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Kingerski: Malkin Context, Details and My Opinion

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Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL trade rumors

The Pittsburgh Hockey Now story yesterday which led with the Florida Panthers interest in Evgeni Malkin was as carefully worded as this writer is capable. Not only did we have to omit critical phrases and direct quotes to protect at least one source, but we also had to describe the multi-faceted situation which simultaneously involves external discussions and the Pittsburgh Penguins internal debates. Right now it seems there are as many moving parts as the Game of Thrones opening sequence.

The Penguins have to make a decision. Malkin has to make a decision. The Penguins decision has to fit Malkin’s decisions and Malkin’s decision–despite a no-movement clause–are somewhat dependent on the Penguins decisions. Oh, and then the Penguins may have to deal with other teams and their choices, too.

Moving parts.

For context, let’s examine the Penguins 2018 summer.

In full disclosure, we believe there was a split decision last summer on Phil Kessel’s future, and there was some intense debate on multiple levels of the organization leading up to the draft. GM Jim Rutherford tamped down expectations, and it did not appear as if he was ever close to a Kessel trade. You can guess on which side he fell.

This offseason, there are different schools of thought on Malkin, but there also seems to be a resignation and even a sullen agreement among Penguins decision makers, which was missing last season. This time, we’re told Rutherford is not on the player’s side.

That still does not guarantee a Malkin trade, but it does set the table. By all accounts, public and private, Rutherford is not a happy camper with his team and especially his core group. He tried to send a message by dealing the popular Carl Hagelin in November. Instead, a couple of players resisted.

He sent more messages publicly, and yet they didn’t seem to register in some locker stalls.

My opinion is firm. The Malkin tenure can be saved and every effort should be made, but he must want it and meet the Penguins at least halfway, if not more. He can’t offer a lukewarm agreement, but instead, he must have a sincere desire to adopt the Penguins direction. He’s 33-years-old. Taking over a game with individual effort and being an army of one doesn’t work anymore. The game is too fast and too structured to try cute plays at the blue line.

Those extra efforts at the blue line yield more goals against than for. The extra effort Malkin needs to show is again coming back into his own zone like it matters because it does. On every shift.

If he does not commit to that, unfortunately, the team is better off without a pillar of this generation.

As those of you who watch our live YouTube chats also know, I also firmly believe the removal of Phil Kessel will help Malkin. Malkin played a linear game with Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist in 2017-18. They were statistically dominant on every level including goals. Malkin can be again surrounded by players who buy-in to the system instead of a player who feeds his worst instincts.

Kessel didn’t work with Malkin, Brassard, or Bjugstad. He had a spurt with Crosby but that too quickly faded. Rather than an ax, Rutherford should first use a scalpel.

For further context, let’s examine 2015.

Remember the closed-door meeting in New Jersey on Nov. 17, 2015? I sure do. I saved the game sheet because I thought it was the end of the Penguins core. Instead, it turned into a championship rebirth weeks later when Mike Sullivan was hired. Details of that all-out November family spat have long been forgotten in the shadow of two Stanley Cups, but it was significant.

At that moment, Sidney Crosby was disillusioned with head coach Mike Johnston’s system, but he rigidly played it. His frustration level was boiling. Malkin was not as frustrated because he ignored the directions and played to his own system.

Malkin had no problem choosing his way over the coach’s way then, and he did so in 2018-19, too. He was probably correct then. Certainly wrong now. Coaches can live with players who break scheme when they’re great. When the results become not so great, there are problems.

So, Malkin’s reported insubordination complicates this matter, too. Sometimes feelings can linger. Sullivan smoothed everything last summer with Kessel, and the Malkin-Kessel line had a rocket start. But they both almost reflexively choose their loose style of play over honest hockey.

Malkin has to show he can follow the directives of the team. Sorry, some allowances can be made for a player with Malkin’s skill level and skill set, but no exceptions can be made.

A Malkin trade should not occur to shake things up. It must only occur as a last resort. Malkin has earned that right to suffer through ups and downs…if he is willing to accept his role with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But he must commit to that. No exceptions.

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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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Dean
Dean
2 years ago

Dan, why is no-one defending Malkin? He has graciously spent 13 years playing a secondary role to Crosby. Until this year, he never made a demand other than on himself to play better. When will someone in the media at-least present a full picture of the situation in Malkin’s defense? If I was Malkin or his agent, I would demand that the Pens management and coaches find him top six talent that compliments his play and that those players aren’t moved. Especially not moved to Crosby’s line as soon as the first line has any type of sputter. Give him… Read more »

Rick
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

Dean, the media isn’t defending Malkin “GRACIOUSLY” playing 2nd fiddle to Crocby because that is EXACTLY what Malkin wanted! Nothing to defend. I swear do you people not read or listen to what these players say.

JICS
JICS
2 years ago
Reply to  Rick

Rick – I had exactly the same question – and they must not read or listen to much, or even watch very closely.

Dean
Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  JICS

Wow on many fronts! All the players that Malkin got were rejected by Sid. If Sid wanted Kessel or Neal he would have gotten them. JICS and Rick, maybe you can read or listen, however you don’t seem to be able to remember reality or look at another side of a situation and perform any analysis. There is a reason for the old adage “there are two sides to every story and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle”. Dan that is the part of the story that I don’t see you looking at. Just try to think this… Read more »

Dean
Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Dan, why I read your stories is more because you are very good at the art of writing and you are creative (you see and cover far more stories than any other group). Traits of someone who is right brain dominate. However, let’s start talking numbers or comparisons. You get about 1/3 of your numbers wrong in your articles or on your broadcasts and when you try to make comparisons you seem to get turned around. Traits of someone who isn’t left brain dominate. Being analytical is a left brain attribute. Let’s look at your most recent article on Simon.… Read more »

JICS
JICS
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

Dean, I’m not Dan obviously, but it sounds to me like you have it completely backward. Check any other team, and the top line center gets the best wingers – not so with Sid. He was supposed to have James Neal, but when he came back from injury, he had lost him to Malkin. Then he was supposed to have Kessel, and because he was in a bit of a slump, and Kessel was learning a new system, they moved him to Malkin’s line AND kept him there, even though most of the time they played terrible together – and… Read more »

Edgar
Edgar
2 years ago

Dan: maybe you can help me with this. The player’s hated Mike Johnston’s system which was all about defense and helping out, right? And then, they won 2 cups playing a system where the entire roster had to buy in to helping the defense out. Blocking shots and hustling back on defense. Please help me understand what the disconnect was. Besides the fact that the roster MJ had was nowhere near the roster Sully had by the end of the season talent-wise. Thanks. An interesting question about Malkin. Just an example here. Let’s say the Rangers were interested in trading… Read more »

Edgar
Edgar
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Ha! I get that. And I’m not saying I think we should trade Geno. But, you have to ask the question, “How does this team get better”? And the answers of “get a team to take the bad contracts”, probably isn’t feasible to any degree. So, hopefully we can have this discussion at some point! Thanks.

William R. Maloni Sr
William R. Maloni Sr
2 years ago

My question applies to Geno and Phil.

How do you know–even if they cliam they do–that one or both “buys in?”

Both have said so in the past and not followed through.

Waiting for them to “priove it,” means waiting until next season starts before moving anyone and/or will that be too late, if one or both go rogue and play pond hockey??

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