Penguins Fans’ Reaction Should Concern Owners; It’s Not Anger, It’s Worse
NEW YORK — Thursday night should scare the daylights out of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. I mean, it should cause them to clench more than their jaws. Like the team on the ice carried by Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang but with little other support in a 4-2 loss to the division rival New York Rangers, fans were not angry but resigned, disappointed, and–worst of all–apathetic.
The fury over GM Ron Hextall’s lack of moves and trade deadline moves has abated. It’s over, but the results are lingering on the ice and in the seats.
Anger is the flip side of love. Frustration is a sign of expectation. But apathy? I don’t know that a Penguins team in the Sidney Crosby era has reached this level of apathy from the fanbase.
And the next step is more empty seats. PPG Paints Arena has already seen a decline in physical attendance. Don’t expect that to improve in the current mood.
Like most American cities, Pittsburgh largely has Penguins fans, not hockey fans. If the local team doesn’t inspire hope, joy, or excitement, it will not inspire interest.
Hey, one good playoff series can change everything, but the seeds of decline are being planted not by hand but with industrial-sized farm equipment.
Despite being a 67% bet to achieve their 17th consecutive playoff berth (according to playoffstatus.com), the Penguins have done the opposite of excite their fans. Call it spoiled if you want, but the decision to bring back franchise stalwarts Letang and Evgeni Malkin but then fail to surround the team’s core with enough talent has not angered fans as much as shoved them to the exit door.
They’ve seen this movie four years running, and it’s landing not with the optimism of Creed but the groans for Rocky V.
Here’s just a sampling of Twitter responses to the postgame PHN Penguins’ Q&A. These aren’t trolls but usual PHN respondents.
“I’m not mad, I’m disappointed,” said Stefanie.
“What’s the point anymore? Should they make the playoffs – and that’s far from certain – they’ll be one and done and humiliated again…” — Lemieux67.
“Resignation on the part of many, it’s over for this group,” — MadHatter
“Everyone is accepting that this team is going nowhere,” — Lfusco
“You can’t be mad when you expect the outcome. Same guys carrying the team. Same guys burying the team except our goalie gave (us) a chance tonight,” — Jack Hammer.
You get the idea, but the responses continued from there.
Penguins fans have seen enough of forward Jeff Carter, whose faceoff percentage is an impressive 59%, but his play is a negative result in waiting. He was a minus-4 in about four minutes of even-strength play in the 6-4 loss to Montreal on Tuesday. He was a minus-1 with a befuddling pass that led to the Rangers’ second goal on Thursday.
Recently the 38-year-old Carter seems to exacerbate the consternation on a nightly basis as the long season grinds to a conclusion.
Penguins fans had their favorite targets circled at the NHL trade deadline but instead received Mikael Granlund, who has just two points in seven games. Granlund has elevated the Penguins’ third line to respectable from the depths of hockey hell but isn’t having the impact worthy of a $5 million player.
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin, a former fan favorite as the comfortable fixer for Letang’s freelancing ways, had a resurrection through the middle of the season. However, he has also receded from the level of play both needed and expected.
Fans are officially blue in the face from yelling about the same topics.
Coach Mike Sullivan is probably blue in the face yelling about the same mistakes his team makes. Overall, they’ve been more generous with the puck than Mother Teresa with a hot meal, and “lacked urgency” has been a recurring theme.
Anger signifies passion and caring, even as things go wrong. An angry fanbase cares. What should scare the daylights out of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new FSG ownership is not the anger that roared in the first period Thursday but the apathetic resignation, silence, and detachment that followed.
The negative Nellies, who have obstinately responded that nothing matters because the team will lose in the first round, have multiplied like rabbits. Now that has become the popular sentiment as fans come to grips with four more years of the Penguins’ core but vanishing Stanley Cup hopes.
“I feel bad for the players who re-signed that are producing, Geno, Letang Rakell (et al.) and took a haircut doing it,” wrote BrianX.
