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Friday, February 18, 2011

More Pens Trade Deadline Speculation - In Card Form

As I have been frantically trying to find a topic to post about (well maybe not frantically) I can't help but keep coming back to the looming trade deadline in the NHL.  Especially since Trader Ray Shero has been pretty quiet up to this point about his intentions.  In fact, other than an occasion rant against the disciplinary committee by Super Mario, you don't hear much from the Penguins executive staff at all.  (really I'm just trying to find something to write about so that those god-awful Packer cards will go away from my main page)

Everyone knows the woes that the Pens have right now.  The injuries have caused them to call up practically their entire farm teams in both Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Wheeling-Johnstown.  They are a mere shell of themselves when it comes to the team that suited up back in October.  I think I may even go on LTIR with a head injury due to all the deep thinking I can't help but do about the potential disaster of a season this could turn out to be.  But still, Shero remains quiet and not much talk is coming out of the Penguin camp.

Never fear though.  I am here to raise eyebrows with my speculation and conjecture on how to fix the Penguins.

I have already mentioned a few of my predictions but the longer this goes on, the more available guys come off the board.  For example, not that the Pens would have been looking for a D-man at this point but Tomas Kaberle was just signed by the Bruins (they also picked up Rich Peverley).  Boston is trying to go deeper into the playoffs and doing a pretty good job of filling some holes in their lineup.  On the other hand, the Maple Leafs now have 37 first round picks and Brian Burke won't rest until he has 50.   The Sens and Avs have also switched goalies, not that either of those fine gentlemen would have been a good fit in Steeltown.  But worst of all, Jaromir Jagr has been traded to the Washington Capitals for their

head janitor,

skate sharpener,
and the guy that sells hot pretzels across the street.
Oh, wait.  That already happened 10 years ago.


Ko-va-lev...Ko-va-lev...Ko-va-lev.  Do you hear the chants?  That's what I'm thinking for the Pens.  You know the Senators want him out of there.  They have to be anxiously awaiting the removal of his salary off the books.  He would be a good fit in Pittsburgh for his second stint.  Plus, let's be realistic here.  Where else is he going to go?  I doubt he would get much interest from any other camps out there.  He played with Lemieux.  He played with Jagr.  He apparently has a no trade clause but why on earth wouldn't he waive that for a chance to play on a line with Crosby? 

Other possibilities to chew on...
Brad Richards from Dallas, maybe?  He's making almost $8 million this season and will no doubt be a rent-a-player.  Plus, he has hardware on the resume.  With Malkin hung out to dry, they can move money if they have to.

(Whoa, how did that get in there?) 

How about Jason Arnott?  He is only making $4.5 Million.  That would give them the big body on the line as well as a scoring threat.  Most certainly he could function as a set up guy for either Crosby or Staal.

Maybe Dustin Penner from Edmonton?  He's a big guy that can not only score goals but he has the ability to muck it up in front or behind the net.  Again, another guy with hardware in his resume.

Could there be a return of the "RUUUUUUUUTTUUUUUUUUU"?  I think they transferred the sound effect when the Pens moved into CEC this year.  Up until Thursday, I thought this was a possibility.  I guess there was only room for one pest on the team with Matt Cooke filling the roll of 5 guys on his own.

Stephen Weiss from Florida?  I know.  This isn't a card but I figured with the new "Thug-Life" attitude of the Pens that this was a better picture.  Weiss has been mentioned in a ton of talks but he has been more than vocal about his desire to stay in Florida.  Plus with all of his injury history, I think Trader Ray may be leary of adding Mr. Weiss.

And finally for my sleeper pick...maybe even RJ Umberger from Columbus?  Why not?  He grew up in Plum, a suburb outside of Pittsburgh.  He has great leadership abilities and is an asset in the locker room.  Plus in this case, the Pens wouldn't have to keep rotating rent-a-player wingers and could possibly get him locked down for future years.  I know its a stretch but this is my fantasy so stuff it!

The possibilities are endless here and my head is spinning with excitement.

Come on, Ray.  Let's get this thing rolling again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

There's A Hole In The Bucket - - Trade Deadline Posturing

The trade deadline is quickly approaching for the NHL with only 13 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes and some odd seconds left.  With that in mind, I figured I would take the time to give my impressions of what the Pens situation is, in my warped mind, and what they should or should not do at this point.

First, a comment.  I don't think that by any stretch of the imagination, that the Penguins season is over at this point.  No, really.  I don't.  I may say that it is getting bad or that I am losing faith but the reality of the matter is, we all [as fans] say those things but don't necessarily believe them.  So to that point, it ain't over yet.  As long as you have a group of guys in that locker room that aren't ready to give up, then I won't either.  The no-quit attitude that the Penguins have always had is still there and you can see it in the way guys prepare for games.  Practices are still as intense as ever and you are seeing guys work extra to keep the intensity up. 

All this, despite the fact that no one really knows the identity of the team at this point.  With Sid and Geno out of the lineup, as well as a host of other injured players, casual observers don't really recognize many sweaters out there on the ice.  But that is just the way I like it.  The less pressure to succeed, the better. The Penguins have quietly ranked in the top four in team defense and penalty killing all season.  Both of those statistics have taken numerous teams deep into the playoffs.  So if Tyler Kennedy has to be the leading goal scorer on the team (with 11 mind you) going into the playoffs, then so be it.  At least they will still be there.

