Pittsburgh Penguins Mid-Season Report

TEAM: Pittsburgh Penguins

RECORD: 11W-22L-9OTL

Place in Conference: 15th

Injured Players:

Mario Lemieux (Irregular Heartbeat), Brooks Orpik (Broken Foot), Ryan VandenBussche (Cervical Strain), Eric Boguniecki (Knee Injury).

Team Point Leader: Sidney Crosby, 21 Goals, 27 Assists, 48 Points

Current Situation:

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a mess. A season that began with so much promise has dilapidated into a quagmire reminiscent of the past 6 New York Ranger seasons.

There are many reasons to cite and many fingers to point, but the reality is most of the teams problems center around Craig Patrick. Certainly, he has been a great GM in the past, making famous deals for Ron Francis and Rick Tocchet to propel the Penguins to Stanley Cups, plucking Robert Lang off waivers, etc. But Patrick lost his edge over the past 10 years. Starting with the trade of Markus Naslund for Alek Stojanov, continuing with the salary dumps of Jagr and Kovalev, and currently with his two big mistakes this season, allowing Eddie Olczyk to coach, an individual with zero credentials, and not understanding what the new NHL would be like, signing a load of veterans who simply cannot compete.

Yes, Patrick has made some necessary changes. Firing Olczyk and replacing him with a legitimate NHL coach in Michel Therrien is a good first step. It looks even better when you realize he had been the man coaching and developing the teams prospects in the AHL.

However, he is not the man for the future of this franchise. Honestly, can anyone name a quality draft pick by the Penguins in the past 10 years not taken in the top 5 overall? Anyone can draft well when you pick in the top 5 for four consecutive years.

Strengths:

When you are examining a last place hockey team, it is difficult to classify anything as a strength. However, the Penguins do have a great goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury. It is a shame that he has not started the whole year. Joceyln Thibault has been a disaster, and Sebastiein Caron and Andy Chiodo are not “top-tier” goaltending prospects. The Penguins made a huge mistake not starting Fleury at the beginning of the season, the saddest part is that it might have been a money decision and not a hockey decision. Yet, I do not allow money to be an excuse, because if you don’t sign Thibault and John LeClair, then you have the money to pay Fleury’s bonuses.

Weaknesses:

The Penguins are currently weak at all defense and forward positions, yet the future is bright.

Center

The center position has the most promise. With Sidney Crosby establishing himself as a future superstar, albeit a very whiny one, and with the impending arrival of Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have two first-line centers for the next ten years. All they need to do now is establish a strong third line center. Will it be Erik Christensen? He showed some sings of promise earlier this year but has since tailed off and been demoted back to the AHL. How about Ryan Malone? With Christensen’s demotion, he will now get the opportunity to flourish in that role.

Wing

The Penguins have less promise at wing. They have Ziggy Palffy who despite all his critics is second on the team in scoring with 39 points and first in plus-minus at a +7! A quite remarkable feat for someone playing on such a bad team. LeClair and Recchi are washed-up busts, plain and simple. Thomas Surovy has showed promise amongst other young players, but this is a position the Pens will need to address in free agency or the draft. Can Phil Kessel play wing?

Defense

The Penguins defense is horrible. Although I blame most of it on a lack of a quality system and frequent partner changes that were the norm under Olczyk. Now that “Mad Mike” is in charge the defensemen are playing better, especially Sergei Gonchar, who, by playing with Rob Scuderi, seems more confident and is performing at a higher level. With prospects such as Ryan Whitney, Noah Welch, and Ryan Lannon, it is not a matter of if, but when the defensive unit will be amongst the best in the league. (Provided they dump Orpik, Melichar, Poapst, and Odelein).

Needs:

The only “need” the team has is to play their young prospects, which they are now doing, and find some scoring punch on the wings next year. These are the key moves I would make.

Lemieux needs to retire or only stay on as a power-play specialist.

Considering the standings, the Penguins will likely finish last again and be in contention for the first or second overall draft pick. Therefore I would first see if Phil Kessel can play wing, if not, then I would draft Michael Frolik.

