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Kingerski: Malkin, Criticism, Praise, & Paying the Piper

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Pittsburgh Penguins NHL trade deadline, Evgeni Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen

Evgeni Malkin is not the savior of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan instead refers to him as one of the Penguins two generational talents, including Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

The job of Penguins savior was immediately and then intermittently thrust upon Malkin throughout his career. When the Penguins piled up top-five picks, including Ryan Whitney (5th overall, 2002), Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall, 2003), and Malkin was the second overall pick behind Alex Ovechkin in 2004, Malkin was to be the man in the middle.

Brooks Orpik, Whitney, Fleury, and Malkin were to be the Penguins core until an improbable lottery win in 2005 delivered Crosby, too.

On Friday, the Penguins revealed that Malkin had what sounds like a serious knee surgery. He will be out of the Penguins lineup beyond September, and that’s all we know. The Penguins said more information would be available during the September training camp.

Here’s betting head coach Mike Sullivan terms him week-to-week (we kid, we kid).

For Malkin, it’s yet another injury suffered late in the season.

Some truths about Evgeni Malkin have been present from the beginning, some have evolved, and some, unfortunately, are staring us in the face.

Evgeni Malkin Can Carry the Penguins

I don’t know why Malkin assumes beast mode when Crosby is out of the lineup, but it’s true. It’s damn true. Without Crosby for 28 games in 2019-20, Malkin heaped the beleaguered Penguins on his back and scored 74 points in 55 games before injuries befell him, too.

During Crosby’s absence that season, in which the Penguins surged to first place in the Metro Division, Malkin had a hand in 40% of the Penguins’ goals.

That’s ridiculous.

It was the most recent example of Malkin carrying the Penguins in time of need.

Malkin was on another beast-mode heater in March until Boston Bruins defenseman Jared Tinordi crunched him with a clean hit near the corner. The hit included a knee-on-knee collision, and Malkin was again felled. But the big Russian had 12 points (4-8-12) in the eight games prior.

He and Kasperi Kapanen looked like world-beaters.

Malkin’s Fragility

There’s no hiding that Malkin has been somewhat injury-prone. He generally plays between 60 and 69 games per 82-game season. Nine times in his 15-year career, he has missed more than 12 games, including missing 23 games in this shortened season.

To his credit, Malkin has also played through significant injuries which required more than a little cleanup on the operating table. His wrist was badly injured in 2017. Or was the wrist in 2016 and a leg in 2017? Or was it both? It’s hard to keep track.

He played with one wing for the duration of the Stanley Cup run. Malkin couldn’t shoot the puck in the playoffs but gallantly played on.

In the 2021 playoffs, Malkin apparently had a torn-up knee. ACL, MCL, meniscus? Doesn’t matter. When a player is out for more than four months, the surgery was significant. And yet Malkin was one of the better Penguins in Games 5 and 6.

Doesn’t that warrant some praise instead of criticism?

Do you know what other Penguins star was injury-prone like Malkin? Mario Lemieux. Yeah.

The Reality

Bigger, stronger superstars have a shelf life. The beating they take, the game-by-game pounding they take because they can, eventually catches up to everyone.

Malkin has played through it all. A wrist injury. Knee injuries. Everything except a wicked sunburn (looking at you, Florida sun).

Malkin has delivered for Penguins fans like few others. He deserves to be in that pantheon of Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby…and Malkin.

Yet, there seems to be a boisterous minority that seeks to take away his effectiveness. That minority seeks to deny what Malkin meant and means to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins have won three Stanley Cups. Malkin has a Hart Trophy, a Calder, three rings, a Conn Smyth, two Art Ross honors, a Ted Lindsay, and leads the league in times overlooked.

Malkin doesn’t have to be a top-five all-time player like Crosby to receive the recognition that he is one of the best of the era and has been crucial to the Penguins’ success.

As Malkin approaches 35-years-old next month, it’s time for everyone to pay the piper. You don’t just dump players that have been a pillar of the organization for 15 years. You don’t whine and complain like children that a 35-year-old isn’t 25 anymore.

