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Missing Ingredients: Judging the Penguins 3 Biggest Roster Needs

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Pittsburgh Penguins sellout over

Your hand might be shaking from withdraw. It’s been about four months since the last Pittsburgh Penguins trade, and the Penguins news is more off the ice than on it. Virus absences, the earth-moving headlines of the team sale, and settled lawsuits have soaked up more ink than the Penguins three-game losing streak.

After losing to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, the Penguins are below .500 in mid-November. It’s a bit late in the season to be underwater.

“I’ll say that none of the guys in the room are saying it’s only November. You know, there’s not one guy that thinks that. We’re a team that wants to win, and we’re a team that takes these games in October, November, December as seriously as March and February and down the line,” Jason Zucker said.

It might have been better if Zucker said they have to buckle down, wouldn’t it? There’s something more problematic about a team with urgency that flatlines against two creampuffs and a hated division rival.

From this seat, the Penguins roster has a few needs. Via the NHL trade market, internal options, or a few come-to-Jesus meetings, the Penguins need a course correction.

A couple of players have upended my offseason expectations, notably Marcus Pettersson. “Dragon” has been pretty good this season.

Pettersson’s re-emergence gives the Penguins one less need. However, a few remain.

Top Pittsburgh Penguins Roster Needs

1.  Right-Defenseman

The Penguins could use either a top-four defenseman or a third-pair right-sider. Chad Ruhwedel has been a solid fill-in. Credit where it is due, Ruhwedel has been steady.

John Marino has been great. And not so great. His pendulum has a pretty big swing this season. Marino would be more effective as a third-pairing defenseman.

But the Penguins could use more from the blue line. Last season, the Penguins eight-cylinder defensive production propelled the team to be one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.

A bit more production this season would do a world of good.

2.  Winger for Jeff

It’s a broad term, and intentionally so. The Penguins will get plenty of offense from their top-six, eventually. Evgeni Malkin will return and–unless he moves to wing–will probably take Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Zucker.

Jeff Carter doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and he’s a goal-scoring threat.

But Carter on the third line between Zach Aston-Reese and Brock McGinn doesn’t sound like enough. Nor does playing between Danton Heinen and Evan Rodrigues.

Will Evan Rodrigues be enough? Probably not.

The annual “wingers for Sid” telethon may have a different beneficiary this season. Perhaps Ron Hextall will be manning the phones for a winger for Big Jeff.

Double bonus points if that winger likes to play at the net. The Penguins lack that, too.

3.  Spark Plug

The Penguins have traded Patric Hornqvist and lost Brandon Tanev. There is no longer a boundless source of energy from which the Penguins can draw.

Some teams don’t need it. The Penguins are getting old. They’ve won everything there is to win. It’s not a coincidence they have performed at their best when a bunch of kids hungry for NHL ice invade the lineup, or their energy players are on their game.

Right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have either. There are no kids as Drew O’Connor, and P.O. Joseph are back with the WBS Penguins, and the Penguins don’t have a feral energy player, either.

Triple bonus points if the energy player doesn’t mind creating a little chaos near the net. The Penguins lack that, too (repeated from above for emphasis).

A bit more moxy or untamed energy is part of what the Penguins are missing. A team can’t snooze against the Washington Capitals and go through the motions for a few weeks.

The Penguins engine needs some gasoline.

And their roster needs some help.

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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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Ric
Ric
18 days ago

AGREEEEEEEEED!

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda (@pozone)
18 days ago

You mean someone like Brendan Gallagher?

Eric Bouchard
Eric Bouchard
18 days ago

6M cap space…and the guys is SO used up………wont help the Pens. ;o((

PensPatty
PensPatty (@penspatty)
18 days ago

Biggest mistake….not protecting Brandon Tanev…..

Katz
Katz (@paul)
18 days ago
Reply to  PensPatty

Yes not protecting Tanev was an unforced error. But not the biggest mistake. What you are watching is a direct result of failing to change after the 2nd Round loss to Washington . Recall just prior at the trade deadline a generational failure of a trade occurred culminating in a staggering Round trip loss of assets from acquisition of Ryan Reaves to moving Reaves for Brassard. Just research the total cost but have a bucket nearby . I assume Sullivan’s bias to just play, the same dogma that moved out Ian Cole and prevented acquiring physicality to help the skilled… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
18 days ago
Reply to  Katz

A time machine is also a need i suppose, but that currently doesn’t exist. Sorry. Someone else is living in glory days, not just Sully

Katz
Katz (@paul)
18 days ago

Yes you’re right but I believe there needs to be and understanding of how the current situation occurred . Some saw it happening in real time. The frustration is the omission of the analysis and simple looking without any context Anyway you’re right .

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
18 days ago
Reply to  Katz

So your thinking Sully gotta go…but during all the injuries he was Coach of the year. I’m thinking hes around awhile or sometime after the Olympics

Katz
Katz (@paul)
18 days ago
Reply to  Iwasiam

Didn’t say that and you know that. More a criticism of our hockey columnists.

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
18 days ago
Reply to  Katz

Didnt mean to put words in your mouth. But when you kept saying stuck on the glory days, just play, wouldn’t play certain guys, keeping Simon around, exiting the playoffs to soon. You made me think Sullys stuck in a rut and maybe it’s time for him to go that’s all

Katz
Katz (@paul)
18 days ago
Reply to  Iwasiam

No prob. My point is even great Coaches can be the their own worst enemies. Stubbornness is a hard characteristic to overcome.