Like clockwork after every loss. Sorry to hear about their haircuts 🤣
It is pathetic how home town writers jump all over our team after a loss how about jumping on the officiating for not calling a 5-minute major on an elbow or how about not calling a penalty on the Rangers the whole game instead let’s put down our boys throughout their busting their ass trying to get a win
Face it they just dont have what it takes. From the gm to the coach to the players. Next year there better be changes or they wont be able to give tickets away.
Told you and only going to get worse. Happened to Wings and Blackhawks. Thank God for Steelers changes. Already see the team changing with Khan and Weidl. Got rid of garbage GM. Watch how fast Steelers roster changes. Exciting
Comparing the Penguins to the Kings and Blackhawks doesnt even make sense still.
They won their cups then almost imediately became bad teams and missed post season after post season.
Consider me an apathetic fan. Barring a miracle/upset, getting into the playoffs brings the inevitable 1st Round exit with maybe 2-3 home games. Playing the Bruins might be the ultimate embarrassment. I DO think the ship can be righted in the offseason, but GMRH does not have the intellect nor stomach to do it. Sully is becoming more and more like Byslma 2.0. We all must abandon the Nostalgia Train and have a new GM and Coach make some difficult decisions.
I think Burkie has done nothing but yap. Hextall needs to go yesterday. Sullivan has lost the team. His message is stale.If we don’t make changes things will be worse next year.
I actually agree unfortunately, and Sullivan is an excellent coach. I could care less about Burke and Hextall, they are a day late and a dollar short to this organization. Sullivan will continue to play guys that clearly hurt the team, we know about Carter but even players like Dumoulin. Rust on the first line? Seriously??? Find me another 35 point -10 player on the first line in the NHL…I dont know maybe its more common than I think. Rakell is so obviously the answer there, much more productive this year and one of the better two way players on… Read more »
“Couldn’t care less” if you could care less, it means you care.
Thankfully you are here to correct my grammar mistakes.
I just don’t want you to look uneducated while making your comments. Couldn’t care less and could care less mean two completely different things, so should I assume other things you’re saying in your comments aren’t correct?
Its a spelling error while caring for my toddler, working, and eating a bagel. Your comparison to the other things I say makes no sense – it isnt a factual mistake. Its hardly matters, I think anybody with a brain could read what I wrote and understand what I meant.
There is no need to be a donkey about it.
Thank goodness the Grammar Police have made an appearance
He is a blockhead
My issue is the GM he did the lazy thing and did little to make the team harder to play against they are soft and that fact rears it’s ugly head in the playoffs I also get tired of hearing the goaltenders are good better find one next year and some muscle Hextall needs to go along with Carter.
Great article, it pretty much sums things up at this point. If Hextall isn’t fired and there isn’t a massive overhaul of the roster, this will only get worse. They need to add to the top 6 and bring in guys who can actually play Sullivan’s system.
The return of the big three is what the majority of fans and media wanted at the time, remember? I was one of the few that was dead set against the return of Letang and especially Malkin. Could have used the $17.3 mill against the cap (including Rust’s contract) to reload on the fly with younger players who had term and upside. This is exactly the way I envisioned the season playing out — lots of injuries, blown leads and frustration. Now they’re stuck with a bunch of entitled, high-priced old men who have no future. #Hexed
The Big 3 ain’t the problem. 87 & 71 are a point per game this year. Try finding others at a point per game making what those 2 are making. Letang is tied for the league lead in OT goals. Those guys are pulling their weight. Your arguement loses me when you say signing those guys was a bad idea.
Carter, Petry, Rutta, Granlund, Kapanen, those signings/trades were the bad ones. Not bettering the goal tending situation as well.
Are you watching the games, brah? Letang is in the midst of his worst statistical season in six years. He has sat out 18 games. He can no longer create his own shot — his SOG/game average is the lowest since he was a rookie. And at 36, he won’t get better/healthier any time soon. Malkin averages a point a game, but is that good? Any second-line center who plays a regular shift and on the PP1 should be close to a point-per-game player in this era. He already has more giveaways than in any season in his career. He’s… Read more »
For arguments sake, they bring in 3 other guys. How did that improve the bottom 6 since you are either spending the same or more cash? How does that fix the goaltending? Same guys are making the same decisions. Outcome would most likely be worse.