And you certainly don’t trade Evgeni Malkin and simply get a younger one in return.

Time to Pay the Piper

This was always the bargain. Evgeni Malkin played for less than market value, and in return, he received a full no-movement clause to stay with the Penguins as long he wants. While players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, and Connor McDavid soaked their teams for max dollars, Crosby and Malkin took well less than their market value.

Beyond their play on the ice, their team-first paychecks permitted GMs Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford to go crazy on the NHL trade market. And sometimes, they did. The lower-than-market valuation contracts also allowed the Penguins to sign free agents and put a competitive team around them, even as the organization wasted years from 2011-2015 in some sort of hockey adolescence.

Malkin must pay for the audacity of aging. Fans must pay for the enjoyment they received. The Penguins must pay for the benefits they received, too.

It’s nearly a miracle that the Penguins window isn’t nailed shut by now. They had a real chance this season. They should have beaten the New York Islanders handily. The Pittsburgh Penguins significantly outplayed New York, but it was the mid-20s players who came up the short, in net and on the wings.

Sure, the Pittsburgh Penguins could strip the team bare and start a rebuild, but–too many people assume this fantastic process would just start all over again; have growing pains for a year, or two, make the playoffs and start winning more Stanley Cups in a few years.

Sorry kids, it doesn’t work like that. Not even in Pittsburgh.

Ask Detroit how it’s going. Maybe ask Buffalo, LA, Chicago, Anaheim, Arizona, New Jersey…?

When the Penguins say goodbye, it’s going to begin a hard process that probably won’t end in a Stanely Cup anytime soon. Great teams like the Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, even the Toronto Maple Leafs have waited for generations.

The entire hockey universe in Canada hasn’t seen a Cup in 28 years.

Toronto hasn’t succeeded since Herman’s Hermits, and The Monkees were Top-40 radio. 1967. Toronto’s last Cup predates Jimmy Hendrix at Woodstock, Led Zeppelin, landing on the moon, and the first Rolling Stones farewell tour.

Of course, the Penguins are delaying the inevitable. Of course they are! By keeping Malkin around, Kris Letang, and even Sidney Crosby, they’re hoping to catch lightning in a bottle one more time.

They almost had it this year with Jeff Carter.

The time to reload was two years ago when rich offers rolled in for the Penguins core players. But that’s gone, and there’s no sense whining about it now.

Realize, once this is over, the Penguins have to walk through the desert again. It won’t be fun. It won’t be easy. There will be 12,000 fans in the arena, 30,000 fans claiming to have been there and lots more fans who say, “let me know when they make the playoffs.”

Everyone pays the piper. At least these Penguins can still dance, even with one wrist, one leg, or one knee.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Eric Bouchard
Eric Bouchard
3 months ago

the only one who need to PAY….is Geno. Pens cant give him 7-8-9M per year contract to 71 anymore. DOes he wants to stay? Or he want to be #1 elsewhere (Miss Malkin thinks he should) SO Geno you wanna stay …..will you take a home discount??? Patrice Bergeron did it. Brad Marchand too. Pastrnak ……thats why the Bruins are still competitive. Kris and Geno need to take a pay cut….Or they should receive their paycheck from another team. So yes GMRH will need to trade them if they want the same kind of contract they have right now or… Read more »

Oh Come On
Oh Come On
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Bouchard

That’s between Geno, his agent, and the Pens.

Iwasiam
3 months ago

So Pens fans (or “kids” as Dan calls us)should just remember the good times and watch our stars “pay the piper” this might take a while.

