Connect with us

Penguins

Evgeni Malkin’s Future Isn’t Up to Penguins, It’s Up to Malkin

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin

The decision regarding Evgeni Malkin’s Pittsburgh Penguins future does not belong to the organization or General Manager Jim Rutherford. The decision regarding the path and trajectory of Malkin’s future in Pittsburgh is solely up to Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin will control his future, not just because of his ironclad no-trade-clause but because he must choose to fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins or continue about the insolent course he charted this season with Phil Kessel and without deference to head coach Mike Sullivan. The two paths are mutually exclusive, for his sake and the team’s sake.

Malkin has played 852 games in the NHL, all with the Penguins. He has 1002 points including 391 goals. It has already been a storied career including three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe trophy, a Calder Trophy, a Hart, a Ted Lindsey award and a couple of Art Ross trophies. But those do not exempt Malkin from future responsibilities.

Malkin’s parting words from the 2018-19 season came immediately after the Penguins were bounced in four games by the New York Islanders. Headline material followed, such as “We have to understand … we’re not champions anymore,” and “No one respects us.”

Rutherford boldly declared the Penguins never became a team this season.

Both Rutherford and Malkin were absolutely correct. However, Malkin’s culpability for those negative situations is high. Sidney Crosby owned his level play or did what was necessary to succeed all season. Third line center Nick Bjugstad became a dominant center in the trenches for the Penguins; he too did what was required to the best of his ability. Yet Malkin and linemates seemed to struggle with that concept for most of the season.

Is it any wonder Malkin and frequent compadre Kessel were frustrated or going through Sahara-like dry spells? The game tightened up but the pair thought they could skate around and through it with big spaces between them because that used to work.

They couldn’t.

Malkin reportedly thought he could fire back at the coach who called out his stubborn or selfish play.

He can’t.

One scene which PHN detailed via Twitter during Game 4 seems even more relevant now. As the Penguins were again sputtering after gaining a lead and the Penguins second line was again was derelict in their defensive duties, Sullivan was yelling towards the end of the Penguins bench in Malkin’s direction, as Malkin sat with his head down, without reaction.

Any parent of a frustrating teenager (or older) who is old enough to be in control of their own life but not old enough to be out of the house knows that conversation. Do this and you will be successful! You must do this! Why aren’t you doing this?!

Perhaps many of you are closer to the receiving end than the giving end. You’ll get there someday and know that frustration.

The Penguins record without Malkin in crucial games in March is less important than how well they played. The Penguins were 5-1-3 4-2-2 and if not for a few late game mistakes against teams with an empty net and an extra attacker, they would have earned a couple of more wins in the most crucial stretch of the season.

The style of play changed for the worse as did the team attitude when the Penguins got a full roster again.

That just can’t happen.

The Penguins were a better team when they were missing key players including Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang. The Penguins were a better team when they were worried about missing the playoffs. And the Penguins were a better team in those moments when they chose to be.

Malkin can be a Penguin for life but not on bad terms. He must adopt the Penguins philosophy, whatever it is in any given moment. He cannot win or be happy if he tries to force the Penguins to live with him doing things his way. That’s not how hockey or professional sports work anymore, especially when one player’s way is no longer successful.

So, Malkin has a great choice: Make the Penguins better by accepting the team concept and bringing his immense skills to it, or make the Penguins better by removing himself. There just isn’t a viable third option anymore but contractually and spiritually, it’s Malkin’s call.

Edit: The original story listed the Penguins record in March and April without Malkin as 5-1-3, but the record was 4-2-2.

Subscribe to PHN+

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.

13 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones
2 years ago

Right on!!!

Rick
Rick
2 years ago

Dan, I’ve been critical of your writing in the past, but since the end of the season to now you have been spot on with every single article that you’ve written. Keep up the good work my man and I MAY become a subscriber.

Uncle Cal
Uncle Cal
2 years ago

Dan you have it right most of the time. No one is bigger than the team. Love your articles and if I wasn’t so twitter inept I would have signed on PHN extra.

Frank
Frank
2 years ago

He is considered a core player. He is viewed as an NHL superstar. He has won two Cups and other awards. He is paid handsomely. In my world he should be behaving like a leader, speaking like a veteran and understanding almost no one cares about his stats or theory on how to play when it comes choosing between those and winning another Cup. Assuming whispers and media reports are accurate . .. he is taking the off season to decide that very thing. Ugh! There are dozens of hurdles in moving a guy who is thinking like that and… Read more »

Dean
Dean
2 years ago

Dan, some thoughts in defense of Malkin – would love to see you do a series on this. Malkin has earned it. Malkin is a superstar, with an ego like everyone else, who amazingly knows how to fit into a team with a better superstar at the same position. I have watched for years where Malkin takes the scraps left over from feeding Sid, whom I love and think is as good as person as he is a superstar. So don’t think I am bashing Sid. If Sid’s line is not clicking then let’s take someone from Malkin’s line that… Read more »

Edgar
Edgar
2 years ago

I think the Malkin saga is an interesting one. In the very beginning of the season, him and Kessel were lighting ip up if I remember correctly. With Hags as the other winger. Now, as wonderful a complementary player as Hags is, and he might be the best in the league at this, he has no business on the second line with Geno and Phil. But, obviously Sully put him there for defensive purposes. Then, the team scoring dried up and Rutherford panicked and traded Hags. And, it seems Geno and Phil just went into the tank 5v5 and ever… Read more »

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
2 years ago

After reading your article, if possible, my appreciation and respect for the professional effort and behavior of 87 has increased even more. Other than Hossa for a season, what superstar winger has played with 87 comparable to 81 playing with 71? 59 has developed quite well! Would 59 score that many goals playing with any other center? Maybe, maybe not. I know he fits well with 87. As a fan of 71 who has admired his skill and production, I’d like to think 66 and the Pens will do the right thing if 71 chooses not to buy in. Go… Read more »

Taco
Taco
2 years ago

Maybe Sid can stop his Selke fantasy and start playing like a scoring #1 center again.

BIG B
BIG B
2 years ago

Dan i am sick of this BS that people put out that Crosby gets the top stuff and Malkin takes the crap.First Crosby gets all the tough matchups and has to take all the tough face-offs because Malkin is too lazy to work on his draws.Second Malkin has had all the big scoring wingers over the years such as James Neal and now Kessel and people conplain Sid has Jake.The simple answer to that is this is the first year Sid has had Jake full time and he helped elevate Jake to a 40 goal scorer.Sid is an all time… Read more »

Join PHN Extra!

Join PHN+ today for exclusive content from Dan and Shelly plus a completely Google ad-free experience.

PHN+

Or enter your email below to sign-up for our mailing list.

Thank you!

Something went wrong.

No thanks. I don't want.