Last off-season most agreed that this team had almost zero chance to win the Stanley Cup. Nothing has changed since then. In that case, I would much rather have younger guys with upside than older ones who are on the 15th hole of their careers.
In a sea of bad takes you somehow always have the worst one.
And yet we rely on the old guys to constantly win games. If you want to complain, look no further than all of Hextall’s new blood brought in.
I am a longtime, realistic fan-I am Jack Hammer literally, lol. Always hopeful and expect a downturn in fortune. I am fine with it. I was fine with keeping the core. Here is what i know because i still play the game and it resonates with the pens. As an older player, the best chance you give guys like 87, 71, 58 is to surround them with solid, younger players. Its not been a secret this year, but going back to the last couple. This was always clear as day. The reason why the other players arent considered the core… Read more »
Not sure I would’ve gone with the pricey 24 yr old defender, but surely one of cheaper rfa’s like a Taylor Radish or a Jack McBain would’ve been nice. It would be the equivalent of a good prospect fgmjr never got.
I agree with what you are saying. Some of the easy mistakes that Hextall/Sullivan have made are correctable. Play O’Connor, Nylander. Start playing Friedman. Keep Rakell on top line with Crosby/Guentzel.
Some mistakes will linger. Carter (even on fourth line playing 8-11 minutes hurts).
Signing Granlund instead of Chychrun was a bonehead and unforgivable decision. This would have allowed a good GM to trade Petry and add a true top six forward.
I saw the Sullivan comments live after the game last night. Is there a bigger indictment of the team when the coach says (of his cap limit team) some of his players “lacked urgency.” Nice word alternatives for what he actually meant . . . dogged it. How on Earth can anyone on a playoff fringe team “lack urgency?” What are they saving themselves for . . . the beach . . . golf . .. a vacation trip? I am not close to a fan of Tortorella but he would have pointed out by name and number who he… Read more »
There is a reason why Tortorella only gets chosen to coach teams with no notable players on it and when he does, those guys end up on the bench and then the team accomplishes nothing and he gets fired.
Rise and repeat.
You’re judging Penguins fan attitude by social media posts?? Ok. I’m most worried about a post Mario world. He was involved with the team since 1984. We are on our own here now. Help us Obi Wan Mario you’re our only hope!!!
Mario did everything for the Pens both on the ice and behind the scenes. He is enjoying life and his children. Don’t begrudge him. The Pens ownership needs to tell Hextall what to do immediately ’cause he ain’t gotten it done.
Not one aspect of my comment had any negativity toward Mario what so ever. Mario is the beginning and end of this franchise. Learn how to read.
Fire Hexstall and get a new GM to handle the cap space they will have for next season. Keep Sullivan.
We’ve been through this before. We were blue in the face with complaints before crosby. The boys are in their twilight of their careers as exemplified by sid attending an all star game and chumming it up with the rest of the league. The chips on the shoulders are gone, and deservedly so. I can only speak for myself, but yes… apathy is the best word to describe what is going on. Apathy in comparison to one of the greatest 30 year runs of the best athletes in their sport on a single team. Hopefully ownership can figure this out… Read more »
I think problems started when the pens chose Murray over Fleury.
and Carter over McCann
and Kapanen over cap space
Or even Carter over Tanev.
Is there any reason to NOT fire Hextall right now?
One reason . . . ownership that pays so little attention that they may believe they bought a zoo exhibit not a hockey franchise. When ownership shows only passing interest eventually it infects the entire organization until it finds its way to the playing surface. Any other owner would have been on a plane long ago to let go a middle level manager that diminishes the value of the team just by being in the room.
