held the Black and Pyrite in games and stolen several, but some of the luster is wearing off. His numbers now that we are playing better quality opponents and the team is worn down from the first half of the season are coming back down to earth.
Tristan Jarry Splits
|GP||TOI||GAA||Sv%||Rbd / 60|
|Thru Dec||24||1462: 40||1.93||0.932||3.12|
|Since Jan||17||970: 46||2.84||0.908||3.89|
Seriously Kingerski, this team still needs at least a solid back-up goalie, if not a 1A Goalie, but there are precious few assets to acquire that insurance policy.
It is difficult to separate the players from the system, but there has been significant and perceptible drop in the team’s defensive play. Although Sv% and Rbd / 60 are under Jarry’s control, his ballooning GAA is most certainly affected by the full team’s ineffective defense.
|Thru Dec||From Jan|
|Player||CF / 60||CF%||GF / 60||GA / 60||CF / 60||CF%||GF / 60||GA / 60|
Our ersatz Coach and many talking heads try to blame the players for not pushing the offense over these last 20 odd games but look at the CF / 60. Most of our Defensemen’s CF / 60 show a concerted effort to drive offense, 4 of the 6 Defensemen’s numbers have gone up since January. Only Mike Matheson‘s CF / 60 has dropped and Kris Letang‘s numbers have stayed statistically even.
The CF% has also increased for 4 of the 6 Defensemen. Only Letang and Brian Dumoulin show a drop in CF%.
So, if we were to believe Mr. Sullivan and the so-called experts who say that our Penguins problem is a lack of forecheck, how has the CORSI numbers gone up for 2/3 of the team, if the Forwards were not getting on their forecheck?
Furthermore, the GF / 60 has gone up as well for most of the Defensemen. Only Letang and Marcus Pettersson evidence a drop in scoring. If the man behind the bench is thinking the problem is the forecheck, maybe he should go back to the drawing board.
Looking at these numbers, it is hard to assess the defensemen. Honestly, these numbers show a riverboat gambling system that is exposing the goalie to way too many odd man breaks. I do not like the make-up of the Defense but when the system is broke, I do not hold the players accountable. The system needs fixed first.
(Any reader that has been reading this site for 3 or more years know that at least half of these defensemen would not be on my roster, or not in my top 6. For me, Andrej Pedan and Nicolas Hague would occupy 2 of my Left-Handed Defense (LHD) positions and Oliwer Kaski would have one of my Right-Handed Defense (RHD) positions.)
There is no quick fix here. The team won its last 3 Stanley Cups extremely deep down the middle. They won their first Cup with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkinand Jordan Staal down the middle. They won their back-to-back Cups with Crosby, Malkin, and Nick Bonino down the middle. In those days, Crosby and Malkin were arguably the best 2 Centers in the League. I hate to break it to the many of you Penguins’ fans, they aren’t even in the top 5 anymore.
|Player||GP||G / 60||A / 60||Pts / 60||SOG / 60|
The captain, Sidney Crosby, no loner drives his line. He is the support player. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust are way ahead of the captain in every important 5-on-5 offensive category. Even the punching bag of many a Penguins’ fan, Geno, leads the captain in most categories.
One particular talking head has suggested that Ron Hextall kick the tires on Max Domi, James van Riemsdyk, Brock Boeser, Arturri Lehkonenand Jared McCann. Really?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some very interesting names in that list. If all I had to give up was Jason Zucker or Kasperi Kapanen or both, I would consider Boeser. Actually, I would love to try and get Vasily Podkolzn from the Vancouver Canucks more. I would even throw in Pierre-Olivier Joseph with both Zucker and Kapanen to get Boeser and Podkolzn.
However, just like at the Goalie position, there are too few assets in the organization to try and get all the pieces the team needs and the players themselves are not the real issue. The real problem in Pittsburgh is the Coaching.
Many people here, have bemoaned several of the issues but doggedly still want to insist that Sullivan is a good Coach. There seems to be a consensus that Sullivan refuses to use bigger players; I agree. So, oops there goes JvR.
Another area of concern for at least me is Sullivan’s inability to manage his assets. Zucker has never shown any chemistry with Malkin yet Sullivan keeps trying to shove that square peg into a round hole. Guentzel and Rust have always been money in the bank with Malkin, but they never see ice with him unless Crosby is injured. Just a few short weeks ago, Radim Zohorna and Jeff Carter showed some real Chemistry with Malkin but that line was almost still born. Sullivan broke it up not long after it took its first breath. Last game, Carter did get some TOI with Malkin but Zohorna has since been banished to the AHL – again.
Sullivan mismanaged McCann the first time he was here, so why throw good assets after a player Sullivan does not know how to utilize?
I said at the beginning of the season Evan Rodrigues would score a lot of points early on, while he had a chance to skate as a top 6 Center but would disappear when Malkin came back, and Sullivan would demote him back to a utility piece (look it up). Sullivan has no clue how to maximize his players talents. E-Rod is far better at Center than Wing and needs to be on 3rd line at the lowest, but Sullivan is so blinded by his press clippings that he can not see any but his own reflection.
And so long as Sullivan has the human pylon, Dominik Simon in his toolbox, he will use him. No matter who Hextall would get in a trade, they WILL sit if our Coach has to sit them to squeeze his buddy Simon into the lineup.
What would I do?
Why Ask? You know what I say. It is the same thing I proselytize all the time, sell at the deadline. Do not even stand pat with what you have. The window closed (sort of) 3 years ago. Now that this team is Sullivan’s team. He has had it long enough to reshape it into his image and his image lacks the grit to go the distance. Oh, it does have the grit to be the punching bag for the entire league but it it does not physically have what it takes to get the big dance on its own. They need a faerie godmother to fit them with glass skates and pray they win it all before the clock strikes midnight.
I trade Letang before his stock starts dropping. Look at his numbers. Playing against better teams and players, he does not quite look like the stud he did while feasting on the bottom feeders.
If I can not trade Zucker to free up money to give to Rust, I trade Rust. With the way he is playing right now, I could easily con another team, deluding itself that it is a true contender to pluck their 1st round pick.
I would have traded E-Rod as soon as Malkin came back, way back when his stock was high. He is a top 6 Center on a middle third or lower team, not a top 6 on a top 3rd team.
This team is not Solid Gold. It is not even Gold Plated. Our Penguins are Pyrite that is fooling a fan base desperate for the glory days.
Odds and Sods.
I really hate to admit it but looking at the numbers I cited above, Matheson may be the best Defenseman on this roster. Having said that, mind you, being the best defenseman on this roster may not represent anything all that great.
Kudos to Danton Heinen. I did not realize how good of a season he was having. He is 3rd on the roster in 5-on-5 Pnts / 60, behind Guentzel and Rust.
Thanks again JCW for my new alliteration – Pyrite Penguins. Hopefully, I do not have to use the phrase that long.