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Where Do We Stand? Official PHN Penguins Position Statements

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In the age of polarization, too often nuance or clarity are muddled in the snark and grouping of opinion. It is or it isn’t. For or against. As Pittsburgh Hockey Now continues to cover the Pittsburgh Penguins on a daily basis, but news becomes scarce and analysis fills our pages, it seems an appropriate moment to set forth our official opinions on the Pittsburgh Penguins situations.

Dissent welcome.

Position: Six years for Brandon Tanev is unusual but not egregious.

Reasoning: Some players choose amount over annual value. For example, Jack Johnson specified an amount and was flexible regarding term. It is quite possible, Tanev had higher-salary offers, but the Penguins won the player with extra years on the contract but a lower AAV. It wouldn’t be awkward to sign a 30-year-old to a three-year deal so while the six-year deal is unorthodox, the risk is average.

Position: The Penguins defense is good enough to win.

Reasoning: There is a big gulf between good enough and the best. The Penguins defense has too many defensive defensemen and not enough offense. However, the Penguins can win games with the defense because they are able to suppress the opposition and the new forward crew is both responsible and deep. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan will have his “five-man effort.”

One change to the defense could necessitate an overhaul, which isn’t necessary and may not lead to improvement. It’s a perilous situation.

Position: Jim Rutherford has improved the team.

Reasoning: PHN has been clear on what we believe to be Rutherford’s mistakes (not dealing Derick Brassard sooner, perhaps not dealing Kessel sooner are two examples). The additions of Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad, with Marcus Pettersson on the backside, set the Penguins ahead last season. The subtraction of Kessel and acquisition of Alex Galchenyuk was an A+ effort given the circumstances.

Tanev will be a firecracker in the Penguins lineup, too. However, we also think Rutherford will need to add a dash of offense before the trade deadline.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Position: A trade will be easier to clear cap room but more difficult to execute.

Reasoning: More nuance. We detailed the dominos of a Jack Johnson trade and the resulting needs which would require one or two additional moves. We’ve also dabbled in a Justin Schultz-deal speculation as a way of salary cap relief. A trade of Johnson, Schultz, or forward Bryan Rust would be the easy way, but for several reasons including salary cap constraints, the Penguins expected returns for Johnson or Rust would unlikely make the team better.

Short of finding a good deal, the best way is to chop salary as we detailed Tuesday and wait for an opening to make a good deal, most likely after the season begins.

Position: Too many have got the Jack Johnson situation all wrong.

Reasoning: The Penguins took a step down when they dealt Ian Cole after making the internal decision they would not re-sign him. Cole to Johnson is not a winning swap for the Penguins. But to splash Corsi numbers and endless stats on Jack Johnson is to omit too many real-life variables, most notably playing out of position in mismatched defensive pairings and his work in his own zone.

Rutherford erred by signing Johnson, a defensive left-side defenseman when the Penguins needed an offensive right-handed shot for the third pairing. That doesn’t mean the barrage of endless silliness against Johnson is warranted. We receive some outlandish stuff. It’s worse elsehwere.

Somewhere above the vitriol and relentless attacks, Johnson provides value. Though our favorite line which has been echoed several times is, “I see no evidence Johnson is a good player.” Good is a subjective term, but rejecting the evidence of value after the mountain of corrections, diagrams, and information put forth by PHN doesn’t prove the opposite.

Position: Mike Sullivan didn’t lose the team but next season will be interesting.

Reasoning: Sullivan lost a couple of key players, one of whom has a history of grinding coaches. Otherwise, the team as a whole played hard. The coming season will be interesting because Sullivan does not begin on the hot seat, but begins with a recent negative history and the task of re-acquiring full-scale buy-in. In many ways, he is starting at square one; he’ll need to reaffirm commitment to a complete game, command a team with entirely different chemistry and preside over a shift towards the type of fast, tough-to-play-against hockey he has stressed. Sullivan will get his wish with a roster capable of executing the new style and he’ll do so with a new four-year contract.