I would part ways through trade or buy-out with Mark Recchi, John LeClair, Lyle Odelein, Josef Melichar, Steve Poapst, Brooks Orpik, Rico Fata, and Dick Tarnstrom.

Finally, I would see if I could lure back Aleksey Morozov. Unfortunately, with the new NHL rules and his performance in the Russian Superleague this year, that might be a tall order.

Expectations in Second Half:

Earlier this year, I looked predicted three “scenarios” that the 2005-2006 Pittsburgh Penguins could fall within. I thought the team had the potential to make the playoffs, but in no way shape or form compete for the Stanley Cup. I also saw Lemieux’s health, along with Crosby’s performance as keys to their success. Well, Mario is hurt, again. And Crosby is playing well, although he could complain a little less and score a little more.

Thus lets look at the “Worst Case Scenario” I posed in September:

Worst Case

The team is riddled with injuries, Crosby becomes synonymous with , and the goaltending is inconsistent at best.

Penguins record is 40-42 (80 Points), they finish 10th in the conference, Mario Lemieux retires, and the Penguins move to Hartford (and me along with them).

Well, I suppose we will see how the season ends, but I will venture to say that Crosby will not become synonymous with Lindros, their record will not be that good, and the Penguins will not move to Hartford, because they are moving to Las Vegas.

Can a Penguin survive in the desert?


27 Responses to Pittsburgh Penguins Mid-Season Report

  1. Hockey_Fan_99 says:

    one thing you forgot about the wing……OUELLET he shows a ton of promise

  2. thinice987 says:

    I have to say that the high point for the team this season has been Marc-Andre Fleury. While Crosby has played very well, Fleury continues to dazzle every night with the worst defense in the league in front of him.

    The Penguins should try to trade Gonchar even if it means giving him away for next to nothing. Use the money in free agency to try to bring in someone who can do what Gonchar was supposed to do–that being put up points without looking like a jack ass on the powerplay by giving the puck away more times than Francoix Leroux did.

    As to the Penguins moving to Las Vegas, dream on. There will never be an NHL hockey team in Pittsburgh, let alone the Penguins. The Penguins are in the process of getting the best arena in hockey in Pittsburgh and they will always be in Pittsburgh.

  3. BUTTMAN says:

    Will always be in Pittsburgh? Sounds like you are the one dreaming…as much as I’d like them to stay.

    The numbers are in and PA is having job growth everywhere BUT the Pittsburgh area. The city is a financial and ecomnomic disaster. Simply put… they screwed up by blowing all their money on the other two stadiums and now the Pens will suffer for it. Politics and the lack of a specialized trade to supplement the old steel industry have left nothing for the Pens but a “For Sale” sign this summer. I REALLY wish they could stay, but please, open your eyes.

  4. thinice987 says:

    My eyes are VERY OPEN. I have personally spoken to several local political figures and they have assured the city that the Penguins will get a new arena in Pittsburgh. Basically they are going to get a slots license that will pay for the entire thing.

    ARE YOUR EYES CLOSED?

    Also, the Penguins are getting near sell-out crowds every night while being in last place … try getting crowds like that somewhere else.

    PLEASE THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.

  5. nyrhockey094 says:

    Trade Gonchar to the newyork asslanders err… i mean islanders. They could use his bloated salary and underachievement just like yashin.

  6. Neely4Life says:

    HAHAHAHAHA Terrien went offffffffffffffffff. Good for him, Tarnsstrom and Gonchar, i wouldnt want them lookin at my blue line, let alone on it.

  7. BUTTMAN says:

    1. I didn’t speak…I typed

    2. Since when should you believe any politician?

    3. Has anything other than words and ‘plans’ that are not backed by any finances been offered to solve the problem?

    4. The Pens are going to compete with 24(?) other establishments for the slots license…hardly the odds I would like to see.

    5. Pitts economy is in the gutter, we know that …and it is extremely difficult… if not impossible… to argue otherwise. This is just really bad timing for the Pens and the city to come to this crossroads.

    6. Sold out or not, the arena is small and they are still going to take a loss on the season, and an even bigger one than they thought due to the flop. (I remember they estimated 7 mil before the season started)

    I’m sure Mario would like to keep the team in Pitt, but remember that it is a business and he certainly doesn’t want to give up even more of his money for it.

