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Questions Penguins and Fans Should Ask Themselves and Each Other

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The dust is settling from the Pittsburgh Penguins crash-and-burn early NHL postseason exit almost two weeks ago. The big decisions loom and the Penguins’ needs must be addressed to avoid another repeat of the embarrassing losses which punctuated the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The Penguins have serious questions about their immediate future, have removed three assistant coaches already, and are preparing for what comes next.

There is a myriad of questions they are asking themselves, and fans have a right to ask, or be heard on, as well. As much as many sports professionals voice resistance to considering fan opinion, NHL teams also know ticket sales are a big part of their income. Appeasement isn’t only a Lord Chamberlain strategy, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are known to be sensitive to fan interests.

The Penguins’ consideration of fan interests is the reason there still exists a three-headed core group of players and was almost a four-headed monster or even a five-player core. Yes, in the past, there has been at least one trade in place or nearly in place which was vetoed from above (pre-Rutherford era).

Pittsburgh Penguins questions:

*If it meant not getting close to the Stanley Cup again, would you still like to see both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin retire as Penguins? What about Kris Letang, Crosby, and Malkin?

*If internet “hockey” influencers didn’t throw a temper tantrum the moment after GM Jim Rutherford signed Jack Johnson, would the backlash continue to be so intense? Is it really about Johnson, or have a lot of people emotionally invested in proving themselves correct, being heard, and getting what they want?

The way the internet gatekeepers mocked and twisted Rutherford’s words on Thursday proved a big component has become group validation. The devout rejection or refusal to compute the PHN play diagrams which frequently (but not always) absolved Johnson on some of the most controversial goals-against is…interesting.

*Where are the Penguins going to find a competent, capable top-six RW? There aren’t viable options on the free-agent market.

*Who is calling the shots regarding Mike Sullivan and staff? PHN was the first to report that a phone call from ownership set in motion the events which cleaned house around Sullivan. Who will hire the assistants? And if Sullivan isn’t trusted to do so, why is he the head coach?

*Regarding those coaching vacancies, will the Penguins continue their time-honored tradition of promoting from within or seek new perspectives?

*Would you support a full youth movement? You say you will, but would you buy tickets and watch a group of unproven kids struggling in the NHL and placeholder players scuffling until other kids are ready?

*Should the Penguins consider a full overhaul while Sidney Crosby is only 33-years-old and try to get a hungry, talented team around him before he’s 36?

*If the Penguins fade into mediocrity as Detroit did after the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, are you OK with the long, slow slide because winning is often a buy now, pay later deal?

*Is it possible to get better without splashing into free agency or trading marquee players?

*If trading the 15th overall pick got the Penguins back into real, legitimate contention for two more years, but would mean a prolonged rebuild, would you do it?

*Jim Rutherford is a fan’s dream as a GM. He’s always working the phones to improve his team, undo mistakes and he’s honest. However, the Penguins are nearing the end of their run. How much longer will he hold the job?

Stanley Cup-winning GMs have a mixed history. Some, like Jay Feaster (Tampa Bay) and Dean Lombardi (LA) go with their coach or shortly after. Others, such as Stan Bowman (Chicago) and Ken Holland (Detroit) got to stick around.

*Can Rutherford find a way to finally pry Sam Bennett from Calgary?

*Edmonton needs a starting goalie. They also have a peachy RW prospect with whom they’ve been at war (Jesse Puljujarvi). Is there symmetry there?

*Lastly, and most importantly, what will it take to excite the Pittsburgh Penguins, and you, about 2020-21?

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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mstar80
mstar80
1 year ago

Well to see alive hockey in 20-21 would excite me. Don’t see that happening. We need to use the Murray trade as a way to retool. I don’t see him going to the Oilers. I think he’s going to Minny with hopefully JJ.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
1 year ago

I think by trading the 1st pick, unless you are moving into the top 10 is a waste. Personally, i would overhaul this team- Murray, Johnson, Hornquist, even Letang- well, who will replace him, someone will replace him. With amount of guys that are going out. You could be a solid contender in 2 years, def a playoff fringe team next season. By keeping these guys will not change the outcome, so make the moves now. I sadly do not trust JR with doing these changes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rich Filardi
Vittorio DiStazio Jr
Vittorio DiStazio Jr
1 year ago

Enough with Puljujari talk. I get sick and tired of this garbage. the due has shown nothing in his career thus far and yet there are pens fans who think he fits the team, based on what?

