The Most Important Penguin You Have Never Heard Of: Matt D'Agostini by @ChrisRBarron - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Most Important Penguin You Have Never Heard Of: Matt D'Agostini by @ChrisRBarron

Unlike the NBA, the NHL is not a star-driven league.  It is not enough to land a LeBron James and pair him with a Dwayne Wade and - voila - championships.  The NHL is still a team driven sport that requires depth.  Don't believe me?  Just ask the Washington Capitals (Alex Ovechkin), Tampa Bay Lightning (Steven Stamkos) or Philadelphia Flyers (Claude Giroux) whether having one of the league's biggest stars is enough to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup (hint:  its not - that group has zero Cups between them).

These facts shouldn't be comforting to Penguins fans.  Despite having locked up Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (arguably the two best players in the world) for the next decade, Crosby and Malkin alone will not be enough to bring the Cup back to Pittsburgh.

There are a lot of question marks for the Pens entering the 2013 season.  Can Crosby stay healthy?  Will Marc Andre-Fleury rebound after a disastrous playoffs?  Will Malkin look like the Hart Trophy winner of two seasons ago?  Is the addition of Rob Scuderi enough to improve a Pens defense that was sliced and diced by the Bruins?  Can Kris Letang improve his play and become worthy of the mega-contract the Pens gave him?  Will Beau Bennett finally be the answer on the 2nd line? 

All of those are important questions, but a question that serious Pens fans need to be asking themselves is whether or not this team has the depth necessary to make a run at the Cup.  There is no question that the Pens top 6 is the best in the NHL.  Beyond that top 6, however, there are serious question marks.

The need for depth and the questions about the Pens depth on the 3rd and 4th lines is why I would argue that the Matt D'Agostini is the most important Penguin player that much of the fan base has never heard of. 

The losses of Tyler Kennedy (traded to San Jose) and Matt Cooke (signed by Minnesota) have left a gaping hole on the Pens third line.  We know who will center the third line - Brandon Sutter - but what we don't know is who will play on his wings.   

And that's where Matt D'Agostini comes in.  D'Agostini is a 26 year-old right-winger who the Pens signed to a one-year deal in July for the bargain basement price of $550,000.  After locking up Malkin, Letang, Dupuis and bringing back Rob Scuderi, Ray Shero wasn't left with many options under the reduced NHL cap.

D'Agostini has been jokingly referred to as a poor man's Tyler Kennedy.  Like Kennedy, D'Agostini hails from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, plays Right Wing, and has shown flashes of talent coupled with mind-numbing stretches of under-achieving.

Last year, D'Agostini, like Kennedy, struggled - notching just 3 goals and 3 assists in 29 games splitting time between the Blues and the Devils.  If D'Agostini is going to fill the void on the 3rd line, the Pens will need him to bounce back and put up numbers like he did earlier in his career.  D'Agostini's best season came in 2010-2011 with St. Louis when he netted 46 points off of 21 goals and 25 assists playing in all 82 games.

Given the salary cap, the need to lock up their stars and the disturbing lack of depth among forwards in the Pens system, GM Ray Shero was forced to take a low-priced gamble.  If the Pens are going to make a run at the Cup, Shero will need that gamble to pay big dividends.

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