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Penguins Notebook: Zucker Wins Championship, FSG Teams Struggle



Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker: Photo courtesy of Da Beauty League

The Pittsburgh Penguins envisioned Jason Zucker as part of a championship team when they acquired him from Minnesota in 2020.

Turns out they were correct.

This just isn’t the title they had in mind.

Zucker and his team, TRIA, defeated Tradition, whose roster included Teddy Blueger, in the title game of Da Beauty League at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn. Wednesday night.

The league, which includes numerous NHL players and is one of several prominent summer leagues across North America, features 4-on-4 play and does not place a particular emphasis on defense.

Zucker, for example, put up four goals and seven assists in three regular-season games, as well as two goals and two assists in two playoff games. (Although he was shut out in the championship game.)

Blueger, meanwhile, was even more prolific, offensively. He had seven goals and 13 assists in seven regular-season appearances, and four goals and five assists in two playoff games.

A turn for the worse

Much was made of the success enjoyed by teams owned by Fenway Sports Group when it reached an agreement to purchase the Penguins last November.

Understandably so.

After all, FSG’s holdings were headlined by the Boston Red Sox, who captured four World Series between 2004 and 2018, and Liverpool Football Club, a perennial contender for the championship of England’s Premier League.

The hard truth, though, is that the Penguins — who haven’t won a playoff series since 2018 — have, by default, emerged as FSG’s best hope for a title anytime soon.

The Red Sox are anchored at the bottom of the American League East standings, behind even the chronically woeful Baltimore Orioles, and Liverpool has two ties and a loss in its first three matches, and is quite a bit closer to the bottom of the standings than its customary place near the top.

The Penguins can only hope that whatever has befallen their corporate colleagues doesn’t turn out to be contagious.

‘Just made it better’

The Pittsburgh Penguins have consistently piled up a lot of man-games lost because of injuries and illness in recent seasons, including 278 in 2021-22.

It probably is neither fair nor accurate to attribute the high totals to any failings by their training staff, but with a new person overseeing that facet of the operation, some things are being changed.

Some individual’s offseason conditioning programs are one of those, according to Brian Burke, the team’s president of hockey operations.

“With Teena Murray (new senior vice president, integrated performance) coming on, we’ve fine-tuned our whole medical treatment program,” Burke said. “Not (changed it) drastically. Just made it better.”