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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Defense of Tyler Kennedy

by Chris Barron (@chrisrbarron)

I have to admit, being the self-proclaimed President of the TK fan club can be a lonely and frustrating place to be at times. I do my best during Pens games not to respond to the predictable tweets blaming TK for any and everything bad that happens for the Pens. 95% of the time the tweets assigning blame are mindless. Hell some of the time, TK gets blamed for stuff that happens even when he isn't on the ice.

Just look at what the internet does to him...

When the Pens lose, the TK hating mobs are ready to grab their pitchforks and torches. Who knew that a third line winger, averaging 12 minutes of ice time a game, held the future of the Pens franchise in his hands.

It's not just the masses who play the TK blame game, TK has become an easy mark for the Pens opinion leaders too. One Pens blogger, who shall go unnamed, has had exactly one interaction with me on twitter, which was to ask me why I rooted for such a terrible player.

 Not all of the criticism is half-crocked twitter blame gaming, some it actually comes from people who I like, admire and respect. Evil Ray Shero penned a long and detailed piece called "The Curious Case of Tyler Kennedy" just a few weeks ago. He warned me he was writing it, and after debating whether or not I should read it, I bit the bullet and read it. We are still friends.

That isn't to say that TK is blameless. Far from it, Tyler Kennedy is a skilled player with a lot of talent, talent that seems to disappear for long stretches of time. TK is one of those players who tantalizes and teases with flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, even in the best of seasons for TK, those flashes of brilliances are separated by periods of less than stellar play.

Is Tyler Kennedy a top 6 forward? Not on a stacked team like the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kennedy is a former 20-goal scorer, however, and is clearly a player that Dan Bylsma likes (funny how many twitter head coaches are so willing to discard the judgment of a guy who has actually won a Stanley Cup and almost 70% of the games he has coached for the Pens). Kennedy has been the ultimate team player, he has done everything Bylsma has asked him to do, been bounced around from line to line, and even moved to center in wake of the Crosby injury and never once complained about it.

The truth is, that if TK was playing in Winnipeg or a dozen other places in the NHL - he certainly could and would be a top 6 forward. Take a look at TK's stats, even this year - an unquestioned down year for Kennedy. Playing on mostly the 3rd line, TK has 5 goals and 4 assists (9 points) and a -2. Winnipeg's current second line RW Antti Miettinen has 2 goals and 2 assists (4 points) and a -3. Winnipeg's second line C Olli Jokinen has 7 goals and 5 assists (12 points) and a -19 averaging far more ice time than Kennedy. And the Jets are likely going to be a playoff team. It is a testament to the embarrassment of riches that we enjoy in Pittsburgh now (compliments of Ray Shero) that a forward with TK's abilities can be utilized on a 3rd or 4th line.

When George W. Bush was President there was a condition that gripped many liberals in the U.S. known as Bush Derangement Syndrome: every ill in the country and the world were somehow the fault of Bush. Many conservatives in the U.S. have replaced Bush Derangement Syndrome with Obama Derangement Syndrome. Neither of these conditions were constructive to the political process, nor were either of these conditions reality-based.

Similarly, too many Pens fans suffered from Paul Martin Derangement Syndrome last year, and too
many suffer from Tyler Kennedy Derangement Syndrome this year. Like their political counter-parts, neither of these conditions are constructive and neither are particularly reality-based.

As Pens fans, we are lucky to have TK on the 3rd or 4th line, so give it a rest. Praise him when he does something worth praising, criticize him when he does something that merits criticism, but stop pretending that every single ill on the ice is somehow Tyler Kennedy's fault.

That's my defense of Tyler Kennedy; that and this little reminder:

TK saved us from Jagr – and for that alone, he has my undying love and admiration.

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