On paper, it is a much better situation for Sullivan but those can sour in a hurry. Star Trek plots always killed the new guy for dramatic effect, but the Penguins are almost out of available shakeup moves. Next comes the stars.

Position: The Penguins will not miss the playoffs but they must prove they have enough offense.

Reasoning: Suppression will not be an issue for the Penguins deep, heavy and fast roster. Filling the net will be the issue. Galchenyuk hasn’t scored 20 goals in any of the past three seasons. The Penguins may full well emulate the New York Islanders success of 2018-19.

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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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Dean

    July 25, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Last year starting line-up

    Guentzel – Crosby – Rust
    Hagelin – Malkin – Hornqvist
    Simon – Brassard – Kessel
    Sheahan – Cullen – Sprong

    This year-projected line-up

    McCann – Crosby – Guentzel
    Galcheyuk – Malkin – Rust
    Kahun – Bjudstad – Hornqvist
    ZAR – Blueger – Tanev

    Player for player swap

    Hagelin – McCann
    Brassard – Bjugstad
    Kessel – Galchenyuk
    Simon – Kahun
    Sheehan – ZAR
    Cullen – Blueger
    Sprong – Tanev

    Outside of Kessel/Galchenyuk the pens has upgraded players. With the Kessel situation this is a good risk to take.

    What can I say about JJ that has not already been said? Whether you like it or not historical statistical performance does indicate future performance. JJ has a 95% chance that he will post 45-47% CF% and a 45-47% FF%. Why because he has a 12 years of historical performance that proves it (now that is a good sample size). That will rank his play around the 200TH defensemen in the league, with a relative value of about a $750K performer.

  2. gerald gilbert

    July 25, 2019 at 10:07 am

    I love reading your stuff! Everyone has an opinion but you seem to have a good grasp of logic in your writing and not fueled by emotion.

    Tanev
    I like the signing. I think he will bring energy to a vanilla lineup. IDK about the dollar amount. He brings a lot to the table but I think we just seen his career high offensively. Length not a problem.

    Defense/Johnson
    Johnson is a solid defenseman. Is he over paid for to long? Maybe BUT if the Pens can get the pairs together early and they stay healthy(knock on wood) I think this group could come together and be good enough as you said. I think a bigger issue was forward support.

    JR improvement/Sullivan team buy in
    I think the dysfunction was in 2 players. Brassard and Kessel. I’m sure they are great people. When Brassard doesn’t want to fill the existing openings it leaves holes and dysfunction. Same with Kessel as he came to Pit thinking I’ll be playing with Sid or Geno and then Sullivan happened and he is the lead on the 3rd line. That was fine when it ended with a Cup but not the last 2 years. Malkin may have been pulled into the weeds by Kessel(pure speculation). Do the Pens have that loud aggressive veteran get in line voice from a player?

    Cap
    The Pens are in a pinch but the one thing JR is good at is not being taken on trades and that looks like the way out of the pinch. Unfortunately the path of least resistance(When it comes to creating more holes.) is trading Rust. He seems to be the most replaceable from within or cheaply.

    Playoff
    Yes. 2nd in the Met pushing the Craps. IDK about winning the Cup…..YET.

  3. Edgar

    July 25, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Love the site, agree with, well, not a lot in this particular article.

    -Seems like we could have/should have done better than Tanev. Maybe Jim should have listened to Joshua and realized the only winning move was not to play.

    -I’ve been a harsh critic of the defense from before the cups. We were Ok in ’15 because the forwards helped like crazy. ’16 was some of the most fortunate stuff I’ve seen in awhile. (PK’s skate, no shots for over a period, quick whistle in game 6). But our defenseman in a vacuum stunk and we haven’t improved much. Plus again, we are fortunate enough to still have the game’s 2 best players.

    -Rutherford screwed the pooch when he traded Hags. Seriously, does he have a clue as to what makes a good hockey team? And signed Johnson. And I’m not a Johnson hater. But, I do believe it was fueled by Crosby.

    -I love Sully. truly love the man.

    -90-95 points. There will most likely be deadline stuff, and who knows what else. This team is good enough to be next year’s Jackets.

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