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Kingerski: Penguins Fans, Have You Lost Your Marbles?

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MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 13: Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Jack Johnson (73) skates away with the puck during the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Montreal Canadiens game on October 13, 2018, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

Penguins fans, don’t let the group get carried away. Sure, Jack Johnson has not been a popular figure since he signed a five-year deal on July 1. His Corsi stats have been below 50 percent for his entire career, he’s not a dynamic puck carrier, nor a pure skater. Wednesday, things hit a new level after GM Jim Rutherford defended Johnson.

And instead of considering the rebut, Rutherford himself became a lightning rod for attacks. The vitriol, anger, and social media shouting have only gotten worse since July 1. When Rutherford dared to defend Johnson’s level of play, Twitter melted. Here is the story from The Athletic and writer Josh Yohe. 

The Johnson pile-on is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Pittsburgh, over the past 25 years.

Personal insults flew. Anger then shifted to Rutherford like the F5 tornado in Twister.

Penguins fans, things are officially out of control. Tell me, what do you hope to accomplish with spending all day insulting players and a venerable general manager who built a Stanley Cup contender? Looking for an advanced metric to prove you’re right? Do you think fans or media get a say in personnel decisions? Any GM who worries about fan opinion of his players won’t be employed long.

The “group” can be a powerful thing. The safety of knowing that others agree is empowering. Tribes form and beliefs become fact. From those facts, action is demanded.

But do you really think Jim Rutherford is going to shrug his shoulders, trade Johnson and fall to his knees to ask for forgiveness because YOU thought it was a bad idea?

Can you really say Jim Rutherford has not been one of the most successful GM’s of the last five years? Count regular season wins, playoff wins but most importantly count big silver trophies.

Of course, he hasn’t been perfect. I liked the acquisition of Ryan Reaves but it didn’t work. I thought he overpaid in the Brassard to Florida deal (the draft picks were steep) and I wondered if the Hagelin deal was the best course. Perhaps you have other moves. That’s the fun part and the debate. In fact, here is the negative take from PHN’s Johnson debate from July. And here is the positive. 

But what’s happening now is taking on a life of its own — a miserable life.

It’s time to dial down the Johnson frustration. Put it in perspective. And breathe. He’s not going to cost the Penguins a single point or hold them back. Do you want to be the kind of person who flames other human beings on social media? Do you want to watch every Penguins game for the next four-and-a-half years waiting to pounce on Johnson for faults (real and imagined)?

If you need something on which to hang your hat, Johnson is probably the Penguins best penalty killer. If a player can be a power play specialist, why not a penalty killer? Every goal denied is equal to a goal scored. And if head coach Mike Sullivan and assistant coach Jacques Martin didn’t believe Johnson should be on the ice–he wouldn’t be in the lineup.

Here’s a challenge–open yourself to why they make that decision instead of lathering yourself into a tizzy with the reverse.

Sure, I’ve defended Johnson from the beginning but it’s become tiresome explaining the same thing over…and over. Net clearing defensemen who kill penalties and protect their partner’s backside have a place in the game. The contract length is over and done and $3.25 million already makes him one of the lowest paid regular, veteran defensemen in the league (he’s in the bottom one-third). Do we have to revisit that every day for five years?

Piling on Jack Johnson has become a sport and some sort of value signaling. So, what started as disagreement has rocketed past healthy discussion.

A long time ago, Washington Capitals fans ran Larry Murphy out of Washington with the “whoops” chant every time he touched the puck. Eventually, GM David Poile took pity on the player and moved him to the Minnesota North Stars (from where he was ultimately dealt to the Penguins). Toronto fans have heaped some severe anger towards players like Luke Schenn, but I’ve been told Pittsburgh is different.

Pittsburgh being different than Toronto is one reason fans embraced Phil Kessel, yes? Penguins fans were going to show Toronto media and fans they were better by treating–and protecting–Kessel.

Go ahead, wish Johnson would be a scratch. That’s your right. Point out mistakes if that makes you happy (though I also may suggest it’s healthier looking for balance). But for gosh sakes and your sanity, ease up. Five years is a long time to be angry over a single player whose crime is being better in the defensive zone than the offensive one.

 

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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