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Penguins Blog: The Great Retool, Dubas Has Options

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Kyle Dubas, Mike Sullivan, Jason Spezza, Pittsburgh Penguins 9/22/23

It is the coach, the defensemen, the goaltending, and the general manager. Oh, and it is also the star players, including Evgeni Malkin and Erik Karlsson, with the ghost of Jack Johnson’s past. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ season is long in the rearview mirror, and it is difficult to revamp the current situation to make the Stanley Cup playoffs in the 2024-25 season, and the fault lies with many.

So, how do the Penguins get from here to there?

Today’s blog won’t be a controversial hammer or emotional exposition but a table setter. It seems every prime player in the Penguins drama has its own vociferous set of detractors. There are some merits to each, but putting the bigger picture together is a lot more difficult.

Comparing the Penguins to the playoff teams is not a bad idea, though using president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas’s metric first to compare them to the Metro Division teams might not yield tangible results.

The New York Rangers are winning games without deserving them. They’ve won the first seven playoff games–the first team since the 2008 Penguins to do so–but goalie Igor Shesterkin has been as impenetrable as Fort Knox and as golden.

Former Penguins winger Jake Guentzel has a few goals in the Round Two series, and Carolina has dominated the puck and zone time, only to be a 3-0 series hole.

Sure, if the Penguins can find a No. 1 goalie who is that good, it would cover up more problems than Michael Cohen, but that’s not going to happen.

A look at the other teams in the playoffs, such as the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, and even the Carolina Hurricanes, shows teams with goalies not considered top-flight starters.

The star players!

The Penguins have those, or at least two, who are still capable of playing to an elite level with Sidney Crosby and Karlsson. Perhaps we’ll include Kris Letang, too, now that we know last season’s second-half difficulties were likely caused by significant injuries that he somehow played through.

The Dallas Stars don’t have many elite star players at their positions, but they have many very good players and a couple who are even better than very good.

The Boston Bruins don’t have elite players, either.

So, it’s not necessarily goaltending, and it’s not necessarily acquiring star players.

Defensemen!

Former Penguins scapegoat Jack Johnson has been a solid and quiet part of the Colorado blue line, which also doesn’t look great on paper after perennial Norris Trophy candidate Cale Makar.

Some Penguins fans might choke upon reading that.

Has anyone perused the Edmonton Oilers blue line or the Vancouver Canucks blue line beyond Quinn Hughes? The Rangers defensive corps isn’t flush with talent on the second or third pairings, either.

Of course, the New York Blue Line knows how to use elbow pads better than any, at least until Martin Necas sees it coming.

The coaches still in the playoffs are a unique mix, too. Colorado’s Jared Bednar was absolutely on the hot seat for early playoff exits until the 2022 Stanley Cup victory. Jim Montgomery detoured after being fired by Dallas and dealing with personal issues to find success in his second season with Boston. Peter Laviolette has coached and been fired by a few Metro Division teams and a few others, too.

Edmonton’s Kris Knoblauch is largely an unknown quantity as an NHL coach.

Perhaps this proves that the right coach for a minute is as good as a good coach. Or that coaches look good with good teams.

Perhaps average goalies on their toes with teams playing well in front of them can win. And that teams can succeed with a room full of average and mediocre defensemen or without star players or great coaches.

The Penguins’ great retool can go in many different directions. They are both a lightyear from contending and a couple of bounces away from being a solid playoff team, at least while Crosby is still a dominating player.

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gary
gary
11 days ago

You have no clue about the Colorado defensemen……….. try to learn first then yap.

Menotyou
Menotyou
6 days ago
Reply to  gary

Instead of an insult maybe offer some reason(s) for why he is wrong. You know, like an adult.

Pete
Pete
11 days ago

Bruins have NO elite players??? Hmmmmmmmm?

Mike
Mike
11 days ago

Tired of excuses for Letang.

David Heyl
David Heyl
11 days ago

The physical play during the playoffs illustrate the Pens are numerous light years away from competing!!!!!!

MarkFields
MarkFields
11 days ago

I thought this was well written. The difference between winning and losing sometimes is unknown. Pens won a cup against Nashville while being out played for large stretches. Didn’t register a shot for over 24 mins then first shot was game winner.

I never saw this team as too far away in being able to win personally.

Nathan
Nathan
11 days ago

I hate the Bruins but to say they have no elite players? Pastrnak.

Mike
Mike
10 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

Nathan, I would also have to add Swayman to that list.

Doug Ukish
Doug Ukish
11 days ago

We are spoiled for sure. We have too many elite players….

King Penguin
King Penguin
11 days ago

I would target Brossoit in free agency. Unlike Neddy, the guy has size (6-3), which would give opponents a different look. He has been very good in smaller sample sizes. If he wants to caddie for Hellebuyck again, then fine, but I bet he would like a bigger role. Him and Neddy could split 65 games and Blomqvist would handle the rest. Better yet, the three wouldn’t make more than $5M combined, which is less than what Jarry makes now.

Last edited 11 days ago by King Penguin
Mike
Mike
10 days ago

Dan, a couple of quick comments. First what the fans and media did to Jack Johnson during his time in the Burg was a complete joke. Fans are consumed with skill and have no clue that it takes Skill, Toughness/Grit and intangibles to win at high level? Players like Johnson and Kulikov can play for two of the best teams in the league but not for the Penguins. Dubas needs to find more whatever it takes kind of players that put the team before personal goals. Regarding Letang – he’s had on going health issues and this is another reason… Read more »

Jason S.
Jason S.
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Jack Johnson is playing bottom pairing minutes in Colorado. He’s no longer a 18-20 minute guy. I’m not sure if he should have even been a 13-15 minute guy in Pittsburgh, which is what he’s been playing in Colorado. In the two seasons that JJ was here, he was averaging 19:17 and 19:28 per game.

And maybe Kulikov didn’t want to come back to Pittsburgh. Just because you come to Pittsburgh as a rental doesn’t mean you have to re-sign.