Not all opinions fade, especially when they become firmly rooted in emotional investment and frustration. There are a few of those fish swimming around the Pittsburgh Penguins’ koi pond, which is currently filled with frustration and anger, both in the locker room and the paid seats.
Mike Sullivan. Evgeni Malkin. Kris Letang.
Those are not a few of Oprah’s favorite things, nor are they popular in the fanbase at the moment, yet according to Moneypuck.com, the Penguins are still a favorite to make the playoffs, with a 54.2% chance. With their games in hand, they should be close, if not in a playoff seed.
Of course, as coach Sullivan noted Friday morning, “we have to win those games.”
The Penguins had a great chance to snag at least two points on their desert road trip, leading the injury-tattered Vegas Golden Knights 2-0 in the third period, but lost 3-2 before a no-show loss against Arizona two nights later.
“It was the Vegas game that was more frustrating,” said center Lars Eller after the Arizona loss.
Thursday after practice, Penguins winger Bryan Rust admitted to the team playing some “horsesh*t” hockey.
And now you’re caught up.
Pittsburgh Penguins Q&A
Why not a late round draft pick for Butcher instead of a seemingly non-prospect?
— D Spag (@dspag4) January 26, 2024
I’m assuming you read what sources with first-hand knowledge of the Penguins trade told us. It was a courtesy. Will Butcher was blocked in the Penguins organization, and the team has plenty of help on the blue line. He needs ice time to complete his rehab/get into game shape but was on a veteran-scratch rotation.
Dubas did him a solid. Perhaps no team readily offered a later pick, and Dubas wasn’t going to hold up a player’s progression over getting a seventh-rounder.
By doing so, Dubas showed players and agents that he would not hold a player hostage to a bad situation, which means others in similar situations who need to play in the AHL to get back to the NHL, players such as Colin White or Zach Aston-Reese, will be more open to the Penguins in the future.
Dan, do you have any idea why the team has been so hesitant to call up the younger guys? I think it could be trying to let them build confidence before they’re being relied upon at the next level but even one piece of supporting evidence would make me feel better.
— smash (@jrbiscardo) January 26, 2024
Aside from Drew O’Connor, Radim Zohorna, Valtteri Puustinen, P.O Joseph, John Ludvig, Jansen Harkins, Alex Nylander, Marc Johnstone, and Jonathan Gruden, the Penguins have not given anyone a chance.
If only Mike Sullivan didn’t hate young players, Peter Abbandonato would be ready to claim his NHL glory with Corey Andonovski.
In seriousness, the only NHL-ready player with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who hasn’t gotten the call is Sam Poulin, and I detailed his game Thursday morning in the PHN+ extra from WBS. Jansen Harkins is a much better fit.
The Penguins are trying to win every game they can so they make the playoffs. On-the-job training for a marginal player isn’t good business for a team in the Penguins position. The Penguins don’t have anything more in WBS than marginal NHL players.
at what point would you decide on the direction of the team? at what point does dubas decide this? can they reboot on the fly and if someone has to go, who? guentzel, malkin, jarry, karlsson?
— Drizzy16 (@ryandperfect101) January 26, 2024
Your first question is probably the easiest one of the Q&A. The Penguins have several games in hand. Lose a few of those, and they are OUT … OUT OUT OUT of the playoff race. It would be the night of John Wick’s impossible task to leapfrog four to six teams with less than two months remaining and trailing by six or more points.
Sidney Crosby has been extraordinary, but there’s no way around the funky bunch of teams between them and a playoff spot.
Yes, I think they can reboot on the fly, but it will take salary cap cash. I believe they will need another top-six-worthy center beginning next season. Those don’t come easy or cheap. After that, they can fill in the rest. If they’re not in a playoff chase, Jake Guentzel necessarily must be re-signed or put on the NHL trade block.
Erik Karlsson is an interesting discussion. He came to Pittsburgh to win. If that’s not going to happen, is he back on the trade block? I think so, but that’s pure speculation. Moving Guentzel and Karlsson, combined with letting Jeff Carter’s contract expire, would free up nearly $20 million.
Is it time to have ‘the talk’ with malkin about a lesser role or less ice time?
— J🍩ey Bag 🍩f D🍩nuts 🍩 (@joeybagovdonuts) January 26, 2024
I think it’s time to threaten that talk. Age seems to be gaining rapidly on Evgeni Malkin. He looks like he’s lost a little bit of weight, but he’s also lost that gallop through center ice. The Penguins should be concerned.
Since the first few weeks of the season, Malkin hasn’t been Malkin. At 27, it’s a slump. At 37, with two more years on a contract that cannot be untethered, it’s time to look ahead for bigger solutions.
What do you think the ceiling on Ludvig is long term? Pens seem to be missing what he brought to be lineup.
Which pens draft pick makes a meaningful NHL impact the soonest? (Poulin, Yager, Blomqvist, Pickering)
Thank you for the always great pens coverage!
— LTIR Dman (@JustinSchutzEgo) January 26, 2024
It’s tough to define John Ludvig’s ceiling because we haven’t seen too much of him. He might be unable to withstand the rigors of the physical style that he wants; he’s not a player who is bigger and heavier than the players he’s hitting. His puck movement has been up to par but not special or worthy of a top-four role. He’s probably a 6/7 defenseman with an edge when healthy, anyway.