Like any optimistic Pens fan I expected the boys to start the 08-09 campaign like they were shot out of a cannon; which, for the most part, they did. Even with Gonch and Whitney on the side line we were able to count on young defensemen like LeTang and Goligoski to chip in and contribute night after night.
Through November, and the plethora of injuries, the Pens weathered the proverbial storm. It was not until mid-to-late December that the chinks in the armour reveal themselves. The Pens have been in a downward spiral dropping games to subpar teams such as Florida and Nashville in embarassing style. It's hard to pinpoint the genesis of this years slump but I believe there are a few ways to get us back on track.
- Play 60 minutes of hockey
- Stop messing with the lines
- Someone needs to become the motivational leader of this team
It should be blatently apparent to any astout hockey fan that our Pittsburgh Penguins do not play a full sixty minutes of hockey night in and night out. Actually, I would challenge you to show me a single game during the season when they've played a full sixty.
Early in the season the boys were fortunate enough to get by on twenty or forty minutes of hockey, but, it seems to have caught up with them. If the coaching staff can get the youngsters to play a full sixty I'm sure we'll start seeing more "W"s than "L"s.
Coach Therrien is notorious for his stubborness; but, I've always felt that even he knew when to say uncle. I don't believe in running a team by public opinion but enough is enough. I was recently listening to XM 204 when Phil Esposito asked Jordan Staal, who had recently just inked a four year, 16 million dollar deal, who he was playing with (on a line).
His response, although well thought out was a dead giveaway. Before he even uttered a word Jordan giggled and then proceeded to tell Espo of the different linemates he had from the previous night, followed by another giggle. Now, we all know that Therrien mixed up the lines last year and we got to the Cup finals.
Unfortunately, that was a different year, and a different team. This leads directly into my third point.
When we lost Armstrong and Malone last year I had a funny feeling that we were losing grit and heart. Neither player is ever going to be a franchise player, heck, they really aren't even first line material on a serious contender.
But, you could sure as heck count on them doing their job, whether it was standing in front of the net, banging in the corner, or protecting a line mate, those two were always there. One of the biggest problem with this years team is the lack of camaraderie.
When you have strong camaraderie you can mix and match players like Therrien does because they're all comfortable with one another; lose that "glue" and well, you get what we have this year.
I think the Pens will eventually wake up and realize skating a full sixty minutes yields better results. Unfortunatley for Therrien I think he's going to stick it out with his mix n' match mentality until he's eventually fired.
Last, but not least, I think the boys are just going to have to find a way to get along and play as a team, rather than to try and reignite the kinships that were obvious on last years team.