Many people thought the return of Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Whitney would help stabilize the team. That clearly wasn't the case. A 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Jan. 3 sent a message to the hockey world: there are major issues in the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room.
Frustrations boiled over in the game as Sidney Crosby earned 21 penalty minutes when he challenged Panthers' center Brett McLean to a fight. McLean didn't fight back as Crosby shook him and threw him to the ice. Penguins' center Maxime Talbot fought Gregory Campbell two seconds earlier. The Penguins reached their boiling point.
There seem to be two factors that have contributed to the Penguins' lack of success—lack of consistency and a putrid power-play. Where do these two problems stem from?
Power-play coach Mike Yeo should be fired and never allowed back into the league for his 19th ranked power-play which has gone 3-37 in their last 10 games. A power-play unit consisting of Crosby, Malkin, Sykora, Whitney and Letang should be dominate, but the first unit sees a minute or less of ice time to make way for the second unit.
Sergei Gonchar is a huge loss to the power-play, but it's not the sole reason that the power-play has not been efficient. The power-play needs to be simplified to a meat-and-potatoes approach; every team in the league is looking for the back-door play to the right point when the Penguins' power-play hits the ice. It's time to just start throwing pucks to the net.
This team needs consistency—head coach Michel Therrien must need a copy of Webster's Dictionary to learn what it means. Sidney Crosby needs a competent winger to play with him. Juggling Ruslan Fedotenko, Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy is simply not working. One player gets hot and then cools off as the cycle repeats.
Miroslav Satan had the opportunity to re-ignite his career playing the the 21-year-old Crosby, but can't seem to find his niche. If Satan was played on the wing for more than handful of shifts a game they might be able to establish chemistry. Let's face it, Crosby needs an elite winger; the Penguins need to make a move to get him that elite winger.
Finally—trade Jordan Staal while he still has some value. Staal just signed a four-year extension which bodes well for the Penguins in two regards: if you trade him he's affordable to other teams and he's coming under contract.
Staal's play has been lackluster over the past two seasons and leaving fans wanting more after he notched 29 goals and 42 points in his rookie year. The 20-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont. native is still maturing, but no third line center deserves $4 million contract. Staal packaged together with one of the Penguins' puck-moving defensemen could yield them the scoring winger they need.
General manager Ray Shero knows that at some point they will have to move one or more of their players to comply with the salary cap, why not make that move now and add that spark that this team is looking for.
Trade Staal and Goligoski for Kovalchuk, fire Therrien and let this team soar under a more offensive-minded system. Wake-up Shero and quit "staaling" around!
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!