Keeping Perspective by @BrianK_PI

It was an uneventful draft weekend for the Pittsburgh Penguins. With a league low four draft picks, including just the 46th overall in the first four rounds, the team wasn't expected to make much of a splash at the draft podium. Expectations were high that they'd dominate the news on the trade front, where the team openly admitted they'd be trying to add a top six winger. The weekend came and went without a trade being made, though not from a lack of trying. An uncorroborated report had the team offering up Pouliot, Kunitz, Scuderi, and a 2016 first round draft pick for Phil Kessel, which the Maple Leafs declined. Jim Rutherford was hailed for his patience by not forcing a trade, especially with so many options being available on the market. Like last year, there wasn't a need to rush into a trade on draft day, but unlike last year a trade wasn't forced through just for the sake of getting it done.

Pens Initiative 2015 NHL Draft Coverage

Welcome to our 2015 NHL draft coverage.  This page will update through the day and into the weekend as we take a look at all the happenings surrounding the draft around the league.

No Easy Task Ahead by @BrianK_PI

The NHL draft kicks off tonight as teams across the league turn their eye towards the future for the weekend. With just a single pick in the first four rounds, Pittsburgh turns to the more immediate future, as the team is trying to retool its roster after a brief appearance in the 2015 playoffs. Though the team put forth a valiant effort against the Rangers while undermanned, the scoreboard helped mask some of the issues the team struggled with throughout the year. They did, after all, manage to score just a single goal in each of their four losses.

The Penguins enter the offseason needing to add a top 6 winger, a top 4 defenseman, and to rebuild a bottom 6 that only returns regulars Brandon Sutter and Nick Spaling, two players many have called to be traded. Rumors have linked the Penguins to virtually every top 6 winger rumored to be available, but for an organization lacking in both draft picks and impact prospects it will be difficult to make a deal work.

Reasons Why The Penguins Should Trade Evgeni Malkin

5 things @penguins need to do this offseason @griffTHW

On some level, the 2015 Stanley Cup Final must have evoked feelings of jealousy among Penguins’ fans everywhere. Essentially, the series pitted a squad embodying what Pittsburgh represented a few years ago against the club currently writing the resume once reserved for the Pens. On one side, the Lightning find themselves potentially set up to dominate the Eastern Conference for years to come. Meanwhile, Chicago just continues to carve out a place in hockey history after capturing a third championship in six seasons.

Thus, heading into the off season, the question in Western Pennsylvania becomes “How can the Pens right the ship and rejoin the ranks of the NHL’s elite?” Clearly, significant changes need to made, right? Because, with all due respect to fan bases in Toronto, St. Louis and Buffalo, six years without a Cup is simply unacceptable.

With these questions in mind, we present five keys for a successful summer that will help set the Pens up for success next year:

Keep the Core Together

Almost as soon as Pittsburgh bowed out in the first round to the Rangers, the rumor mill began churning out speculation that the Pens’ core would finally be broken up. Various articles and outlets suggested, for example, it was time to part ways with Kris Letang or that Evgeni Malkin would welcome a fresh start somewhere else.

Jim Rutherford, however, won’t move any of Pittsburgh’s top-end talent. At least, he shouldn’t.
Yes, breaking up the core would shake things up. What’s more, such a trade would likely yield multiple assets. Would it really make the Penguins a better team, though?

Not likely. Moving either Letang or Malkin means the Pens would surely surrender the most talented player in almost any deal, creating a void in the Penguin’s lineup unlikely to be filled by whatever return Rutherford ultimately accepts.

In fact, moving Letang would represent one of the worst moves Pittsburgh could make. Despite health concerns, the defenseman’s ability to eat up close to 30 minutes per night makes him invaluable for a club prepared to implement a youth movement along the blue line. His ability to handle the heavy lifting will help ease the growing pains for some of the youngsters while his dynamic play will make life easier for the forwards and help facilitate the team’s transition game.

Meanwhile, moving Malkin would mean giving up on a generational talent capable of pacing the circuit in scoring, someone who has proven he can carry a team on his back and an individual possessing enough talent to singlehandedly alter the outcome of a game. In short, he’s not the kind of player a team moves in an effort to shake things up or address any depth issues.

Yes, the Penguins need to retool parts of their roster. But they don’t need to break up the core to do it.

