As you may or may not know, before the season started I picked the Penguins to win the Atlantic Division. It seems I didn't take two things into account when I made that prediction:
1. The injury to Sergei Gonchar, which didn't occur when I first wrote the article.
2. The utter ineptitude of Michel Therrien as a coach.
Yes, he was the coach that led us to the Cup Finals last year. However, as I wrote, it was luck and he was quickly exposed. He also had the appropriate personnel to run the system he needed.
The system starts out with a break out from the defensive zone wherein both D-men pass from one to the other, then up to the center who is forced to take it through the neutral zone. From there the center will either take it to the net, take it to the circles and look for the trailing winger for a pass in front, or dump the puck in.
In the event of a dump in, the Pens are to cycle the puck until they have a clear shot of the net or someone to throw to in front of the net.
If the puck is turned over, the team will go back into their zone. The D will allow the opposing team to gain the blue line while they back up and form a bubble around the goalie, along with the returning wingers while the center roams free waiting for the D-to-D-to-C break out to begin.
This was dandy last year when the lines had the likes of Hossa, Crosby, Dupuis on top who were all capable of cycling, grinding, and going to the net, Malone who would do the dirty work in the corner, Laraque, Hall, Roberts, Ruutu. All of which would optimal for Therrien's system.
This season, they do not have those players. Grit has been replaced by skill. Miroslav Satan doesn't go into the corners like Hossa (or even Armstrong), Fedotenko has been a reasonable replacement for Malone but his board game is weaker than Malone's last season.
The bottom lines have been bespeckled by injury, but for all of Laraque's misgivings his ability to control the puck with his sheer size was greatly undervalued and it's shown with the oft-scratched Eric Godard.
Therrien no longer has the players available to play that grit and grind game. He has some talented players in the top six, an above average third line, and a good fourth line. However, their current record indicates none of this. Why?
It's Therrien's inability to change the system he runs to conform to the new players on his team.
The head coach has proven himself to be a one trick pony, as he also did in Montreal. Just like in Montreal, he had star players who under performed because the system being used did not fit their strengths. The players over come those problems with sheer will and skill, but eventually that which can bend will break. That break came in his third season in Montreal.
The most damning proof is in the numbers:
This previous game against Florida, a 6-1 loss, was game #39. Almost half way through the year. Our last 20 games the Penguins are 7-12-1.
Since December? 5-10-1.
Going back to just after their six game winning streak, the Pens are only 8-12-2.
Stop this whole "slump" talk.
That's over half of the season where they've played piss poor, well under .500.
For Pittsburgh Penguins fans, there is the bad news: the team has broken.
It's time to get rid of the main problem. Yes, bringing in a new coach means a new system that will take adjustment. Things will get worse before they get better. However, a new coach at least brings the promise of things getting better. With Therrien, the team has reached new lows for a month.
It's time to do the right thing so I don't continue to sound like a broken record.
It's time to fire Therrien.
Peter Laviolette isn't busy...