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Where Are Penguins Headed? Future Not Clear But it Should Be

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Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin battles for a loose puck
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 01: Washington Capitals Center Jay Beagle (83) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) battle for a face-off win during the second period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round in the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 1, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

It would be ridiculous to see Mick Jagger without the Rolling Stones, or just as it once was watching Joe Perry without Steven Tyler and Aerosmith. But the lines on the Pittsburgh Penguins face are getting clearer. The past is gone and it went by like dusk to dawn. The 2019 Pittsburgh Penguins stand on the verge of breaking up the band in an effort to quell backroom issues and extend the longevity of the chance to win a Stanley Cup.

Isn’t that the way, everybody’s got the dues in life to pay. In the wake of the second report which stated the Florida Panthers and the Penguins have chatted about the possibility of dealing Evgeni Malkin, a full-scale overhaul could be on the horizon. Or not. The Penguins could stand pat because they cannot recoup enough value to quickly re-tool, or for other reasons including loyalty.

Huge decisions are looming. And perhaps the Penguins should be far more aggressive than any fan wants to see, especially given the feeling in the room.

“I don’t think there’s any need to hit the panic button,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang told The Athletic at an event this week in Montreal.

Letang’s comment may be indicative of the biggest reason to move forward on something akin to a nuclear option, regardless of the Malkin decision: The eye of the tiger is gone (Survivor reference). Having stood in the middle of the Penguins locker room after the losses to the New York Islanders which should have been humbling, my feel for the room never felt that humbleness. Or anger. Or overriding disgust; the kind of hunger which they felt in 2007 when the veteran Ottawa Senators schooled the kids in Round One. Or the kind of palpable anger Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist displayed in Washington on March 1, 2016 when the team blew a third period lead to an over-the-top Washington comeback and wild Washington crowd which didn’t sit for the third period.

Following the game, Crosby and Hornqvist spoke in the shoebox-sized visitor’s locker room through gritted teeth and seething anger. The Penguins lost only a few games for the rest of the regular season and commanded the playoffs, too. Remember the March of the Penguins? That game was the launch pad.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Where will that spark come from if leaders don’t feel changes are necessary after being publicly spanked by the gritty yet far less talented Islanders?

The Penguins are at the crossroads. They are attempting to cash in on their last chance to deal Phil Kessel without swallowing a bitter pill. You’ve got to lose to know how to win (ok, enough Aerosmith quotes) and the Penguins had to lose in a big way to realize more than half their lives are books, written pages (ok, one more).

The Penguins should shuffle the deck, beyond Kessel and/or Olli Maatta. A few changes for the sake of change could or should also be in order…regardless of the Malkin decision.

If the Penguins followed through on everything which has been discussed, they would be sans Malkin, Kessel, Maatta and perhaps others as GM Jim Rutherford rototillers the Penguins garden. The Penguins need to be overturned.

It just isn’t there, anymore. Too much champagne, beer, success, and money will dull even the most intense players. Life in the fast lane surely will make you lose your mind.

The Penguins are 14 days away from the NHL Draft and their best chance to begin to make the big changes which are probably necessary…regardless of the Malkin decision.

Or not.

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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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. John

    June 7, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    The Penguins have hand in this situation. They have delivered 5 Stanley Cups in less than 30 years. Plus 3 Cups in around 10 years. 2 Cups in the last 4 years. Also, the 1 losing SCF appearance to Detroit. Say GMJR decided to burn it down this June and later 2019. Keeping Crosby, Guentzel, and a few selected talents but trading the rest for high level prospects and young talent. Would Penguins fans accept such a rebuilding or retooling? Probably not. They are used to excellent hockey and playoffs.
    However, it is possible PENS high brass and GMJR noticed all the upsets in the 1st Round. Calgary, PGH, Tampa Bay, Wash all went out in surprising fashion. Maybe, the cautious approach for 1 more year wiser than trading Kessel and Letang or a group of Johnson, Kessel, Maata, and The Hornet. Whatever happens, PENS fans will be intrigued what happens this summer. Most hockey fans did not see St. Louis on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup. I think Penguins will make a few moves. Expect 1 or 2 veteran core to be traded.

    • Hatrick Pornqvist

      June 7, 2019 at 8:55 pm

      I’m sure the style of hockey that is winning right now isn’t lost on GMJR. I think Sullivan wants a heavy team that can skate and play a 200’ game, and absorb as well as dish out punishment. Responsible, smart, heavy hockey, played down low. And he wants his players to buy in. We can score, that’s not a worry. The identity is the issue, and the compete level.

      Hockey is such a funny sport. While everyone is copying what won 2-3 years ago, the best teams are adapting and figuring out how to beat that style. I think while a lot of people think GMJR and Sullivan aren’t embracing the new brand of hockey, they are actually trying to build a team that’s, to put it simply, a pain in the ass to play against.

      I think the transition from the 2016, and 2017 pens, to the 2019-20 version seems to be going poorly but in reality it just takes time. Phil is leaving because he didn’t buy in. That sucks but it’s reality. Letang, as good as he is, gave a horrible answer when asked about his decision making and he needs to be more accountable.

      Team needs a big shake up. Everyone is so focused on speed right now and you hear things non stop about possession, shots, etc, all while you hear things like size toughness and grit are archaic visions of the game. These people aren’t watching the finals apparently.

      The perfect team is big, can score, has good special teams, solid goaltending, grit, and compete. We can be all of those things.

  2. joe

    June 8, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I could careless right now who goes as long as we being in fast hungry players,I s ‘re Letting go then Malkin,Matta too. I m assuming if Kessel goes Malkin may too. The Reeves trade was the start of snowball effect, unfortunately I think things may get worst before it gets better….

  3. JICS

    June 10, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    We should have kept Reaves and PLAYED him – for Sullivan to say he wants his team to be hard to play against, then get rid of Bortuzzo, Reaves, Cole and Sundqvist, etc, etc, makes NO sense. Really, it seems like he would rather watch Washington and others, pound the daylights out of our team. I watch all the players we dump go and play lights out for other teams. Has anyone noticed Perron lately? Sullivan has no patience and doesn’t seem to know how to get players to change their game, or want to play for him (or else he doesn’t want them)! Sounds familiar this year, too, does it not?

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