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Penguins’ Last Chance Saloon; 3 Quick Thoughts From Edmonton



Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby gains Hart Trophy talk. More NHL trade rumors

EDMONTON, Alberta — This is it for the Pittsburgh Penguins. No matter how proclaimed the end, waving the white flag before the results were in, we’re just a few days ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline.

There are no more lifelines, audience polls, or phone-a-friend. It’s time for president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas’s final answer.

The GM slipped away from the team and reporters to take a phone call moments before coach Mike Sullivan spoke at 5 p.m. local time. If a GM weren’t on the phone at this time of year, there would be cause for termination.

On the ice, the Penguins have not given Dubas the type of answer he wanted. In fact, their results have been far from expectations. The Penguins are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and have lost two in a row.

When the epitaph of the 2023-24 NHL season is written, the Penguins will circle the last 10 days. It was their big chance. The New Jersey Devils are struggling, the Philadelphia Flyers are coming to grips with the fact that reinforcements won’t be arriving, and even the Tampa Bay Lightning have stumbled.

The Penguins have carried leads into the final 10 minutes of the third period twice in four games and lost both in regulation.

Read more: Predicting the Penguins Trade Deadline

Fittingly, Calgary was probably the Penguins’ last best shot, and blowing that game could have serious psychological ramifications. It wouldn’t be shocking to set that game erode the Penguins’ confidence. But it’s not over yet, and a good win over Edmonton might just give Dubas second thoughts.

But the time is now.

Alex Nedeljkovic will start.

3 Penguins Thoughts

1. It’s not over…yet.

New Jersey lost to the LA Kings, and Arizona beat the Washington Capitals on Sunday. It highlights the stunning lack of quality competition for the playoff spot. Dubas could easily talk himself into believing a playoff berth is possible.

It most certainly is possible. But here’s the rub: The Penguins have shown absolutely not one scintilla of evidence they are capable of their best for any consistent stretch.

2. Where is the help?

Rickard Rakell and Drew O’Connor have appropriately sidesaddled Sidney Crosby, but you can see the difference between good and elite.

Rakell has been a good scorer. Guentzel is elite.

The team shouldn’t expect goals from Jonathan Gruden and Jeff Carter again. Include Lars Eller, too. We might see Jesse Puljujarvi in the lineup, or Gruden, but there just isn’t a lot going on with much of the lineup.

Recall last week when this reporter counted the stats–Tristan Jarry has as many or more goals as a half dozen Penguins skates since Jarry scored on Nov. 30.

While Dubas works the phones, he missed the opportunity to add. That’s a mark against Dubas. Puljujarvi, Bemstrom, and Matthew Phillips aren’t good enough additions.

Former GM Ron Hextall was harpooned, lampooned, and marooned by the Penguins fanbase for his lack of moves when the Penguins desperately needed help.

3. Wearing me out

Yinz are wearing me out. I get it. You said they should rebuild, sell off, or blow it up. Sadly, the team didn’t listen to you, and you’ve bombarded anyone who will listen. I surrender.

Let me explain the details so many were missing. Dubas may very well tear the Penguins apart to set up the next generation; while many of you debated “yes or no,” the real question involved the process.

No responsible executive is going to undergo drastic changes, dramatic trades, or otherwise chop up his team until the decision is final. Dubas gave the team as much time as possible. And then some.

They lost nothing by waiting to see if Sidney Crosby could carry his team forward. Unfortunately for Crosby, the problems are too many, and the weight of the team is too great. It can’t be done.

The Penguins were not going to sell until the exhaustive process was complete. You may have taken a pessimistic outlook, and that’s fine. You may have been optimistic. The point of sports is to play the games and find out.

How else can I explain it to those of you in the back of the room who are still stomping your feet and threatening to hold your breath? To paraphrase the immortal Brad Hamilton, learn it, know it, live it.

Another loss, and there will be no alternatives left.

Fortunately for the Penguins, Rakell is a good scorer.