Connect with us

Penguins

Penguins Mailbag: Brian Dumoulin, Turnovers, and Lots (and Lots) of Anger

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins, Brian Dumoulin

PHN readers were able to save the stamp and instead lick their wounds. The weekly (semi-weekly, or as we feel like it) Pittsburgh Penguins mailbag is rife with hope for a Penguins trade, anger, frustration, and blame. Lots and lots of blame for the Penguins’ defensemen, Brian Dumoulin, Casey DeSmith, GM Ron Hextall, and a spoonful for coach Mike Sullivan.

We received a few dozen unique responses this week.

Be warned, my answers will not be the populist anger-inciting responses that you may want. But the answers will be to the best of my 20-plus years of hockey coverage and insights from inside the room. I was there on the west coast and in the room every day.

Here we go.

Pittsburgh Penguins mailbag:

First, let’s stop fixating on Brian Dumoulin. He was on the ice for a pair of goals-against on Wednesday vs. Buffalo. However, his assignment did not factor into either score.

The “Dumoulin effect” is becoming its own scapegoat. He was brutal against Edmonton and not so hot against Vancouver. However, to prove my point, look at all of the negative Dumoulin sentiment after the Buffalo loss. Yet, he was just fine.

Some of his bad moments weren’t even his. When the forwards turnover the puck, creating a speedy transition with numbers, a defenseman can be like roadkill through no fault of his own.

Don’t hyperfocus on Brian Dumoulin. He had a rocky stretch. Dumoulin is a quiet, steady defenseman. The things he does to help the team are not easily seen and definitely not eye-catching for an audience. When you notice him, that’s when he’s not playing well. He’s had a few very bad games, but he’s also becoming Twitter’s new Jack Johnson. The Penguins could replace Dumoulin with the very best of Dumoulin retroactive to Edmonton, and that losing streak is still five or six games.

Mike Sullivan is under contract to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins for four more years (after this one). Two bad weeks, even a couple of bad months, won’t change that. The Penguins’ effort isn’t in question, nor is their system. The Penguins are out-of-sorts. It’s a mess, but it’s not permanent. Or if it is permanent, it is the players who will be swapped out, not the coach.

If he doesn’t remain the Penguins coach, you could knock me over with a feather.

DeSmith gave up two goals against Seattle. He was nearly brilliant against Montreal. DeSmith kept the Penguins in the game in Montreal, despite their best efforts to give it away.

The two yawning-cage goals against Buffalo were weird. You might not see one goal like that for a few months, yet DeSmith allowed two. He wasn’t at his best, but he was far from terrible. In bad times, blaming a goalie is a bit like reaching for a life preserver. If things have gotten that bad, there are a lot more problems.

And the Penguins have bigger problems.

Sure. Would you like Tim Stutzle, Jack Hughes, or maybe Juraj Slafkovsky?

 

Carter’s contract seemed like a bargain at the moment, but it is a microcosm of issues now. Carter is a bit soft defensively, and he doesn’t bolster the PK like a third-line center should. It was not a problem when the Penguins had fourth-liners capable of total shutdown domination (Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Brian Boyle, Brock McGrinn, Brandon Tanev, etc…).

But that’s not the case anymore and the third liners are needed for the dirty work.

Carter is a scoring center on a team that badly needs another grinder in the middle who can be a shutdown defender. Drew O’Connor isn’t. Sam Poulin isn’t yet, but he might get there sooner than later (Poulin is more likely a fourth-line center).

The third line of Danton Heinen, Carter, and Kasperi Kapanen is a scoring line. The team is in need of a defensive line.

 

Ron Hextall added a lot of talent. In August, I wrote that I didn’t understand the Kasperi Kapanen contract. I would say that was the only mistake; he gambled the Penguins could find the 20-goal Kapanen.

When things are going sideways, a GM is a natural person to blame. Hextall does have some work to do — more than light tinkering — with the roster. Some PK help and some grinding, simple play would go A LONG way. The third line can’t be risky and must be able to handle the defensive work.

That’s the biggest, most correctable flaw on the team.

 

I, too, have pondered that possibility. However, I’ve come to the conclusion the answer is no, not yet. It isn’t a knock on Joseph but a fit with the required role. You will see Joseph occasionally get some time with Letang when the Penguins are trailing, just as Sullivan and Todd Reirden did in Vancouver.

However, a top-pairing defenseman has to be stay-home, protect the net front while Kris Letang does “Letang” things, and be able to read the game against the top-line competition. That’s a lot to ask of Joseph, who is basically a rookie.

I don’t think he’s a net-front defenseman. Jan Rutta would be a better option. Rutta hasn’t played the left side much since his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, but Joel Quenneville liked him on the left. Quenneville is a pretty good hockey coach, eh?

