The Stanley Cup scene was befitting a worthy champion. The Vegas Golden Knights lifted that glorious trophy and appropriately honored their foundation. A couple of former Pittsburgh Penguins will get their name on the Stanley Cup, and ironically it is the Penguins organization that is trying to rebuild. And we’re talking Penguins trade wisdom in the one-timer.
Vegas shocked no one by pummeling the Florida Panthers. I was shocked at how many thought Florida had a chance.
Wrapping up the former Penguins in the series, Patric Hornqvist is unlikely to play again. That didn’t come from him; that’s just the word around the Florida organization. They don’t expect him back. Fortunately, he seemed in good form when we chatted after Game 4. Hopefully, he does not have lingering or long-term effects. But his second concussion was too easily received to consider playing again.
Though if there is one crazy Viking who could surprise, it would be him.
Golden Knights center Teddy Blueger smiled from ear to ear on the ice following the Stanley Cup presentation. It had to stink for Blueger. He came up with the Penguins in 2018-19, more than a full year after the Penguins won back-to-back Cups. He was around the Cup celebrations but not really a part of it. The Round Two win over Edmonton was the first time Blueger was on the good side of the handshake line.
Thanks to a reader (thanks, Aigars), we have confirmation that Blueger’s name will be on the Cup. I wasn’t going to ask such a potentially sour question in such a wonderful setting, but I’m glad we have an answer. Here’s the article from Latvia.
Blueger really shined at the end of the Edmonton series when he was matched against Connor McDavid. However, Blueger didn’t chip in much puck possession or offense, and Cassidy returned Michael Amadio to the lineup in a middle-six winger role and Nic Roy back to the fourth-line center.
It’s been a nice month for Latvian hockey. A bronze medal and a name on the Cup.
Phil Kessel is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and should also be engraved. The criteria are more than 41 regular season games or a game in the Final, and he played all 82 regular season games. Or, in Blueger’s case, in can be at the team’s discretion.
Side note, Bruce Cassidy is such a tremendous person to deal with. He answers every question in detail. He makes the group of reporters smarter. He is the perfect coach for Vegas. His system has a simplicity built on their big defensemen staying home, and his temperament seems to fit the team well.
And I think you’ll see a run on big defensemen at the draft and in free agency.
Jason Spezza Subtext
Unsurprisingly, Jason Spezza joined the Pittsburgh Penguins organization Wednesday morning as an assistant general manager. Perhaps the surprise was it took so long. President of hockey operations Kyle Dubas snapped up his former Toronto lieutenant, who resigned a day after Dubas was unceremoniously terminated during contract negotiations.
The move also forecasts what type of organizational structure we might see. It would ordinarily be odd to hire an assistant GM before a GM. The move, at least from this view, points to Dubas keeping a large degree of control in hockey operations. Perhaps he’ll hire a few AGMs and keep the GM title. Or, he’ll create a situation similar to what Jim Rutherford did in Vancouver by hiring a GM and AGMs to tutor.
Regardless of the final structure, Spezza comes well-regarded.
Will the Penguins trade for a goalie, sign one, or re-sign Tristan Jarry?
One of the Penguins’ trade potentials is getting a bum wrap from amateur analytics folks on Twitter.
The internet recently discovered that Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson had a terrible save percentage this season, .899. Nor has Gibson had great stats over the last few years.
Granted, .899 is brutal for a starting goalie, but how many Anaheim Ducks games did anyone watch? Anaheim wasn’t just a bad team. They were a bad team without heart. They became a topic of conversation around the league because they had talent but did not play the game “the right way.”
Gibson was brilliant against the Penguins on Feb. 10. His stellar performance kept the losing deficit to only a few goals, and he stopped 53 of 59.
That save percentage if you’re curious, is .898.
Bad situations wear on people. The other Anaheim goalies, Lukas Dostal and Anthony Stolarz, played 19 games and had save percentages of .901 and .899, respectively.
Don’t get in the weeds on Gibson, and let’s not overthink this one. This writer doesn’t believe there is the right stuff for a Penguins trade with Anaheim, but if they did, don’t get too high on analytics or numbers in this case. They mean absolutely nothing here because Gibson wasn’t in a comparable situation.
A goalie behind a bad team is going to be bad. The real question for scouts is Gibson’s health, mental outlook, and physical play.
And for the road. Phil Kessel, a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) June 14, 2023