I’m in the apathy group as well. And I used to travel from Jersey and stay at the Chatham Hilton to watch the games. I think it’s just a franchise that’s had incredible success for decades, and your emotional attachment is tethered to that success. Outside of the New England Patriots, I believe no organization in sports has more than 5 titles since 1991. How can I possibly REALLY care when they have no shot? That’s why I wanted the rebuild to happen 3 years ago. The fans can get reinvested in seeing the team’s journey again. What we have… Read more »
Pens fans can’t afford seats with their extra monies going to everything being inflated! Who cares what the angry people think on Twitter! Can’t believe you wrote this article!
The big 3 are not the problem this year is correct. Crosby is still a beast. Geno and Letang have played well albeit all three are slowing down from their youth. It is a high probability that these 3 will be slowing down more as each year passes. The team’s success is as good as the core carries them, therefore it is probable that the team will be progressively worse every year. Enter Hextall, Burke, and Sully. Mismanagement of the roster. Handcuffing the cap. Poor game preparation. Poor in game decisions. .I will continue to be a Penguins fan as… Read more »
Hallooo Pittsburgh!! Welcome to the agony of FSG ownership – Red Sox fans are all too familiar with this group of cheapskates (no pun intended). If there is a Chaim Bloom-like GM available, you can bet the FSG folks will find him/her. For FSG it’s all about The Brand and how it can be marketed, not actually improved.
Do you think they’ll even keep it in Pittsburgh in the years ahead?
Can’t resign Jarry, let him walk after the season. Why not give DeSmith more opportunities now? Need some muscle immediately after the season. Talked about it, didn’t do it. Carter…bye. Dumie…bye. Joseph or Pettersson…bye. Hextall…walking a real fine line. What has he done to turn the ship around in 2 years? If they make it as a wild card, Hurricanes or Bruins as their opponent. Not so good again.
Burke n Hextall must be shiwn the door, new GM has to bring in players who support the the top 6
Oh well, if they don’t make the playoffs fans have the Pirate season to look forward to. 😂😂
Exactly how I feel. I turned the game off after the first goal How does Zab get open by 30 feet at the be ginni g of the game? Same old, same old. I think its time to put the blame where it belongs, with the coach. He is supposed to get the the most out of his players and devise a structure for them to follow. He is failing at this. The rags have 6 high priced scorers on the first 2 lines, and good players on the third. How did they do this and we can’t? Imagine if… Read more »
Since they still have multiple years remaining on their contracts Hexy and Sully will probably be back next season. Hopefully the former will do a better job rebuilding the bottom six this off season. Revamping the goalie and defense corps may prove to be a much tougher assignment.
Can we hope Carter might actually decide on his own to retire this year? And can we please NOT resign a few UFA’s (Dumo, Zucker – unless he agrees to less money, Bones, Dimitry) in July and try getting younger? Maybe just maybe the core might have a chance at the cup next year? Because lets face it – we may make the playoffs this year but if it’s Boston or Carolina – expect a sweep in the 1st.
Some fans don’t deserve this team. It wasn’t that long ago they won back to back Cups. They have 3 in the Sid era. They are a model of consistency. Fans and media act like it’s easy to win, like there’s not other teams trying to win. Just like with their jobs, they think management is easy. In the last 20 years, who has more success than the Pens? Grow up and accept that you can’t win a title every year, and being in the mix every year is an accomplishment.
Great article Dan, I was feeling this but couldn’t quite figure out what it was! It seems the fans lack of emotion right now mirrors the energy level of the players, no urgency or passion .
This article asinine. SMH you cherry pick a couple comments and expect the real hockey fans to buy it. Seems none of you remember the ’70s or the ’80s this team just went back-to-back cups five years ago made it to the playoffs every year and now because they have a couple games that they struggle in the whole fan base is going to turn against them I don’t think so. You should be ashamed to call yourself a penguin fan. It’s only the people that don’t remember the bad days that think there is a problem. GTFO
Hextall has done nothing at the trade deadline. I saw the Pens play in Tampa March 2, 2023 and again Jarry gave up 5 goals in the win, many extremely suspect and weak?!! First train of thought is bring in a stalworth goalie the likes of a Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy to make it deep in the playoffs and not the first round losses the Pens have endured the last several years. Plus I always believe in a tough guy the likes of a Pat Maroon of the Lightning or such.