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Penguins Offseason Analysis

Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Questions: What If?



NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 21: Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad (27) is shown during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins, held on March 21, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire)

Changing thinking and beliefs in a social media, 24/7, hyper-saturated media environment is next to impossible. There is always someone else to confirm a belief, proffer a feel-good explanation or emotional validation. But what if we changed the paradigm? Asked the same questions, took the same thoughts but reversed them to look at questions, issues and beliefs from the opposite angle? What if we looked at the Pittsburgh Penguins through a different lens?

What if wasn’t Jack Johnson who dragged down Phil Kessel, but Kessel’s absence in the defensive zone or availability for an outlet pass dragged down Jack Johnson? Both had a much better Corsi (though both were still below 50%) apart than together (43%).

What if Evgeni Malkin didn’t want to play with Kessel but was saddled with him because Kessel wouldn’t play with anyone else?

What if Alex Galchenyuk is what he has been?

What if the Penguins and GM Jim Rutherford are right about the game changing to a team-game with speed, grit and then talent? Columbus took down Tampa Bay. The New York Islanders pasted the Penguins. St. Louis won the Stanley Cup one year after Washington did.

What if Patric Hornqvist wasn’t healthy or simply suffered a slump in the second half of the season but is rested and ready to go next season?

What if the Penguins power play drops without Phil Kessel but the penalty kill soars with Brandon Tanev? Goal differential, not goals is the important stat.

What if increased defensive responsibility protects Matt Murray?

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

What if Kris Letang’s miscues and goals allowed are less than the rewards of his risky play? And what if his turnovers and mistakes are in-line with other top defensemen but his salary is well below that level?

What if Erik Gudbranson was in the wrong system, trying to fit the wrong roles before being acquired by the Penguins?

What do we expect from Justin Schultz?

Are 40 points and a healthy goal differential an acceptable output for a third line center? That’s what Nick Bjugstad brought.

Could Juuso Riikola fit into the Penguins top-six defensemen and who would he displace? Could Zach Trotman?

What if the Penguins get these decisions right but it still isn’t enough to win the Stanley Cup? How would you react?

What if trading Johnson costs the Penguins Tristan Jarry, but Murray wants franchise goalie/Sergei Bobrovsky cash? Then what?

What if the Pittsburgh Penguins penalty kill dips without Jack Johnson?

What if the Penguins get these decisions wrong?

What if my head starts to hurt with too many questions?

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.



  1. Frank

    July 4, 2019 at 9:43 am

    All of those questions are just a peek into the world of GMJR and all other NHL GM’s. Unfortunately for them the discussion is real while for all others it is just something to yak about during the off season. Of course what those guys can or cannot do include knowing facts and figures that the rest of us have not a clue. But there is nothing more frustrating than paralysis by analysis and if you have any faith in your own judgement you have to pull the trigger on something or simply accept that you may be the wrong guy for the job.
    The team as it was at the end of the season, had a nice collection of talent . .. but was not a particularly cohesive group that all pulled in the same direction. Add to that is the fact that the sands were rapidly draining to the bottom of the hour glass and was heading to an implosion in less that 3 three seasons. I have no idea if the draft picks and free agents and trades will work out. Probably some will, but most definitely some will not. The team with the changes is at worst the equal of what would have been had Rutherford stayed with the group. I think it will be better, but the wheels of transition are in motion. They are younger and faster and ultimately (as picks develop) will be bigger. If you look ahead the franchise is going to have a “super star-less” line up for a long long time. That is going to be a huge adjustment for the franchise and the fan base. Maybe you do not like any of the changes made, but at least he has “pulled the trigger” and not sitting fingers crossed that he can squeeze competitive teams that a quickly running out of juice. We will see.

  2. Dean

    July 4, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Some good questions,

    However, where we stand now; someone has to be shipped out. The best choice based upon historical performance indicators, contract, and age the obvious person is Johnson. Now can Rutherford make that happen without having to lose another player, I am not sure. If we do package a forward with him, for me it would be Galchenyuk. He is a UFA after this year (contract), he also has historical performance indicators

    The second big question should be DeSmith or Jarry. DeSmith would be the obvious answer to me based upon upside alone.

    The other questions are fund to talk about.