Ken
Ken
3 months ago

Last three playoff years: Malkin and Crosby combined – 5 goals and 10 assists. Brad Marchand during same three years : 21 goals and 21 assists. Sorry Dan, the window is nailed shut.

penguins1stroundexits
penguins1stroundexits
3 months ago
Reply to  Ken

agree with that Ken. The local hometown beat writers are waiting pouring freshly made kool-aid if they think this team is anywhere near Stanley Cup contention. Malkin can’t last a season he comes to camp every year out of shape see his stats during first 20 games this year…not good. This knee has been an issue before and after this surgery he’ll probably be even slower than he was already time to cut the cord on these aged overpaid declining stars and start the rebuild they will still sell sweaters at PPG arena and TV ratings will still be good

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago

Stop talking out of your ass. This post is complete bullshit. Post the proof of Malkin coming to camp every year out of shape. Don’t lie on the internet just because you can. Typical non-fan ‘fan’ that ‘cheers’ for this team these days. Do us all a favor and jump off the bandwagon.

penguins1stroundexits
penguins1stroundexits
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

do us a favor an cut back drinking the kool-aid. malkin has come to camp out of shape which is why he starts every season SLOW.

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
3 months ago
Reply to  Ken

Yes sir. Facts are facts. Malkin is a turnover machine and is slow. I hate to say it but 87 looked slow and had a horrible 6 games against NYI. I think he was worn out from the crazy schedule in Mar and Apr. 58 can still play but I would say goodbye to 71.

Oh Come On
Oh Come On
3 months ago
Reply to  Ken

I would hate to have to depend on you in an emergency situation.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
3 months ago

Thanks Dan. Unfortunately you won’t stop the whining by the kids on here. They’re already out…

penguins1stroundexits
penguins1stroundexits
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

no kids here just folks who can handle the truth.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
3 months ago

These guys take a reduced salary, GMs make tbe right trade deals, get a good goalie, get lucky in drafting, this could ride out in a positive manner. Doesnt have to be a negative transition-its allot of ifs.

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago

Not sure you’ve written a better article. If you’ve been around the game long enough you learn to appreciate players like Malkin, who don’t come around more than a few times in a lifetime. No exaggeration. A legendary player who willingly played second fiddle to another all-time great in order to win, and who is often relegated to the shadows as a result. And maybe most importantly, someone who loves the team and has been loyal to them his entire career. You can’t ask for more, although I wish he could have been healthier. Too many ‘fans’ just don’t get… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Joy Funk
Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Well said

Oh Come On
Oh Come On
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Great post Joy.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
3 months ago

Well Dan I guess I am one of your kids (72 years old)First off I think Crosby has taken a discount. Malkin at 9.5 mil a year has been paid quite well for his effort. I remember Letang fighting for every penny of his annual 7.25 mil a year contract. These guys were paid quite well for their efforts. You talk like they are heroes who just came out of a war zone no Dan all they are is athletes. You know what Dad fans have the right to give their opinion whether it is right or wrong. If I… Read more »

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago

They are paid exactly what the market says they should be, as in any line of work. Only overpaid in your mind. Who said anything about undying gratitude? Dan was speaking to a small minority of the fan base that spends their time trying to run a great player out of town.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joy Funk
penguins1stroundexits
penguins1stroundexits
3 months ago

their current salaries they are already overpaid for their services. Letang cost the penguins game 5 with two bad decision (check out youtube highlights) 35 year old defenseman not too many are logging the minutes. Penguins playoff record is 3 wins in 19 playoff games since the 2017 cup and that was won without tanger. I agree with stephen both Letang and Malkin often come off beyond entitled and feel the org. owes them something the pens need to move one this offseason while there is still some value. Granted will not be easy with the NTC with both but… Read more »

Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago

The Penguins are the most successful NHL team since 1990. 5 cups, only 4 times missing the playoffs, Mario, Francis, Jagr, Sid, Geno, Flower have all played here. Yet, fans want to throw the guys who made us this successful away. It’s absurd. Just enjoy watching 2 of the greatest players to ever grace the game continue to do what they do.

penguins1stroundexits
penguins1stroundexits
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay95

mid 30’s declining and overpaid now they want extensions..why so more injuries can happen and more 1st round exits? Geno’s knees are shot which is why he is skating like the last 2 years same look of former pens great A. Kovalev (who had more talent in one skate than geno every had in two)

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago

Typical flamer that posts rant responses on the internet. Makes these comments sections unbearable. One year ago 71 was seventh in the league in PPG with 55 games played in a shortened season. Yes, his knees are ‘shot’. Just like these posts.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joy Funk
Iwasiam
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Easy Francis, it’s a discussion. Sounds like your Dan’s biggest fan so calm down I’m sure liked your post.

