Sullivan Hedges on Blueger Despite Strong Performance
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Sullivan Hedges on Blueger Despite Strong Performance



PITTSBURGH — Mike Sullivan did not offer a ringing endorsement of center Teddy Blueger when given a chance, Sunday night. The Pittsburgh Penguins head coach was offered an opening to affirm Blueger as one of the Penguins centers in Evgeni Malkin’s absence but instead punted the opportunity.

And Sullivan did so despite a standout performance by Blueger against the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday. In addition to scoring the Penguins only goal, Blueger lit up the advanced stat sheet, too.

“(Malkin) is a tough guy to replace. He’s obviously an elite player. So…that speaks for itself. As far as what we’ll do moving forward, we’ll take it game by game and see how it goes,” Sullivan said.

Yeah, not exactly a vote of confidence. Sullivan also similarly dodged questions about Nick Bjugstad after the Penguins acquired him and Jared McCann on Feb. 1. Despite numerous opportunities, Sullivan consistently ducked the chance to name Bjugstad the third line center, then followed through on his dodges by moving Bjugstad to right wing.

(We discussed this comparison and the Penguins lines without Malkin on the video channel, too)

Bjugstad didn’t become a Penguins center until the Stadium Series game when he and Patric Hornqvist clicked with McCann on the left wing.

However, Sullivan generally offered some praise for Bjugstad despite not anointing him as a pivot. The blow off or dismissal of Blueger despite arguably the strongest game of the Penguins centers is puzzling.

Lining up the stats, in several minutes less ice time than Bjugstad and Sidney Crosby, Blueger’s line created seven scoring chances which equaled the others (all stats according to Blueger’s line had the same favorable scoring chance ratio as Crosby’s trio (63 percent), too. It should be noted Blueger with Bryan Rust and Phil Kessel did their damage mostly against Philadelphia’s lower lines, especially the fourth line.

But Sullivan did see Blueger score the Penguins lone goal by generating chances below the dots and finishing Kessel’s rebound, yes? Blueger also did not take a defensive zone faceoff, despite winning 80 percent of his draws, Sunday night. With Kessel as a linemate, it’s understandable the line wasn’t deployed except for a pair of micro shifts as the Penguins were pinned down in the third period, but perhaps Blueger’s line could have broken free.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Nothing would have prevented Sullivan from swapping Kessel and Garrett Wilson on the line for some defensive help.

It’s all a bit puzzling.

Based on Sullivan’s specific dodge and not even using Blueger’s name, the Penguins likely have other plans for the vacant center position. The only other available option is to move McCann back to the middle and Rust back to Crosby’s right wing.

McCann has played with Kessel for nearly 13 minutes this season. The best which can be said of that pairing is they haven’t burned down PPG Paints Arena. When paired, they have posted a paltry 28 percent scoring chance ratio.

Surely Sullivan recognizes McCann has well adapted to the left wing position because it frees him to use his speed and tenacity without as much defensive constraint. In the middle, McCann was buttoned up.

Blueger is a natural center who has displayed the opposite tendency. On the wing, Blueger was not nearly as effective as he was in the middle.

Given Blueger’s immediate success with Kessel and McCann’s lack of success, it would seem to be a steady course to roll with Blueger beside Kessel for as long as it works. Also, without versatile winger Zach Aston-Reese, the Penguins are not flush with options. They have only 12 healthy forwards including recently recalled but sparingly used Joseph Blandisi.

Without Malkin, the Penguins do not have a great option. But how many teams would? The Penguins found something which worked, Sunday night. Instead of rearranging the lineup to accommodate shuffling wings and centers, the Penguins best course of action would be to pat Blueger on the back and send him out there with confidence.

It’s not like he could stifle Kessel’s even strength offense any further than Kessel already has.



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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. BIG B

    March 19, 2019 at 10:54 am

    WHAT A SHOCK the coach does not love a player the GM loves.Sully is a big problem and if they don’t go far in the playoffs he is getting fired.If you doubt that look at Jr’s track record, he is not afraid to fire a coach who wins a cup, just ask Peter Laviolette.Jim is like Lou Lamorello when he was in Jersey and fired coaches no matter the record if he felt they could not win the cup.

    • Matt Luda

      March 19, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      What you mean is, GMJR isn’t afraid to make a major mistake. Ain’t that right, Antti Niemi, Matt Hunwick, Derick Brassard, Jamie Oleksiak . . .?

      • Dan Kingerski

        March 19, 2019 at 12:37 pm

        You are one angry dude, Matt.

