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
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.