Deal Brandon Sutter

Much to the delight of Pittsburgh’s advanced stats community, the time has come for the Penguins to explore a deal that will move Brandon Sutter. It’s not necessarily, however, a move rooted in possession numbers or replacement level value.

No, moving Sutter simply allows for the most likely route to the Pens’ acquisition of a top-six forward. Admittedly, the pivot alone may not fetch a top-tier winger but he could represent an attractive center piece in a package headed to the right club. Because, in the end, the 21 tallies he potted last year, a penchant for netting crucial markers and a sense of durability could make Sutter a coveted commodity for a team in search of depth down the middle.

While shipping Sutter out as part of a package isn’t likely to yield much of a star in return, it could provide the Pens with a legitimate winger qualified to flank one of the club’s superstar centers, something the team desperately need. And, given the lack of other expendable assets at Rutherford’s disposal, it’s a move at least worth exploring.

Look into Acquiring a Top-Four Defenseman

Depending on how strongly Rutherford prioritizes finding two top-six forwards, this may not prove feasible. But it is something that should be addressed, if not this summer, then certainly before the trade deadline.

Assuming Rutherford retains Ian Cole, the Pens’ (current) top-four entering the season figures to consist of Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Cole. And, while it’s certainly plausible that the quartet will perform adequately, there’s certainly room for an upgrade there. Even more concerning, a lack of depth behind those four leaves little margin for error if and when the injury bug bites.

Adding a single rearguard, though, could work wonders for the Pittsburgh blue line. Not only will adding that top-four defenseman bolster the top of the lineup, but it will also push Cole down to a bottom pairing, a role that will allow him to excel alongside (hopefully) a youngster finally primed to log consistent ice time at the highest level. Most importantly, it allows Cole to serve as a sort of insurance policy, someone capable of stepping up, filling in and eating up more minutes whenever necessary.

Move on from Rob Scuderi

As we touched on above, the Penguins appear poised to embrace a sort of youth movement, particularly on the backend. It’s one reason the club will reportedly part ways with both Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff. And, it’s one reason Pittsburgh should shed Rob Scuderi from the lineup, as well.

When Ray Shero brought Scuderi back to Western Pennsylvania, he envisioned filling a void he perceived since, well, Scuderi departed for Los Angeles after the 2009 Cup run. That hope, however, went largely unfulfilled.
After a relatively solid start to his second stint with the Pens, a broken ankle derailed Scuderi’s 2013-’14 campaign. After a lengthy absence, he struggled to get back up to speed. And, while his play improved this year, it’s hard to visualize his ceiling as much more than that of a bottom-pairing defenseman.

Now, think of the Pittsburgh blue line as divided into a sort of hierarchy. At the pinnacle, Mike Johnston can deploy an elite duo in Letang and Maatta. Below them, Pouliot and Cole can ideally serve anywhere from # 3-5 on the club’s depth chart. Finally, at the base, Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy provide a veteran presence to go along with the youth and inexperience of Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington and (possibly) Taylor Chorney. Of course, the looming logjam at the base of this hierarchy grows more significant if Rutherford actually adds that other top-four defenseman prescribed above.

Now, if the Pens truly want to embark on a youth movement, they need to allow their younger players to round out the bottom of the team’s defensive unit. Give them a chance to learn the game at the highest level while sheltering their minutes.

The most obvious way to do that while solidifying the group as a whole, though, is to move on from

Free Agency: Up Front, Depth Trumps a Splash

It’s no secret that general managers will have a relatively weak crop of free agents to select from this summer, particularly at forward. Still, that won’t stop desperate teams from throwing money around in the hopes of hitting a home run. The Penguins, however, shouldn’t be one of them.

Yes, in a perfect world, Pittsburgh will add multiple top-six forwards to its roster this year. So, clearly, Rutherford would strike gold if he finds value in one of this year’s “top” free agents who ultimately fits the squad’s needs. But the last thing the Pens need is for Rutherford to outbid his peers in free agency, hoping to shove a square peg in a round hole. And, with few (if any) forwards seemingly worth high-dollar, long-term deals this summer, Rutherford would be wise to shy away from such commitments.

Instead, he should search for quality depth, for multiple players capable of moving around the lineup. 

Look for individuals who fit with what’s in place rather than the biggest names that might fill a top-six role.

