Ray Shero, General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, signed a five-year contract extension with the team Monday morning.
This should be a surprise to none as Shero has been the architect behind the Pens, shaping together a winning team that found the ultimate success by winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Despite the incredible success Shero has seen in his four years, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for him and the team. There have been times when fans have placed their trust in Shero and the potential of a player, only for everything to come up empty.
These gaffes have made their mark on the team and the unfortunate redistribution of players. Lucky for us, they have been neither frequent nor serious. It's also noteworthy to mention that Shero has managed to right some of his mistakes.
In honor of Shero's contract extension, here are his five worst moves since his start with the Pens. I am including draft picks as well as trades.
Claiming RW Chris Bourque off waivers.
Bourque played for the AHL Hershey Bears and haunted the Pens' AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton throughout every season. When he was placed on waivers by the Washington Capitals, Shero scooped him up and hoped that his success in Hershey would transfer onto the team as cheap talent.
Why It Didn't Work
It didn't work because Bourque played like he had no idea what he was doing and became the running joke of the Pens in the blogging world.
Things didn't look good when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift as a Penguin and fell flat on his face.
The Bourque-isms continued and included missing open nets just inches from the goal line and an inability to grasp Bylsma's aggressive system. In 20 games, Bourque registered only three assists.
He was a bust.
The Pens waived Bourque on December 5, 2009 and he was claimed again by the Caps and sent immediately to Hershey. He went on to lead the Calder Cup playoffs in scoring to secure MVP and the Calder Cup Trophy for the Bears.
In the end, the only Pens team Bourque burned was Wilkes-Barre, but I couldn't wait to get him out of our lineup.
Drafting C Angelo Esposito 20th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Esposito was an offensive monster during his time in the QMJHL playing for the Quebec Remparts. He was acknowledged for his offensive prowess with awards that included Rookie of the Month, Offensive Player of the Week, and the overall Rookie of the Year. His future looked bright and he was being touted as the possible first-overall pick in the 2007 draft.
However, his point totals began to drop as did his high placement in the draft. Nevertheless, the Pens decided to take him first round.
Why It Didn't Work
To a greater extent, Esposito was like Bourque in that he was a bust only more was expected from Esposito.
Solid numbers and attitude began to dwindle and people began to question his physical strength and whether or not he was mentally prepared for the NHL. There was obviously a lack of fire in his game that was very unattractive to GMs.
After the draft, Esposito went back to the QMJHL where his numbers continued to drop. By February 2008, Shero bundled him with Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen and sent them to the Atlanta Thrashers to receive Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa.
Not all hope is lost for Esposito's future, but it didn't take longs for the Pens to lose hope in him. He was a total waste of a first-round pick.
LW Luca Caputi and D Martin Skoula to the Toronto Maple Leafs for LW Alexei Ponikarovsky.
This move by Shero made it clear that Ponikarovsky would act as a rental player. A consistent 20-goal scorer, Ponikarovsky had the hands and the body to be a force on the ice. The Pens were lacking in that extra spark to get them deep in the playoffs and Shero felt that Ponikarovsky was just the person for the job.
Why It Didn't Work
Shero made a gamble by sacrificing a young and very promising prospect with the hopes of gaining an experienced player who could help lead them to the Cup.
Fans called it the Poni Experiment. However, they were sick of the experiment just a few weeks in.
Ponikarovsky didn't seem to understand Bylsma's system and he wasn't responsible in his own end. On top of that, he didn't take advantage of his huge size.
It was very frustrating to watch someone who could be so incredibly talented just coast along without any desire to win.
What made this even more frustrating was that the Pens lost a talented young prospect for a failed experiment. Although he demonstrated some immaturity on and off the ice, Caputi showed that he could play hockey, scoring on his first shift of his first NHL game.
The only way this wouldn't have been a complete waste is if Caputi does not reach the high expectations he set for himself.
LW Dan Carcillo and Draft Pick to Phoenix Coyotes for RW Georges Laraque.
With the emergence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as forces on the team, they were taking their fair share of cheap shots so it became necessary to find an enforcer to protect them. For a player who was unanimously voted "Best Fighter" by The Hockey News, Laraque seemed like the best choice to look after the Pens' young stars.
Why It Didn't Work
As an enforcer, no one expected Laraque to put up a good number of points. However, losing a talented player in Carcillo for a player whose sole purpose is to drop the mitts seems like a loss.
Add to the fact that the Pens also lost a draft pick in the trade and the loss is multiplied. I know Shero is a big proponent of developing young talent on the farm team so losing two young players for an older fighter must have been a tough decision to make.
Don't get me wrong, Laraque was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh because of his tremendous fighting skills, good-natured attitude, and constant help to the community, but we lost a lot of potential by getting rid of Carcillo. I know many Pens fans scoff at his name, but Carcillo could have had a very good development in Pittsburgh, especially since he would have been surrounded by an environment that focused more on skill rather than physical play.
After the trade, Laraque finished off the season with the Pens and joined the team for one last season before Shero decided to pull the plug. In the end, the fighting was helpful and gave Crosby and Malkin some room to skate.
But who needs an enforcer when you have Gary Roberts on the team?
LW Ryan Malone and LW Gary Roberts to Tampa Bay Lightning for third-round pick in 2009 NHL Entry Draft; LW/RW Marian Hossa leaves for free agency.
This truly was a fiasco for Shero. Anticipating that Hossa would sign a long-term (or any kind) of deal with the Pens, Shero had to make room in the salary cap for the five-year contract offer worth $7 million annually. Unfortunately, this meant that Shero would have to let go of a "son of Pittsburgh" as well as one of the most respected veterans to play in the NHL.
Why It Didn't Work
Why this didn't work is plainly obvious: we lost Hossa, Roberts and Malone, only gaining a third-round draft pick in 2009 in the process.
I feel that Shero isn't entirely at fault for this because he was expecting Hossa to sign the offered deal. Hossa, however, opted to sign a one-year $7.45 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
Many Pens fans saw this as betrayal on Hossa's part. I have to disagree; this was a business transaction. Shero decided that Hossa was the biggest priority of the team but he should have been absolutely certain that Hossa was sticking with the team before trading Malone's and Hossa's rights away.
Losing two influential forwards, the Pens seemed doomed the following season, but it certainly wasn't the case.
Shero righted the situation by extending contracts to both Jordan Staal and Brooks Orpik in the course of the offseason and following season. Ask any Pens fans which two players are more important to the core of the team and the answer should unanimously be the former.
Lastly, Malone's seven-year contract with the Lightning worth $31.5 million gives the idea that he would have wanted a substantial salary raise anyway.