Last season ended exactly like most have in recent years; with a stink of disappointment. The Penguins of the 2013 began as a team constantly finding ways to overcome injures that might have cost other teams their whole season. They finished with a record of 51-24-7, with a debilitating 529 man games lost. I am not certain, but I believe there was an average of 6 men lost per game.
This all changed after the Olympic break. The second half Pittsburgh Penguins team looked unfocused and sloppy. After a sub par post season, enough was enough for Burkle and Lemieux. They fired Shero and Byslma and hired Jim Rutherford to anchor their management. In this hiring, came a man who is confident about allowing the Penguins young defensemen get a chance on the big stage.
In an interview with the Tribune Review, associate GM Jason Botterill openly admitted that they are anxious to see just what these young guys can do: "We're extremely excited about these young defensemen...Brian Dumoulin. Scott Harrington. Simon Despres. It's time for them to get an opportunity."
And why not? In December, we got a taste of the future of the Penguins defense with Brian Dumoulin. Pittsburgh went 5-1 during that time while Dumoulin logged around 18-21 minutes a game. He is a good puck distributer and has a smooth skating ability. In 53 regular season AHL games, he had 21 points and was a plus two. In the playoffs? A plus 5. Not bad. Not ugly. A player that has earned his chance to shine. Can work be done? Sure. There is always room to improve. But, if this is the future of the Penguins defense, sign me up.
For a defenseman's defenseman, the Penguins need to look no further than Scott Harrington. Harrington is an incredibly smart two way hockey player with a lot of knowledge. He is strong in getting the puck out of his zone and has great vision. Harrington is not flashy. He will not have a ton of points. He is a stay at home defenseman and has largely been compared to Rob Scuderi during his "piece" time.
Simon Despres is a player that has been long argued among Penguins fans. We first got a look at him in 18 games in 2011 where he was a plus 5. This year, he played 34 NHL games, logged 5 points and was a plus 4. In Wilkes-Barre he played 36 games, had 23 points and was a plus 19. The biggest question we as fan have had, is why was he not put in earlier? Through injuries, we saw other players get ice time when Despres should have. That is all about to change according to Rutherford. It seems he will get his chance.
These new additions add a good mix of offense and defense. These guys are responsible, can move the puck and help the forwards, but know when it is time to get back. They will benefit greatly from having guys like Paul Martin and Kris Letang to guide them along.
Do not misunderstand. These guys are the future. There is still work to be done, bugs to be fixed, and mistakes to be made. They are people, not robots. The thing is ,Penguins fans wanted change. Well, here is change. Either get with that change and be patient, or move on.
This is the future, and it's extra bright.
Thanks to the Trib and Mans Game Lost. Please go to the following websites for more information: