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Monday, June 30, 2014

Challenging My Penguin Loyalty by @ChicksDigHockey

I’m a very loyal person; to a fault. Once you’ve found a place in my life, I have a hard time letting you go. This is why I’m having a hard time with the Penguins offseason. Never before have I faced such sweeping changes as a fan. 

I remember when Max Talbot left in 2011. Max was a favorite for his attitude on the ice. His skills my not have been on par with top six forwards but he could ‘Muck and Grind’ with the best. Anytime he came over the boards the personality on the ice changed; it got bigger and a bit tougher. And who will ever forget “Shhhh….”?

Many of my friends were furious at Talbot’s departure to Philly but the Pens made it easy for him to go; they offered him nothing to stay. Who could blame him for wanting his payday? Apparently everyone.  I remember thinking “Anywhere but Philly, Max.” My loyal heart was broken when I first saw him in Flyer Orange.

The same feelings surfaced when Ray Shero was fired. I know nothing about being a General Manager of a hockey team but in recent years Twitter was polluted with #InSheroWeTrust. His acquisitions read like a hockey’s ‘Who’s Who’.  While one could make an argument as to whether the ’09 cup was won solely under Dan Bylsma’s influence, there’s no arguing that was the team that Shero built. 

This year there were rumors of discord in the Penguin’s management family. Like most people, I thought Bylsma’s head was on the chopping block when the Pens fumbled the three-one lead to the Rangers in the playoffs. When Shero was fired in the aftermath, I was shocked. Call me naive but it felt like they’d made a mistake. I know you can’t fire players and change starts at the top but Ray was like my favorite uncle….#FireShero prevailed.

From there, it’s been one of the most confusing, head scratching off-seasons ever. Not only did the Pens bring a GM with less success than Shero on board, they settled on a coach with no Stanley Cup playoff experience to fix the problem of getting the team to the ultimate goal of hoisting the Cup. I hope that decision appears brilliant in hindsight. For now, I just don’t get it. 

It's being widely reported that the new GM plans to let all the UFAs  ”explore free-agency”. Every stinking one of them.  Thanks for your service boys, but don’t let the locker room door hit you in the ass on your way out. I could be wrong, but it feels dismissive and arrogant. BTW James Neal, I hope you and your 30 goals like country music. There goes my loyalty again. 

When the puck drops on the 2014-15 season there will be a bench full of new faces both sitting and standing.  Sure, we’ll retain our superstars but how long will it take to know the strangers? How long before Sid will confidently leave a drop pass knowing “what’s-his-name” will pick it up? My loyalty will certainly be tested. 

July promises to be a wild ride filled with twists and turns. Hold on tight, at any moment this train could derail…..OR, it could be the most spectacular ride ever. We could all emerge next June sweaty, elated and screaming, “Let’s do it again!”


  1. If it helps, remember that the doubt and comments about the new coach's lack of NHL playoff experience was the same thing said about Disco Dan when he was brought in. Bylsma was probably worse off since he was being thrown into things mid season and didn't have all summer to prepare. I liked Dan a lot. I like the new guy too and I like his attitude coming into things. The guy wants to win and doing it by building over the season as a group and I'm willing to give him a chance. As a life long fan who wasn't alive during the bad early 80's years, I can only compare this years situation to the 1999-2004 years which was far worse as a fan. This may be a nutty offseason and season upcoming, we may question our loyalty numerous times, but the team isn't moving anywhere and we atleast have hope.

  2. Clinging to the past is why the Pens are where they are now.

  3. You are a much better woman than me. I jumped ship last season when Matt Cooke left. I became a Wild fan and something very strange happened. Having taken a step back from being a maniacal Penguin fan, you get a whole different perspective on the team. I told myself that the Pens would be my second favorite team, and I took a whole lot of abuse from my Pen fan friends. Purchasing Center Ice and watching mainly Western Conference hockey was a real eye-opener. Sure, the Pens are skilled offensively, even with tons of injuries, but the regular season in the West resembles the playoffs a lot more than the Eastern game. I know the new GM wants to construct a playoff ready team, but I think it's much easier said than done. The one thing I'm absolutely certain of is that chemistry in hockey is vital. Teams that win the Cup just have the right mix. There's no rhyme or reason to how it falls into place. It just does. I don't think all the players have to love each other, but they definitely have to play together for that common goal. The first thing out of my mouth on July 5, 2013 when Cookie left was, " They just effed up that locker room". I know why the Pens felt like they had to let him walk, but he was that guy in the room. The prankster, the guy who lightened up the tension & also laid it out on the ice. All one has to do is go to the Wild website and watch their playoff victory videos, especially the Game 7 win against the Avalanche, and you will see exactly what was missing from the Pens room. I'm finding the Pens' moves to be fascinating, but my excitement lies with the Wild. They are extremely reminiscent of the 2008 & 2009 Pens. I thought so the first time I saw them play last October. I followed Cookie there & found an incredibly exciting team. Now, I'm in love with the whole team. Funny thing is, I went to more Pens games last season than I ever did ...LOL. I still love them, it's just dormant right now. This season is definitely going to be must see, just to see all of the new faces & how they all mesh. It's a good thing there's a time difference for most of the Wild games.

  4. I've never understood how Americans can just change teams like this. Just not sport to me.

  5. How are we defining GM success? Because I wouldn't say Rutherford was less successful than Shero. They've both got 1 ring


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