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Iwasiam

Not a fan of any journalist. Not a discussion when people just vomit rants against the organization/players out of their mouths on the internet.

Iwasiam
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Speaking for myself it’s just frustrating watching the Pens get ousted early and venting helps especially when I read other Pen fans feel the same way. I do hear ya that we should cut Geno a break and Dan does his best I just don’t like that some times he’ll call us kids and we know it’s because we sound like it when we want to start from scratch but if next year we start winning all will be forgotten.

Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago

The thing is that he was amazing last season. And, I don’t think that his knees are “shot”. I agree that they’ll need to manage his workload during regular seasons. Possibly let him rest up on back to backs. But, this team is DEEP if we can keep Carter, Blueger, McCann, and Gaudreau. The coaches just need to make sure he’s good for the playoffs. Letang actually isn’t declining. He’s simplifying and improving. Playing less physical and taking less stupid penalties. Sid is Jagr like because of his strength and the fact that he evolves his game…he’s worth keeping around… Read more »

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay95

Yes they are. Its been so great watching and rooting for the Pens. I will always be a huge fan!
Oh, and 71 is still done. Loved having him. Loved cheering for him. He is done.

Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Hoffman

I’m going to disagree about Geno. But, I will agree that he’s not going to age as well as Sid and Tanger who have both adjusted their games. But, when healthy he’s still a first line quality center. Soooo, even if he doesn’t put up superstar numbers…he’s a hell of an asset and I want to watch him finish it out here.

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay95

Why is Geno aging worse than Sid when he has more PPG over the last six years and almost outscored the entire first line by himself in two fewer games? He also looked far more dangerous than Sid. Just curious.

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

71 has also played 115 fewer games than 87 in the last 6 years. Thats a season and a half. Great talent when he’s healthy. HOF for sure. I would love to see him come back next year and dominate but I don’t think it will happen. Even if they both return to their previous greatness the Pens need some size to play in this decade’s playoffs!

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Hoffman

Malkin’s played 59 fewer games, not 115. The post was that his game isn’t aging as well. Not seeing any evidence of that. Also, not sure why we want size but also want to get rid of the only guy in the top 6 who has size and plays mean? He had no issue getting to the net while Sid was on the perimeter. Great plan that.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joy Funk
Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

And, yeah, I can’t understand why anyone would want to trade away one of the most competative beasts in the game like Geno either. I think he’ll have to retire before Sid. But, until that time when he’s on…he can still be the best player in the world on any given night.

Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

More speculation on my part moving forward due to a combo of things. Most guys with that type of skillet and size seem to fall of as their body wears down. And, by size, I’m talking more about his leanness and height. Plus, he’s a more “naturally” talented player than Sid in many ways. His shot is smoother, his stride is flawless, his hands are softer in certain ways. But, he’s never put in the type of work that Sid has to refine every little aspect of his game. I mean, I don’t know of any player that ever has… Read more »

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay95

What skill does Malkin have that needs further refining? I mean, I guess I’m not seeing that. Sid has great lower body strength but all he can do with it now is cycle on the perimeter, he’s lost a ton of speed over the last couple years while Geno can still motor. Geno was skating faster than him on a knee with torn ligaments. What’s that say?

Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

I guess as a 44 year old hockey player I’ve had to grind like crazy to change up and keep up with 18 year olds. So, I’m coming from a perspective of a former pro baseball player (though low level lol) and athlete who’s already hit that curve that both are facing. Sid’s hand eye, faceoff ability, defensive awareness, escape ability, edge work even, keep improving. And, he may not be as fast as he was, but he’s still just as slippery because of those adjustments. And, more well rounded. He also doesn’t take as many chances as he used… Read more »

Jay95
Jay95
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Also, sorry for the long answers. It’s just a really interesting subject. And, you’re making valid points. I think that were closer to agreeing than either of us realize. Again, I’m basing it off of other players, sImilar styles, my own experiences. But, after that 19-20 season we both know that Geno can make anything happen if he chooses to. The single most underrated penguin ever. And, one of the most underrated players in the game.