After all, the Penguins can always explore adjustments after evaluating what they have as the season rolls along. In the end, there’s no need to address every perceived issue before the season even begins.

Why the Chicago Blackhawks Are the NHL's Dynasty (Instead of the Pittsburgh Penguins) by @DXTraeger

Life Truly Sucks When Vince Vaughn Gets to Celebrate Instead of You
All hail the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions and a true hockey dynasty!  With his third Cup win, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews has effectively eliminated any and all discussion about being hockey's greatest leader (sorry Mark Messier, and sorry Sidney Crosby).

Former Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma Heading To Buffalo

It has finally been made official that Dan Bylsma, former Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has been hired by the Buffalo Sabres. Bylsma, still under contract with the Penguins even thought he was relieved from his coaching duties, will take over a Sabres team drafting 2nd overall in the upcoming 2015 NHL Draft.

Through the deal, the Pens have acquired a Sabres 3rd round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft

There's Nothing Wrong With Being a Man by @suz_b31

Editor: If you have been around Twitter lately, you know some accounts have declared it open season on men. Our friend, Sue Brooks (@suz_b31) had something to say about that and we were happy to give her a place to say it.

It has come to my attention recently that men are bad. You've seen it, television and social media are filled with examples of the wrongness of the male of our species: sexist, privileged, entitled, arrogant childish--you name it, men have been accused. 

While surely there are men who are all these things and worse--humans by nature are imperfect beings--I want to take a few moments to celebrate the things that make men great...or average

Which is good. 

Men are responsible for some of the world's great beauty. Music, poetry, paintings, plays that make us laugh, cry, and touch our soul. Buildings that make us stare in wonder at their grandness, designed by men of vision and built by men who were rough and strong and unafraid of hard labor. To Mozart and Beethoven, Monet, Shakespeare, Frank Lloyd Wright and The Daredevil Sky Boys: thanks, guys. 

Men have been responsible for creating life-saving medicines, made our lives easier with inventions that changed the world in their lifetime, and for generations to come. To Jonas Salk, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford: thanks, guys. 

Men have awed us with their athletic feats. Through hard work and God-given talent, they make their sport seem easy, effortless, and leave the rest of us stunned, and wondering if maybe someday we can 'Be like Mike'. To Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Mario, Gretzky and Jordan: thanks guys. 

All great men, but we knew that already. Tonight I want to celebrate the average guy.  
In general, men are pretty great. I'm a fan, and not just for the obvious reasons. While imperfect, men  embrace their imperfections, roll with them, turn them into an art form. Ever see an argument flare up between a couple of buddies, watch them pound each other into oblivion, only to make peace five minutes later over a beer and fart jokes? There's beauty in bromance that rivals the greatest paintings. The more vulgar the insult, the deeper the affection between two friends. It's poetic in a way Shakespeare could never understand. 

The average guy will hold the door for anyone, not just a woman. He will offer to change your tire or jumpstart your car, let you know you dropped your wallet.  He will load the dishwasher even after a long day at work because his wife also had a long day at work. He'll stay at home with the four kids because his wife's income is greater than his could ever be, and that's ok. He'll cry because he lost his job and feels like he's let his family down. He'll change diapers even though it gags him because it has to be done, and he'll shake with terror the first time he holds his child because he's afraid he'll drop her. 

The average guy rescues stray animals, cares for his younger siblings, tells his best pal a dirty joke because  she needs to laugh. He'll keep his worries to himself because he doesn't want that weight on the people he cares about. 

Yes, he's imperfect, but so are we all. To all of you: thanks, guys.

Kris Letang Masterton Finalist by @ChicksDigHockey

The NHL announced today that Kris Letang, along with Goaltenders Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators, is a  finalist for the 2014-15 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.  The Masterton is awarded "to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." 

Letang is the Penguins' Masterton Trophy candidate for the second consecutive season, his latest nomination coming just 15 months after suffering a stroke in January 2014. He lifted his game to new heights in 2014-15, anchoring the Pittsburgh blueline and posting single-season career highs in goals (tie, 11), assists (43) and points (54) despite missing 13 games due to injury. Letang led the Penguins in average ice time per game (25:29), nearly three minutes more than any other player on the roster, and tied for second on the club in plus-minus (+12). He also was the only blueliner in the NHL to post a five-point game in 2014-15 (five assists vs. WPG on Jan. 27). (NHL)

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