  8. Gretzkin says:

    You’ve personally talked to several political figures in the Pittsburgh area?

    Papkin at your local variety store is not a political figure.

    Mitch at the bus stop is not a political figure.

    Gus the bartender is not a political figure.

    Dr. Vargas at the STD clinic is not a political figure. Well, not yet.

    The Penguins are getting near sellout crowds every night because everybody wants to get glimpse at Sidney Crosby.

    Otherwise the “Igloo” would be as vacant as a Fife coal mine.

    Building a building is incredibly important venture to keep the Penguins in town. It’s no secret that their financial problems have kept them on thin ice to stay in Pittsburgh.

    Kansas City, Vegas, Winnepeg (not likely), are all possible destinations.

    But if Brian at the hair salon said so, then I guess there’s nothing to worry about…

  9. Trickst says:

    isn’t it about time lemiuex retires? what happened to olcyzk was disgusting. its quite obvious he’s a control freak – and yet they still can’t fill the stadium. pittsburgh’s inability to foster a profitable team warrents their move to (what should be) Winnipeg. Who cares about hartford?

  10. Kraftster says:

    Well I realize the Pens are struggling, maybe making this task difficult, but I really feel that this is a below average job of giving a midseason report.

    After such a great preseason report, I was really hoping for more.

    First of all, CP has made tons of trades since the Naslund trade that have been stellar. I’m not saying your overall assessment of CP is off, just that the trade of Naslund, which really feels like more a fluke than anything, was not the point at which CP started to fall. Additionally, how trades that you yourself termed “salary dumps” is indicative of poor managing seems puzzling to me. What would one expect to get in trades such as that?

    The strong play of whitney this far this season was not stressed nearly enough, and calling for a trade of Orpik seems to be blind to his performance the past few weeks (before his injury). There is no way that getting rid of Orpik would be a “dump” either. That would be a trade of an extremely strong defensive youngster. Orpik’s style of game took longer to adjust to the new NHL, but he has been so solid of late, that its a shame to people who don’t get to see games, from this they’d think he went from a premier young defensive player/prospect to a player that needs to be “dumped”?

    Recchi washed up/bust?? I really can’t believe anyone who watches penguin games could say this. I mean the guy busts his tail off every night, one of the few players to do that this year, all the while, he’s played soundly defensively, moved into a role of winning some faceoffs this late in his career, and been one of the most consistent pk’ers on the team. I have not spoken with anyone about the Pens this year who shares your view on Recchi. Additionally, the omission of Michel Ouellet from the wing picture is puzzling. He is playing great hockey, showing that his knack for scoring goals in will likely translate up to the NHL level as it has at every level he’s played it to this point in his career.

    Additionally, saying the Pens are weak at every position is an overstatement. Crosby is already a legit #1 center in this league, and Jackman, Whitney, Orpik, Scuderi are all NHL caliber dmen, that would deserve a starting spot on any team in the league. A team that is underacheiving is not necessarily weak at every position. I think most people would agree, that based on the parts that are present, this team is underacheiving, and so, with that being the case, its more a need getting the talent to translate into a results. Sure the team’s roster could improve, but I think this is yet another drastic overstatement of the situation.

    Fleury not starting at the beginning of the season was unquestionably a result of money issues. And while you are right that the signings you mentioned would have left more money available, can you really blame management for the moves? If anything, the Andre Roy signing should be pointed to more. Leclair was a questionable move, there is no doubt, and they potentially overpayed for Gonchar, but no one saw this coming. Thibault had incredibly solid career numbers, and there was really no reason to think that he would fall off the charts completely. All of these guys would have gone to other teams had the Pens not signed them, its not as if the Pens were the only teams interested in these players.

    Also, decisions are made all the time based on money. I agree its unfortunate that the bonus issue comes up with Fleury, but you have to keep the team viable, and that starts with making smart money moves. Making bad money decisions is probably the biggest culprit for the Pens being in the situation of needing to make “salary dumps”, and you can’t blame them for trying to prevent an additional $3 million dollar loss, you just can’t.