        • Matt Luda

          March 19, 2019 at 2:41 pm

          You’re confusing anger for high standards. #RaiseTheBar

      • Witch

        March 24, 2019 at 12:11 pm

        Wow. What a ridiculously nonsensical comment in response to one that offers up a legitimate point. Several in fact.
        You see no examples of the high standards you claim but this post is a textbook example of a precog bias that is meant as an unachievable standard allowing you to justify an opinion based heavily on those very biases.
        First, you never offered up a response to the legitimate points, at least not one that addresses those points, but instead ignored them while becoming defensive (another sure sign of having an opinion which doesn’t rely on logic or facts but whatever you want to perceive) and brought up what you perceive as mistakes of the person between the 2 in question.
        This offers no defense of Sullivan but it’s common when there isn’t much of a defense against the charges by trying to unfocused the attack by confusing the point before trying to redirect the initial attack where you think it is deserved.
        The worst part though is how thoroughly flawed your logic is on what you deem as mistakes…flawed on several levels.
        First, it’s in the different standards used to identify and assign definition for what you consider classifies a mistake.
        For Sullivan, you ignored them and chose to overlook them.
        Yet for Rutherford, you chose to define mistakes using the benefit of 20/20 instead acting as if they are/were obviously flawed at the time it happened.
        You list Brassard. As if knowing the outcome and why it became that outcome offers the same weight as the day the trade happened. Horrible standard and a worse barometer as it slides throughout an undefined timeframe leaving you free to adjust the parameters how you see fit which of course would alter the opinions on the trade
        Or were you one of the 2 people outside of a million hockey fans worldwide who thought this was an awful price at the time while the rest of us 99% thought it was a brilliant trade. Especially with what he gave up.
        Even with you cheating by using hindsight to declare this trade a mistake, I can use logic to beat your argument on both levels. With or without the hindsight.
        Without the hindsight which you think is so damning as to label it a mistake, the move was universally lauded as a genius move in both structure and assets by virtually all facets of the hockey universe which proves decicivdec that calling it a mistake is false lacking any and all evidence.
        Now ilI’ still let you cheat and use hindsight and still show the flaw in both your logic and in your judgement of using it in your mistake column. Because you used hindsight thus bringing in timeframe as a variable, you again did so with willfull bias and grossly misapplied it’s standards. You also either stopped thinking or were being purposeful in your deceit.
        Simply put, if you can use hindsight and time in order to justify only your bias, why then are you allowed to set the standard on when that timeframe can, and more importantly, cannot be applied. So even though Brassard flamed out since the deal, and you know this by looking back in time, why do you start that time from when he was traded by Ottawa to his last day in Pittsburgh never acknowledging the entire merit of assets. In other words you can’t call his time in Pittsburgh a mistake while you ignore the positive assets that a far declined in value Brassard was turned into by the very GM you attack with such vengeance and such bias.
        Nor can you ignore that while Brassard value as a trade chip greatly diminished during his time in Pittsburgh, Rutherford still got us greater value than what we gave for him a year ago when his value was expinenexpone higher…up to 4 tines higher.
        Furthermore in providing more evidence of the mastery that JR displayed in the assets that Pittsburgh got for Brassard, you can’t ignore the assets that Florida then got when they in turn flipped him to Colorado mere weeks later. Weeks. While JR watched his value dwindle for a year, the return he netted was 20 times more valuable than what Florida received for that VERY SAME ASSET JUST WEEKS LATER!
        So as I stated, your post is ridiculous. It makes no sense and your high standards are illogical, unobtainable by anyone and so impossible as to have never occurred in the 100+ year history of the NHL.
        And in taking up defense for Sullivan you fail, yet again to acknowledge yet another simple truth exposing your clear bias.
        No GM bats 100% on trades, on signings on personnel moves. And yet when a mistake was made there was a clear outcome which acknowledged the mistake but showed with subsequent dealings the attempt to rectify and improve upon it
        While Sullivan continues to make the same few mistakes over and over. The exact same ones. And do you know why? Because his pride won’t allow him to acknowledge them as mistakes. Or allow him to accept blame instead showing us a clear line where the problem was always the fault of the other party while the only constant entity throughout each issue was Sullivan himself. Then there are the excuses which are in clear contradiction of mandates which were used as excuses for previous problems.
        You know who this reminds me of? Dan Bylsma when he started going downhill and the players started to see his sliding scale of standards and lost respect for him.
        Sullivan’s flaws are becoming exposed. They are getting more and more difficult to hide or excuse.
        I personally don’t want him gone. But I do want him to continue to improve as a coach in all areas …if you truly had high standards then you will apply them unilaterally. But since you’re standards are based upon personal choice and filled with bias your standards become like that of Sullivan’s. Flawed, changing and weak. A head coach who has those qualities and not only does nothing to change or rectify the situation but won’t even acknowledge it and become irritable, defensive and then feel the need to prove a point by sticking to that mistake just to show up others is not one who will be able to maintain respect from the personnel for long.
        And if your standards are as high and important as you say they are and clearly think they are then you wouldn’t be defending a coach using no logic. You would analyze the evidence without bias and you wouldn’t be so defensive when one is justifiably critical nor would your first reaction and response llook at laying an attack on the messenger

  2. Matt Luda

    March 19, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Stop it, Pens fans and media, not that I can tell you apart. Blueger has seven points in 19 games. Whoop-de-do.

    This is MAF and Maatta all over again — slobbering over an average player because he has a cute smile.

    • Del Scott

      March 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Those 19 games are the first 19 of his NHL career. No chance for an adjustment period, eh? His role was somewhat limited in the first 14 games.

      However, in his past five games he’s averaging over 14 TOI, 5 minutes more than the previous 14, and he has 3 points and is +5 in those games.

      Not sure why you are so down on a guy who’s barely a rookie.

      • Matt Luda

        March 19, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        I’m not a metrics freak, but Blueger’s Corsi and Fenwick numbers suck. I’m also not a Simon guy, but he’s superior to Blueger in both. Not to say the guy can’t play, but c’mon, let’s get real here.

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