Who are these somebody’s Rich Filardi? You want Horny and Tanger gone okay who takes there places, why don’t you give out some names and not the usual BS I hear all the time of “somebody else”.

Vittorio DiStazio Jr
Vittorio DiStazio Jr
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Well what exactly did I say that was wrong? The talk about Puljujarvi is mind numbingly boring and when I say I don’t like the the phrase somebody else I don’t cause it implies that anybody is an upgrade over Horny and Tanger which is a flat out lie.

Vittorio DiStazio Jr
Vittorio DiStazio Jr
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

I didn’t get angry I’m just asking a simple yet honest question.

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 year ago

You’re coming in calling people’s opinions garbage and BS in a very Twitter worthy tone. Immediately confrontational and insulting because you disagree with a stranger on the Internet. A good portion of the article alludes to the toxicity of people interacting online.

Vittorio DiStazio Jr
Vittorio DiStazio Jr
1 year ago

No I called the Puljujarvi talk nonsense. Then the comment of replace HQ and Letang with somebody else isn’t an answer. Now if fans want to say replace Letang with(instert players name) by all means but saying replace them with somebody else as if it’s super easy to replace All Star talent.

Hey I got an idea lets replace Sid and Geno with somebody else and let’s see what the fans think of that

Jeff Arnold
Jeff Arnold
1 year ago

I can’t argue with the point though no matter how it was made — it’s not a simple plug and go (prime example was Brassard who looked great on paper but never panned out, though an opposite example was Hagelin). This team needs an attitude overhaul rather than a skill one, and unfortunately sometimes that equals the megastars and the head coach and missing the playoffs for a few years.

Russell Ridenbaugh
Russell Ridenbaugh
1 year ago

You only get out what you put in. The problem seems to be Pens Disease that was passed on to the Caps. One spark and very lethargic effort from the whole team brings about disastrous results. How do you coach attitude and effort?

Lars Erik Nelson
Lars Erik Nelson
1 year ago

The Pens have 2 solvable problems. Defense and 3rd line The Pens need to upgrade their defense. They need to sign a UFA like Torey Krug Left D, if they can. This would set up pairings Dumo-Letang, Krug-Marino, Pettersson-Joseph (Rookie or other) They need to trade JJ if they can. Although he is not the whole problem with the D. We need to get a much better 3rd line.Get Sam Bennet (Center, Calgary), McCann on wing, Hornquist (Hard to Trade). I would look for better 3rd line players if possible Sheary, Shultz, Rodriguez are gone. Trade Murray, McCann, Bjugstad, and… Read more »

Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas
1 year ago

Inevitably, high flying teams eventually go into nose dives. We have seen this take place around the league for decades. Amazingly, the Pens have avoided this nose dive for several years because they have mortgaged their future for the NOW but this comes with a huge price tag in sparse younger quality talent and an empty stock-room of draft picks. JR has actually done a masterful job at keeping this team in highly competitive. Right now he faces his most difficult decisions as to stick with nostalgia of the core in-tact or if he will depart with one or two… Read more »

Ujn Hunter
1 year ago

Sid & Geno? Yes. Letang should have been traded years ago… so… no time like the present to ship him out.

Shirley jardine
Shirley jardine
1 year ago
Reply to  Ujn Hunter

Get rid of Geno, I’ll never understand why he makes more money than Sid and can’t rely on him to play a full great game, in the box, bad passing, won’t pasS to Sid , rather get goals for himself, not playing for team
, and sulky, when don’t get his way😫😫😩

Patrick M Cvetic
Patrick M Cvetic
1 year ago

Sid make less because he signed a long term deal. And he did so at his choice. If he wanted to make sure he was the top paid player he would be…. Rather it was in Pittsburgh or not. Im sure he could have made more money if he had wanted to even if it was by signing a shorter deal

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