    I think sometimes people forget Crosby is 18 years old. Nothing written in the post even comes close to doing justice to what this kid has done so far. Even though it is widely known, I still don’t see how his exceptional play can go so unmentioned.

    Also, its worth mentioning the delicate situation in Pittsburgh right now. Attendance has slowed, and certanily having an entire roster of rookies wouldn’t do much to help that. While I can understand the allure of “playing young players more”. I think as many as 8 rookies/night is plenty, really. In order to keep the Pens in Pittsburgh, they need to keep the most entertaining/competitive team they possibly can on the ice each night. I’d agree it can be argued that such a team would be one with more of the young guys, but I don’t think it would be wise if the Pens are going to do everything they can to stay in pittsburgh.

    I am certainly not trying to say that this season has been a success. It has been such an utter failure that the Pens have fallen further from their previous level of respectability in the NHL, something no one saw coming. Gonchar has been an unbelievable disappointment, and most players have under achved for many parts of the season. However, I feel like too many things when over, under, or simply not stated.

  11. wingerxxx says:

    I’m pretty sure he’s going to spontaneously combust after tonight’s disaster-in-the-making against the Blue Jackets. It’s already 6-1 Jackets in the 2nd period. His interview should be must-see TV.

  12. thinice987 says:

    The mayor of Pittsburgh and the Governon of Pennsylvania are big enough. At least in my eyes.

    But I guess time will prove you losers wrong then.

  13. puffpenguin54 says:

    hey hot shot acctually the penguins are on top of the league for attendance this year. get your facts straight.

  14. Kraftster says:

    While the Pens have had some sellouts, you are overstating things to say that the Pens are on top of the league man. They have decent attendance, but I am sure they are not on top of the league in total #s or % capacity, I’ve been to 7 games, 4 of which were not sellouts, meanwhile, plenty of teams sell out every night.

  15. saiklo says:

    I think you are the only person alive that is still defending the Penguins.

    They do not deserve a lengthy mid-season report, in fact, they do not deserve to even be discussed.

  16. saiklo says:

    If Lemieux sells it will be to “Boots” Del Baggio who lives in Las Vegas. And he will want to move the team to his home.

    Anyways, it doesn’t matter, most of Pittsburgh will get what they want, a city dominated by the Steelers.

    To them all I have to say is:

    1980! 1980! 1980! 1980!

  17. Trickst says:

    heh. i didn’t mean to bash the pens’ fanbase. They actually do seem to sellout constantly (which i wont contest), but the lack of luxery boxes and inability for the city to support this team makes it ineviable they must relocate. I don’t blame the fans at all..

  18. Gretzkin says:

    What, you had dinner with Jesse “The Body” Ventura?

    Holy Crap Dude, I wanna roll with you and your “Homies”

  19. Kraftster says:

    Certainly not defending the Pens all that much. I just feel like there have been things in this season that deserve mention.

  20. saiklo says:

    I give you Fleury, especially after that Sabourin debacle last night.

    Crosby will be great, but he needs protection. Until then he will whine.

    The team now has a core with Crosby, Malkin, Whitney, Fleury, and probably Kessel or Frolik. The Penguins really need to start acting like other franchises and build off of this talent base that is second to none.

    This season is not lost. This is a GREAT time to play all of these young defensemen, have them learn NHL game speed, and be ready to start next season.

    It is also the time to seriosuly examine the trade deadline. LeClair, Recchi, Jackman, and Tarnstrom all have some trade value. I would trade them simply for draft picks.

    I would keep Gonchar, I really think he is worth his salary, I also say the same for Palffy as well. They will be a lot better next year.

    Finally, I would start Fleury and backup with Caron, getting rid of Thibault for whatever we can.

    Hopefully they make the right hockey decisions next year, if not, then it will be a shame and they will definately be gone come 2007.

  21. guinsfan4life says:

    What does a change of venue do? The penguins are drawing pretty decent crowds considering how bad they are. Wherever they move, if they do, the same problems will still exist.