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay95

Appreciate your perspective!

C Daniel
C Daniel
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay95

Yes, interesting re body types. The disadvantage of such long legs is that there’s so far to fall from hits like Tinordi’s.

Katz
Katz
3 months ago

Burying the lede?

“he time to reload was two years ago when rich offers rolled in for the Penguins core players.”

Katz
Katz
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

So given that occurred, and now 3 First Round exits, one a sweep isn’t that THE STORY?

Ownership and management failed to act decisively at the time needed , Pittsburgh now reaping the consequences?

Needn’t have happened and that’s the issue. Sullivan culpable also. Rutherford needs interviewed to get a true picture .

Last edited 3 months ago by Katz
Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
3 months ago
Reply to  Katz

Yes sir. Watching all the playoff games. Hard to see a team the Pens could beat.
We need some toughness to play this style of game.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
3 months ago

Joy you have your opinion and I have mine. Remember Joy what you say is just your OPINION!

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago

Not sure anyone is disputing that. Yours is a rotten one though, and we all have the right to say that too. Have a nice day.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joy Funk
Kris Francis Peterinelli
Kris Francis Peterinelli
3 months ago

The cost for supporting cast members has gone up but the cap hasn’t due to this covid stuff. So yes I would like them to stay, but they cannot be paid the same or god forbid more money. then we would have guys skating with walkers on the ice next to a bunch of ECHL wingers. 3rd line needs rebuilt into something bigger.

trackback

[…] Pittsburgh Hockey Now: In the much-debated, much-commented column, we established Malkin’s place in the Pittsburgh Penguins org. Everyone has to pay the piper, including the org, Malkin, and fans.  […]

trackback

[…] Pittsburgh Hockey Now: In the much-debated, much-commented column, we established Malkin’s place in the Pittsburgh Penguins org. Everyone has to pay the piper, including the org, Malkin, and fans.  […]

Uros
Uros
3 months ago

Thank you, Dan, for this marvelous article. I’ve been watching hockey pretty much all my life. As a hockey and Pens fan my preference is watching great players as Malkin is. If I wanted to watch a type of player that Wilson is, I’d certainly switch sports going for MMA instead. I like boxing, but I wouldn’t really like it if it were done on ice with hockey gear on, but without a puck or a stick.

Katz
Katz
3 months ago

So I have to wonder why after another1st Round loss we are seeing ” Lassie come home” columns on Evgeny Malkin? There is another column in another sports blog by a known Malkin “whisperer” echoing these same sentiments. Curious . It’s almost lobbying to keep Malkin. While it appears Malkin will absolutely remain in Pgh it’s not so clear why the abject almost embarrassing emotional investment. I for one was on record to move him if possible 2 years ago and certainly following last years sweep. Now Pgh is kinda stuck but let’s not pretend Malkin is Clemente, Lemieux or… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Katz
Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Katz

Two articles (this one talks the most sense) can hardly make up for 10 years of Malkin bashing by the Pittsburgh media and the segment of fans referenced in this article. What Malkin is, is a three Cup winning 1,000 point scorer with one of the best playoff records in NHL history. Have a nice day.

Katz
Katz
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Ok Karen

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Katz

You can jump off the bandwagon now, don’t trip on your way down.

Iwasiam
3 months ago
Reply to  Joy Funk

Someones had to many white claws

Joy Funk
Joy Funk
3 months ago
Reply to  Iwasiam

I drink scotch and beer, let me know how those white claws taste.

Oh Come On
Oh Come On
3 months ago

1st round exits?? As someone told me when I was kid . They know how to act when they (The Fans) have things (Stanley Cups). The see if they they know how to act when they don’t.

trackback

[…] — Evgeni Malkin has knee surgery and will likely be out of the Penguins lineup for some time. (PHN) […]

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[…] Kingerski: Malkin, Criticism, Praise, & Paying the Piper […]

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