What does the future hold for the Pens?
With several reports that Mario Lemieux is returning, a new arena closer than ever (thanks to Ted Arneault), and a surplus of young talent the future looks bright in the ‘burgh. The best thing that could possibly happen for this franchise is for the league to go on strike (which is expected) and for Gary Bettman to put in a salary cap (also expected, supposedly at $35 m). Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov, Brian Leetch, and many others have all been available this offseason (some still are), and the Pens don’t have a shot at any of them. Instead of us watching Mario send saucer passes to the Golden Brett (like it was reported two seasons ago), we’re watching Le Magnifique get hacked while Rico Fata misses his passes.
We could argue for hours trying to find out who’s fault it is, but the truth is it’s nobody’s. The economy just sucks. Having said that, smarter moves could’ve been (and still could be) made (trading Robert Lang). We’ll find out this season what our young talent is going to be able produce for the next couple of seasons. When I look at this season for the Pens, I get this weird feeling like I don’t know what to expect. This team is suffering because Craig Patrick has made numerous blunders recently. One of them, which I don’t think is getting looked into enough, is that 1/2 of the return that we got for Alexei Kovalev is gone. We traded Mikael Samuelson to the Panthers to move up to the first overall pick, and Joel Bouchard signed as a free agent with Buffalo Sabres. In both cases both head coach Ed Olczyk and GM Patrick said that neither player fit in the system that the Penguins wanted to run, or something like that. Well let me ask you this Craig, who does fit? You trade arguably the best player in the NHL, in Kovalev, and in less then 6 months you’ve already lost 2 of the 4 guys you got (f.y.i we got Joel Bouchard, Mikael Samuelson, Richard Lintner, and Rico Fata in return).
If these guys don’t fit in your system, who does? If you knew that these guys weren’t the right guys for your team why trade for them? Why not go for draft picks, or maybe, now I know this is surprising, trade for guys who fit your style of play? In the Jaromir Jagr trade we got in return Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk. Not one of them have been able to crack the line-up consistently (with the exception of Beech in his first season here). Now as I say that, I must also say that he’s made several smart moves. Recently he hired Michel Therien (who most recently led the Habs to the playoffs two seasons ago) to coach their minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. This was a smart move, no doubt.
What Craig needs to do now is tell Michel to have his Baby Penguins run the exact same system as the real Penguins. I believe it’s New Jersey who does this (I’m sure there are other teams), and they have been at the top of the league for almost a decade, and they haven’t been signing big name free agents. Craig also made some beautiful trades at the trade deadline, he brought in Ramzi Abid, Guillame Lefebvre, and Dan Focht for Jan Hrdina and Francois Leroux. Hrdina was way too inconsistent and Leroux never played a game last year. We also got Mathias Johanssan (who played for Sweden in the most recent Olympics) and Micki DuPont for Shean Donovan. I liked Donovan a lot, but he couldn’t do anything except skate. He traded Marc Bergevin to he Lightning for Brian Holzinger, now this trade wasn’t such a big deal, but he then reacquired Bergevin for a draft pick. So, he has done some things right. our future goaltender, and the savior of this franchise Marc-Andre Fleury came to Pittsburgh for the first time yesterday for rookie camp. He said he liked the city and was impressed. Patrick needs to keep this guy impressed. Get him some defenseman, don’t rush him in here, and he could be the next Brodeur or Roy. Goaltenders are very sensitive mentally, and just as quickly as they can become a success, they come become a failure ten times faster. The Islanders rushed Rick Dipietro into the NHL in his first season, and he still hasn’t done anything. The Penguins have a surplus of talent no doubt, Aleksey Morozov, Ramzi Abid, Rico Fata, Guillame Lefebvre, Tomas Surovy, Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, Mathias Johanssan, Konstantin Koltsov, Richard Lintner, Brooks Orpik, Dan Focht, Ryan Whitney, Ross Lupaschuk, Sebastian Caron, and Marc-Andre Fleury. So the future is birght, but it’s up to Craig Patrick how bright it’s going to be.