It’s Time: Sullivan Has to Make Changes; Carter Must Sit
The Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the New York Rangers Thursday, and with the defeat, said goodbye to even the most hopeful prayer of finishing third in the Metro Division. It was their second straight haphazard effort leading to a loss, and allowed the Florida Panthers to close within three points of a playoff spot.
This keyboard recently offered some encouraging analysis of 38-year-old Penguins forward Jeff Carter. For a moment, it seemed he could pull out of the season-long spiral that has caused him to go from an exciting fan favorite last season to a vilified meme the next.
The uptick was short-lived.
The slide has worsened, and Carter seems to be at rock-bottom … or 50 feet below it.
Thursday, in the biggest game of their season, the Penguins submitted a sloppy, mistake-filled 4-2 loss.
And the Penguins’ usual goats, not GOATS, were front-and-center, with turnovers and missed assignments. Mike Sullivan said the team displayed a team-wide “lack of urgency.”
Carter’s even-strength detriment is too great for the rest of the lineup. The defensive-zone cratering cannot be ignored. The rippling effect on the lineup and offensive momentum, the mistakes leading to goals, are hurting the team.
It’s time to scratch Jeff Carter.
For much of the season, Sullivan had few, if any, legitimate options to replace Carter in the lineup. Fans could holler and stomp their feet, but there wasn’t much of a choice to be made.
Now there is an option, and things cannot continue this way.
They just can’t.
Beginning Saturday, Sullivan has real options to make changes.
For the first time in months, the Penguins will have a full complement of forwards. Ryan Poehling was back Thursday, and by the third period, he seemed to have his legs beneath him. The forward who registered the fastest m.p.h., per NHL stats, this season was flying.
“It was the best I’ve felt in two or three months,” Poehling told PHN Friday.
Easing Poehling into the lineup is not necessary. Take advantage of his adrenaline and speed. Sullivan will have the option to put him at the fourth-line center.
And the option to give Jeff Carter a break.
Figuring out how a team in Game No. 68, with so much at stake, could phone it in and commit the same egregious mistakes found in a preseason game is only the starting point for discussing the maddening, inconsistent, volatile, unpredictable, and occasionally disinterested Penguins.
Changes are needed. Attention-grabbing, locker room-noticing, changes.
Carter’s baseline statistics are not eye-popping terrible. He has 24 points, including nine goals in 65 games. He wins 59% of his faceoffs, which is important because he starts only 26% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
But the eyes tell a different story. The missed assignments, the step-slow forecheck, and the increasing domination by opponents put an exclamation point on the struggles and lend a helping hand to opponents. In his 65 games this season, Carter is a team-worst minus-16.
He has the second-worst goals-for of his distinguished career (42%), the lowest scoring chance rate of his career (46%), and the worst high-danger chance rate (45%).
Opponents are getting more shots, chances, and more goals.
And things are getting worse, not better.
Carter has just three goals in the 31 games since the calendar flipped to 2023, and one of those was an empty-netter.
Carter was a minus-4 in six minutes of even-strength ice time vs. the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday. He had a direct hand in at least three Montreal goals.
His awkward pass to P.O Joseph led to the Rangers’ second goal Thursday. Tyler Motte caught Carter and pressured him into a defensive-zone mistake. Joseph could have played it better, but Carter delivered the pizza.
It doesn’t appear Sullivan will scratch Carter Saturday in another battle against the New York Rangers because Danton Heinen was the extra forward at practice Friday.
That’s a mistake that probably is born of deference and respect.
From a Flyers rookie to a two-time Stanley Cup champ with the Los Angeles Kings, Carter’s career has been exemplary. But every player reaches the end. It surely seems Jeff Carter is there.
There’s still too much season at the end of the energy. The Penguins have better options.
It’s time to give Carter a seat.
It would be fine to sit Carter but who’s coming in Heiden? Same as Carter only without face off ability.
Unfortunately Heinen also stinks so not much improvement if you dress him instead. Waive Heinen and bring up Puustinen or Hallander.
Funny! Glad your not running the team.
Fanciful dreaming with Sully. This is the coach who was totally devoted to Dom Simon. The coach who tones down the feistiness of 5’11” 185 lb Friedman. The coach who refuses to use a single policeman on his roster to protect Crosby, Geno, Tanger, Guentzel from physical abuses when most teams have 1 to 3 who will drop the gloves and come after you if you put a heavy but clean check on one of their stars. No, I’ll be shocked if he benches Carter. He is enamored with the faceoff stat and blind to the defensive miscues. Hexy and… Read more »
Apparently, you are not aware that Sullivan is one of the best coaches in the NHL (cough-cough).
If he doesn’t sit him then sully has no balls, just another talking head
Sit his rear in the press box , i dont care who he is, MS needs to have a spine
A puck PO could of played better? Rodriguez could of used his money instead! When the magic is gone is the song! Needs to be a hitter and fighter if he wants to stay! Maybe a clean hit on Trouba today? Two goals from Ashton Reese last night!
Aston Reese scores 2 goals, and you suddenly want him back? Haha, dude couldn’t score two goals in 82 games with the Penguins.
32 games past time to sit him!
One could argue at the beginning of the season, that Carter deserved a chance to show what he could do. After all, JC had 19 G and 45 Pts, last regular season. His playoff performance was bad, but his regular season was pretty good.
However, as this season progressed and the chinks in Carters game not only began to show but grow there most certainly were options. There are always options. The team chose not to explore them. Now they are stuck.
“minus-4 in six minutes of even-strength ice time” – smh.
Pretty amazing if you think about it. Not a lot of players could do that.
Considering the Penguins have players recalled from WBS on an Emergency basis, I don’t think it’s possible to “sit” anyone… unless you’re somehow hoping to sit a “healthy” player and dress less than the Penguins are allowed to dress… i.e. have him sit in a press box instead of on the bench… for no reason?
77’s saving his major mojo for the playoffs.
He’s still can face off. Crosby always loses key face offs. He still plays , don’t sit him down.
Carter let’s Zabinejad and goes for a skate… down 1-0.
I want to know what everybody is smoking that they think sitting Carter would make any difference on this team, especially when the main problems are defensive.
Hay don’t blame carter for their lousy play, how would you feel if you give it your all and then your worthless GOALIE let the door open. It’s hard to get your shit together for a game and knowing your so called Goalie is out to Lunch!!!
Carter unfortunately has really slipped this season. I don’t think it’s conditioning, he has won cups. He knows what it takes to get there. Age will always be a topic of discussion. Sitting him does not have to be permanent. Put him with a skating and condition coach to make sure he is where he needs to be then get him back in there.
Give him Hextall’s seat
give Carter 2 good wingers,eg,rakell,rust,or zucker,to get hI’m motivated,and get Crosby and malkin, working harder by giv.ING them,them journeymen wingers. Get rid of jarrky,replace him with smith. Sullivan should play wide open hockey,instead of guarding a 1 goal lead which cost them alot of games in the past!