Who Gets the Blame?

We received over two dozen questions, but none dealt with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ biggest issue: puck management. On Wednesday night, the GWG was the result of Jake Guentzel’s turnover on the mid-wall. Marcus Pettersson cut to the slot, but Guentzel didn’t have a passing lane.

The Penguins were going for the win, but Guentzel is a smart player not prone to those mistakes. Yet, he turned it over, and the Penguins lost. That’s not on Sullivan or Hextall, and it is entirely indicative of a few players trying to do too much and a team out of sorts.

I know you want to blame one person — Dumoulin, DeSmith, Sullivan, Hextall, even Sidney Crosby got some blame in the questions today. It’s easier to focus on one person because one person can be replaced, get better, or be launched into the sun. However, it is a team-wide dysfunction. Some guys are trying too hard. Some guys are trying to fit in. The turnovers are the problem.

It’s a messy jelling process this year and the Penguins lack defensive shutdown ability. Don’t forget, the Penguins had to earn a lead before they gave it away. Hextall has some work to do.

Subscribe to PHN+
11 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

11 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rob
Rob
27 days ago

Puck management, yes, i mentioned that in one of my comments as the main problem as well. Another thing people seem to be hyper focused on is age. Nope, they are not playing slow because of age, they are keeping up speed wise from what i see. They are not protecting the puck and controlling the puck in the offensive zone. Especially after they get a lead. More turnovers than Arby’s. THAT is the problem.

Web1350
26 days ago
Reply to  Rob

The team is just too old. They need an infusion of younger legs and blood. There are too many “passengers” and not enough drivers. They do have some speed but, for the most part, are slow. They continually get beat to the puck, lose possession battles, and don’t seem to have the grit needed. Sullivan needs to play the hand he’s dealt and this one is a pair of dueces. Hextall and Burke have both said the team needs to be bigger and tougher. Neither has happened.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
27 days ago

Interesting answers. Couple of thoughts, the Pirates have the Mendoza line to which all players are rated against. Pens fans have the Jack Johnson line, and I hate it. He won a Cup last year and now is playing top minutes with the Blackhawks. Fans should let him be. Also, the big defensive center we are lacking is Brian Boyle. I’d bring him back in a heartbeat. And yes, you are right, pick management is the main problem. I see Malkin reverting to his old habits.

Steve
Steve
27 days ago

Honest question. I don’t get to rewatch games or video much, but my view of Dumoulin during the cup years was that he was not just solid defensively but sneaky good with the puck. He seemed capable of spinning or making a subtle move to give forwards time to speed up the transition game or setup offensively. Over the two years or so, again I can’t say it is more than an impression, he seems to do less of that or he is getting hit and forced into turnovers more. To me, that is the biggest change in my view… Read more »

Steve
Steve
27 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Red snapper?

marc
marc
27 days ago

Thanks, Dan! Let’s hope jelling begins as soon as friggin possible for the bottom two lines and PK. I’m seeing glimpses of electricity on Geno’s line (which has gone away with the mentioned puck management issues). They can do some pretty, pretty things with the puck and those quick touch passes.

My eyes have seen the grind below the dots. Come on, Pens…where yinz at!??

Pepper
Pepper
27 days ago

IDK, Dan. You yourself wrote an article within the last week or so saying the bottom two lines are not good. That’s on the GM. You just can’t fill your roster with soft, aging/aged, wannabe firewagon players in an era where size, speed, tenacity, and grinding it out wins the games that count. This entire team seems to want to play prime-era Malkin style, but none of them – including current Malkin – have the speed and skill that prime-era Malkin had. Carter and Kapanen were clear mistakes. They’re eating up salary space that could have been used on energy… Read more »

Dave
Dave
27 days ago

If you can’t see how bad DeSmith is, you’re blind. No matter if he makes the save or not, he is out of position on nearly every angle shot from the dots, he over slides on most plays, he doesn’t look comfortable or in control during lateral movements, and he looks to be guessing of just simply what to do if there is any bit of a screen in front of him. Watching him this season, I can’t believe he is an NHL goalie. Every shot looks like it’s going to be a goal based on his positioning and it’s… Read more »

Sjf928
Sjf928
26 days ago

Archibald has 3 goals so far, is a +3, and has 34 hits. He has good speed, is strong on the forecheck and has better puck skills than he is being credited for. The 4th line has played better lately as evidenced by more zone time and scoring goals in back to back games. Poehling had a nice assist on Archibald’s’ goal and McGinn made the play to get it up ice. To continue to blame the bottom 6 on these losses is just an excuse to not want to admit to the real core problems that have plagued this… Read more »