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Full Dubas Recap: ‘Surprised, Disappointed’ By How Penguins Sulked



Kyle Dubas

CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Jake Guentzel to Carolina on March 7.

A few hours after the deal, which netted a package that included Michael Bunting, was announced, the Penguins absorbed a 6-0 loss to Washington at PPG Paints Arena, the by-product of their most dispirited effort of the season.

There had been speculation about a Guentzel trade for much of the season, but Kyle Dubas, the Penguins’ president of hockey operations and general manager, had deferred committing to one until the Penguins lost the final three games of a Western road trip in the days leading up to the March 8 trade deadline.

Guentzel, who was injured at the time, not only was highly productive, but extremely popular with his teammates, who reacted to his departure by losing five of their next six games.

Considering that the Penguins finished the season just three points out of a playoff spot — ironically enough, the Capitals are the team that edged them out — it’s not unreasonable to suggest that they are sitting out the postseason again because of how they performed when it became apparent Guentzel would be dealt and in the aftermath of him going to the Hurricanes.

Which, Dubas said during his season-ending press conference Thursday, was not something he anticipated. Or appreciated.

“Surprised and disappointed (by the players’ reaction),” he said. “The reason is, we showed what we’re capable of, once we got back to it, for the last 12 or 13 games, whatever it was. … If we had shaken the doldrums a little earlier, we might be in a different position.”

On other issues, Dubas:

*** Largely dodged a question about how much responsibility the coaching staff bears for how the season played out, and whether changes to the staff will get serious consideration. He said that, “in the end, responsibility for the year falls on me.” Dubas added, though, that he and coach Mike Sullivan “will meet continually about the staff, go through each staff member, whether they’re the right fit for our group or not, and then evaluate whether we want to make any changes.”

*** Said defenseman Kris Letang is seeking a second opinion about whether he should undergo surgery to correct “all that ails him.” Dubas, who did not specify Letang’s medical issue, also named defenseman John Ludvig as a candidate for offseason surgery.

*** Effectively ruled out a conventional roster rebuild in the near future, saying that “it would be foolish not to try to get those younger players (in the organization) in and around those players like Sid (Crosby), like Kris Letang, like Bryan Rust. People who come in every day and operate at an extremely high level and get the most out of themselves.”

*** Conceded that the Pittsburgh Penguins, with one of the NHL’s oldest rosters, aren’t going to operate at the pace of some younger teams, adding that “I look at ‘playing fast’ as, ‘Do you have guys who can quickly move the puck to one another and keep the chains moving?’ ”

*** Cited forward Sam Poulin as a prospect he expects “to make the roster as a full-time guy” in the fall. He also praised defenseman Jack St. Ivany, who has returned to Wilkes-Barre for the Calder Cup playoffs, and said goalie Joel Blomqvist, forward Brayden Yager and defenseman Owen Pickering are young players he believes can challenge for a spot on the major-league roster during training camp.

*** Expressed displeasure with the performance of the power play, which finished 30th in the league rankings, with a conversion rate of just 15.3 percent. “We have to get the power play to a point where it’s functioning at a high level,” he said, noting that it improved when Bunting moved into the “bumper” position.

*** Identified the injury that has sidelined center prospect Vasily Ponomarev as a high ankle sprain that’s going to require “very precise care,” but said Ponomarev projects as another player who should push for a place on the NHL roster.

*** Reiterated that the Pittsburgh Penguins want Sidney Crosby to finish his career with the Penguins and called it “imperative” that details of talks about a contract to replace the one that will expire after next season remain between him, Crosby and Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson. Dubas declined to speculate on how long Crosby, who will be 37 on Aug. 7, will play because “he’s continuing to perform at an extraordinarily high level.”

*** Confirmed that he plans to remain in his dual role and not hire a general manager.