  3. Hatrick Pornqvist

    July 4, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Right now it comes down to Bjugstad, Rust, or Johnson most likely. Based on how this team likes to have depth and spare guys around for D, the fact JJ’s contract isn’t easily moved, and how Sullivan trusts him over Riikola, and the fact that JR said it was him or Maatta, I highly doubt they trade him. I would almost guarantee they don’t move any assets just to dump him. That’s the internet’s plan, but honestly I think it’s hilarious.

    So I think it’s Rust it Bjugstad. Based on how hard they’ve worked to shore up the offence with centres over the last few years, centres who can play the wing and move up and down, I wouldn’t bet Bjugstad goes now that we have him and McCann to fit that description (also Chucky but he likely will be top 6 wing). Add in the fact that the line Bjugstad centered with Hornqvist and Simon did very well, and all signs point to Rust being more likely to be traded.

    My guess is that Rust, Jarry, and maybe one more cheaper guy get moved. Maybe as a package, maybe separately. That cap savings will lock up Petterssen and Blueger, likely ZAR. That’ll be the end of the moves I’ll bet.

  4. RobertU

    July 4, 2019 at 11:41 am

    All questions the troll mob online should be asking themselves, but don’t b/c they’re an echo chamber, the maga cult of the sports world. Anyway, I think we’re all overlooking the possibility of moving Schultz. His stock has never been higher, he’s either going to be traded or allowed to walk after this season, and TBH, he wasn’t that good last season, making some mistakes that were very costly. Still, externally, the perception seems to be that he’s a solid D man and someone will pay a lot for that. I can’t see Sullivan okaying a Rust trade, though I guess it could happen anyway.

    • henrik jonsson

      July 4, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      welll if sullivan trust JJ over Riikola hes blind … is he blind?
      JJ has to go EB too..
      EB decrease his salary to 2M not worth more.maybe keep him then
      Rust most likely to be moved JJ+Rust for D Man
      EB for pick or buy out.

      • Dean

        July 4, 2019 at 1:47 pm

        what is EB?

        • Richard O'Toole

          July 4, 2019 at 1:58 pm

          I’m pretty sure he means EG. The flaw in his thinking is, his contract cannot be reduced.

  5. Richard O'Toole

    July 4, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Watch out Dan! You’re starting to put together a site with people who are participating who are actually civil with common sense sprinkled in. I liked all of your comments guys, I’ve been saying essentially the same things for almost a week now and get excoriated for them, not that I care what others think.

  6. Richard O'Toole

    July 4, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Watch out Dan. You’re starting to build a site where the people who participate are civil with a dose of common sense sprinkled in. I liked all of your comments guys, good job! I’ve been saying essentially the same things for almost a week now about all this past weeks activities, and have been excoriated by the mob of children from their mom and dad’s basements.

    • Dan Kingerski

      July 4, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      I was thinking much the same thing. I’ve had chances to include others in the management of PHN but ultimately decided their thinking was “group think”. This site will always be out of the mainstream but I hope recognized for its superior work and thought.

  7. Zane Gearhart

    July 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    If I was GM I’d try to trade Galchenyuk and JJ to open up 8.4 million, either trade them for a 2LD or use that money to sign Gardiner and the RFA, Dumo, Gardiner, and Petterson on LD, with Letang, Shultz, And Guds would be a pretty strong d. We have enough wingers , we need to strengthen our D.

  8. ellenscult

    July 4, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    I think Penguins fans are going to have to make a choice. Framing that as per your (excellent) article: What if Penguins fans embraced the idea of team rather than the cult of a Name?

    The Pens have been built around Names, especially with Lemieux and Jagr, then Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Fleury, (Kessel) etc. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the outstanding feats these names have achieved while moving forward to an era where Sid will be remembered for being outstanding in bringing his team together as well as for his individual efforts.

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  10. Edgar

    July 5, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Love all the questions. Just want 2 things for Christmas. OK, 2 things for opening night. I want Letang to play a little smarter. Pick his spots. That’s what the truly great ones do. And I’d love a little more defensive responsibility as a whole. It was hard work and attention to detail that ultimately beat SJ in the finals. Yes, we had superior talent, but shutting teams down wins. Letting one of the worst offensive teams in history (hyperbole maybe)-the NY Islanders- average 3.5 goal a game in the playoffs is completely ridiculous.

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