Last edited 18 days ago by Katz
Tom
Tom
17 days ago
Reply to  Katz

Reaves was a keeper. He was as good as anyone the Pens had on the 4th line. The Pens star players could have been having a free skate every game, much like Gretzky has had his entire career.

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
18 days ago
Reply to  PensPatty

Remember Rutherford cut Hagelin to shake the team up and tried to get him back only to have the Craps snag him….seemed like the team never recovered. Now watching all the ex-Pens kill in it for the Craps is so disheartening

Ujn Hunter
18 days ago
Reply to  Iwasiam

Just looked up Hagelin’s stats… 3, 8, 6, 0 goals in the last 4 years… not exactly killing it for the Craps. Also… just because former Pens score against the Pens when we play the Craps, doesn’t mean they’re helping their teams at all when they aren’t playing the Pens… Do you really want Shultz, Hagelin, Sheary or whatshisname on the Pens roster? I don’t.

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
17 days ago
Reply to  Ujn Hunter

Good point but mine was not really we needed Hags back but it seems those guys step it up when playing us, kind of aggravating . It also seemed to effect the team in a negative way when they got rid of him and in was reported to shake up the team. Seemed to me that’s all.

Steve
Steve
18 days ago

What about J.T. Miller?

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
18 days ago

Where would a back up goalie or one to challenge Jarry rank?

Steve
Steve (@steve)
18 days ago

Dan, was it just a throwaway comment or is there actually some reason to think Malkin could return and play wing? Because that honestly kind of shuffles the equation, right? A Carter-centered second line with Malkin and Kapanen creates some options for the third line with Zucker possibly playing with either E-Rod or Blueger and Heinen/ZAR. None of this is as great an option on paper as having Crosby, Malkin, Carter, and Blueger down the middle. But the Pens aren’t really dealing from a position of strength on the trade market. They don’t have much in the way of prospects… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
18 days ago

So really 5 needs. Your list, plus backup goaltender and they really need their scorers to SCORE. they have underperformed all season. Zucker, Kapanen, Guentzel, Rust, and Crosby. Put the damn puck in the net please!

Alex
Alex
18 days ago

Really missing McCann rn and he’s killing it, he’d be a blessing for this team who’s PP is struggling and they can’t finish, the lineup isn’t terrible but shipping Matheson, who I like cause his abilities are fun to watch, and ERod with a few early picks for Hertl would be my play, then I like the Holl idea, he’s a top 4 capable guy and could man a pair with Riikola if Matheson is moved, then you get this and I like it Jake-Sid-Hertl Zucker-Geno-Kap Heinen-Carter-Rust ZAR-Blue-McGinn Dumo-Letang Petterson-Marino Riikola-Holl Also hasn’t helped that recently Rust has kinda sucked… Read more »

Ethan Kelley
18 days ago
Reply to  Alex

As to your point, in the absence of McCann who was filling the net on PP from left side, they need someone to either step up and get that done or find someone who can. Right now a skate blade is leading scorer. Waiting for Malkin to get back and suck people over to right side will be a long time from now. Losing Tanev and McCann still smarts from a lack thereof. Throw in Ceci and I agree that loss far outweighted the gain in offseason. Simple fact is 2 guys have large salaries in positions of excess at… Read more »

David
David
18 days ago
Reply to  Alex

Keep ERod, ship Blueger.

T.J. Bunner
T.J. Bunner
18 days ago

You forgot a veteran back-up goalie. DeSmith isn’t going to cut it and Jarry is still suspect in the playoffs (to say the least). Adding a veteran back-stop that not only brings stability but could help Jarry is/was the biggest need for this team. Oh…and they shouldn’t have let Cody Ceci walk!

Eric Bouchard
Eric Bouchard
18 days ago

SH**** hit the fan in Vancouver. JT Miller would fit great with the Pens. At the start of the season I would have liked to see Josh Manson RDman in Pittsburgh but both of these guys cap space doesnt fit. And Anaheim plays good hockey right now. ANother name that could play RW and C is Vincent Trocheck. (UFA this summer) but again Carolina plays great hockey. Pretty sure they wont trade Trocheck while the KK experience is not worling well for them. (they switched him on the LW) And who would have to go to fit a good winger… Read more »

Riddler
Riddler
18 days ago

One thing that we have learned about Hextall is that he is patient. Another is that he wants to hold on to his draft picks (as he should). The penguins are on the cusp of a rebuild so adding to this team isn’t likely to happen. Most likely he will wait it out and see what the team looks like around the trade deadline. If they’re doing better, great! He will keep them together. If they are out of a playoff spot, then you will see him ship out some tradeable assets. Rust, guentzel, dumo, maybe Marino, etc.

Chase Ranson
Chase Ranson
18 days ago

This a rebuilding team too many mistakes regarding personal the core is old and the team will be lucky to avoid last place in the division its hard to watch

William Maloni
William Maloni (@boysdad)
17 days ago

Yay you, but I don’t think Hexie survives the sale.

Tom
Tom
17 days ago

Everyone should remember that playoff hockey is played differently. The refs put their whistles away and the muggings begin. The Pens better find some toughness and grit somewhere and that’s if they make the playoffs.

Casius
Casius
16 days ago

Get rid of malkin the injury peace and the gambler i guess he’s known as and get fleury back so he can retire

Last edited 16 days ago by Casius

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