  22. Trickst says:

    They definetly wont. because other venues will permit such things as luxury box revenue, a stable marketing plan, profitability.. There’s a reason why the mellon arena is sinking, and the city clearly doesn’t want to invest anything in keeping its team there.

  23. intelligentscorpio says:

    The Mid Season report is very pretensious and ill written. There are a number of good things that have happened, namely, the play of Fleury, Crosby, Oulette, Palffy, Whitney, Surovy and Recchi. The bad apples in the bunch have been Tarnstrom, Malone, Koltsov, Fata, and Jackman inspite of his points production and of course Gonchar has been horrible. But, he is playing much better lately and should benefit from Orpik and Scuderi type stay at home defensemen. He needs back support so he can do his offensive thing. And another thing, Gonchar takes penalties or so it seems to the average hockey fan. Let us be honest, if he does not hook or pull a forward in the goal scoring position, it will result in a goal. So, although it is not the smartest way to check a forward, but it is better than letting them score the goal.
    Lemeiux plays or not does not effect the team’s standing for this year anyway. He should concentrate on the big picture of getting the arena or moving to another city.
    It’s easy to blame Patrick for everything that has gone wrong this year. If I recall, the whole NHL was awestruck with the Pens signings. They did not work out. It happens sometimes. A great lesson for even someone as smart and astuete as Craig.
    All is not lost. With a high draft pick on the horizon for next year and Malkin in the line up next season, add all the youngsters now playing will have a year under their belt and more may join next season from WBS like Welch.
    Pens have a great future for a long time in the NHL. Take a deep breath and relax, it’s only a game.

  24. guinsfan4life says:

    At this point, the city CAN’T keep the penguins there. THey are paying for years of fiscal mismanagement now.

    If the city wanted the penguins there they’d find a way for gambling profits to help contribute for a new arena. At this point, it seems like Rendell has already been paid off and that won’t happen.

  25. guinsfan4life says:

    Patrick has not done anything lately that would initiate the penguins to give him a contract extention. HIs last positive move was that he dumped all that salary prior to the lockout so we could stock up on some talented free agents–but then he went out and signed the wrong group of free agents.

    ….then he allowed Edzo to come back without an experienced assistant coach to replace Lorne Moleken.

    Whitney has played well, as I am concerned, Whitney has been average or slightly above average at best. Orpik?? have you noticed how many penalities he took at the beginning of the year and penalties he still took before he broke his foot and now separated his shoulder??? He is typical of this entire team, he doesn’t skate.

    Recchi, according to reports, is one of the reasons why this team is playing the way it is, and another reasons why the veterans are beginning to be shopped around the league. It has been reported that the veteran players on this team do what they want when they want to. And that is undermining Therrien’s approach. Some of them are not happy with Crosby being given the A.

    Ouellet has played some good games and shown some promise. He still is nothing more than a player with some potential. Christensen was the same way when he came up. Until these younger players can play consistently in the NHL I won’t yet say that he will be a bonafide scorer in the NHL. The pens have alot of this type of player, young talented and they all seem to produce initially when they come up to the big club, then they fall on their faces.

    You are crazy to think that the players you mentioned are solid d-men and would deserve a starting spot on any team in the league. Scuderi?? At best he is a 5th defenseman. Jackman can’t play defense period and lately he isn’t producing on the powerplay either. Making that statement sounds even more insane when you consider the amount of goals the penguins have allowed this year and last year even with improved goaltending in the last third of the season. Their defense is atrocious, nothing short of it. If these players are so spectacular, why aren’t we hearing rumors of other teams wanting them??

    The reasons why this team is the way it is; there are many;

    **If Therrien started out the season from training camp if things would have been different?

    **If Patrick had not given up on players such as Beech, Kraft and Morozov and brought them over would that be an improvement over what we have now? Kraft would be a better second line center than they have…Beech at worst could have been a third line center, and Morozov could have been with Crosby on a wing. They would have had alot more depth in the organization as well..

    Palffy–Crosby–Morozov

    Malone–Kraft–Lemieux

    Ouellet–Beech–Recchi

  26. guinsfan4life says:

    T-bo is out for the year, on IR. YOu ain’t getting nothing for him.

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