Now for the trade deadline...I think this comes down to a few "what if" scenarios.  First, what if Crosby returns?  If that occurs, and he remains healthy with little to no side effects of the concussion, that brings back the scoring prowess that the Penguins currently are lacking.   He has already been quoted as saying he expects to play again this season so this is a likely scenario.  No impact on the trade deadline for his sake. 

However, the same cannot be said for Evgeni Malkin.  There is no what if here.  He is most definitely done for the season with an ACL/MCL injury.  This puts the Pens in a predicament that plays heavily on the first scenario.  If Crosby comes back healthy, I would expect Ray Shero to try and temporarily replace Malkin with a scoring forward so that the playoffs hope stays in reach.  If Crosby can't return, I really don't see Shero replacing both of them since the price may be too high but anything is possible.  A capable scoring center would be perfect but with the continuing struggle on the wings, picking up one or two would compliment the top three lines.

Bob McKenzie from TSN brought up the fact that the Senator's might be looking to unload Alex Kovalev and his $5 million contract.  That was interesting considering Alex had some of his best years, statistically, in Pittsburgh.  But, he's no spring chicken.  With Malkin on IR, they'd be more than capable of taking on his contract since he would be a rental until the end of the season.  Also in the conversation was PA Parenteau (funny considering recent events).  I wouldn't mind this one as much since he'd be bringing 32 points and would only incur a $600K hit to the cap.  Some other rumors include Devin Setoguchi, who I would love to see in a Pens uniform, Stephen Weiss from Florida, and Jason Arnott which would give them size at center but I'm not sure about the longevity.

I'm not excited about what they may have to give up though.  The rumor mill is churning with the possibility of the Pens having to wrap up a trade package that features a few draft picks, minor league players, and possibly a starter.  The name I am hearing is Alex Goligoski.  I will be crushed if he leaves the team as I think he is the future of the defense.  He just hasn't been able to break onto one of the top lines with the acquisition of Michalek and Martin last fall.  Orpik and Letang have been playing inspired hockey this year so Gogo has become somewhat expendable.  He would most definitely give half the teams in the league a boost on the PP and PK.

So to summarize my incoherent ramblings...Yes, I think they will be making some moves.  When it comes down to brass tacks, Trader Ray never disappoints.  I see at least one forward of significant credentials coming over, if not a wing and a center.  Either way, I think the hole in the bucket will be filled in only a few days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Downward Spiral

No, not the 1994 album by Nine Inch Nails.  The current state of the Penguins.  This has been a brutal last couple weeks in the season for the Pens.  Injuries have turned the starting lineup into a glorified AHL team.  Crosby is still out, but skating in an undisclosed location away from the press.  You can check out a funny article/blog post here for more information on that one.  Malkin is pretty much done for the season.  Mark Letestu and now Dustin Jeffrey are now on IR as well.  And now, because of players like Matt Cooke and Eric Godard, the Penguins have a giant target on their back and have become public enemy #1. 

I will admit though that it is not totally one-sided when it comes to all of it.  The Penguins, for the first time in my feable memory, are leading the league in fights, penalty minutes, fighting majors, game misconducts, and is one of only four teams with a match penalty this year. If I didn't know any better, I would think I was talking about the Flyers or Bruins.  Matt Cooke is currently serving a 4 game suspension and Eric Godard was just issued a 10 game for leaving the bench Friday against the Islanders. 

I think Matt Cooke has been addressed here before and I know the discussion will continue, but I just wanted to reiterate my feelings.  I'm not a huge Matt Cooke fan.  I never have been.  But, I do like him.  He is not a horrible hockey player, despite the majority of North America's and Jeremy Roenick's feelings.  In fact, there have been countless coaches and GM's that have said they would gladly take him on their teams.  He's tenacious, gritty, and contributes offensively, three things coaches want.  He just has a penchant for occasionally hitting a guy that doesn't know he's going to be hit.  Is that so wrong?  (it is wrong, I was just being facetious) Enough about that.  Onward with my rant.

It didn't get any better today when the Pens took their prestigious statistical leads into MSG and took another beating at the hands of the Rangers.  New York hasn't had a +3 goal game since January 19th. They absolutely destroyed Marc-Andre Fleury today.  This whole New York trip has been a disaster.  Yesterday, before a "practice" session in Central Park, their bus was even in an accident and the players had to take taxis.  And Friday, well we all know what happened there.  

In all, that game featured 346 penalty minutes, 20 misconduct penalties, 15 fighting majors, and 10 ejections. The normally mild-mannered and soft-spoken owner of the Pens actually lashed out at the league for what he felt was only minimal punishments. Mario said in a press release...

“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty.  It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.”

“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed,” he said. “We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.  If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to rethink whether I want to be a part of it.”
Strong language from a normally quiet owner.  What's more interesting to me is all the criticism he is taking by various sources for his comments.  At best he is being lauded for his outspokenness.  At worst, he is being labeled a hypocrite for his poignant comments with no apparent responsibility taken for his own team.  Whatever side you are on when it comes to the rash of fighting, head-shots, and "intent-to-injure" hits, there is no denying the league is finally beginning to head down the right path.  If more former greats like Mario, or Gretzky, Howe, and Hull begin to speak up, I think this discipline process will move even faster to "fixing" what is perceived as broken.

I just hope the Pens get the message that their new found physical play has gone off the deep end and it's not too late to right this sinking ship.