Orpik, Niskanen and Reirden return to Pittsburgh by @ChicksDigHockey


Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen  and Todd Reirden all return to CEC today for the first time since the summer of the shake-up.

Reirden was a fixture in the Pens' organization since 2008 when he joined the WBS Pens coaching staff.  He made his way to the NHL behind the bench in 2010 and stayed there until he became part of the collateral damage from Bylsma's firing. The former NHL defenseman worked mostly with the team’s defensemen and power play. He is credited with helping to revitalize Niskanen's career on the blue line.

It wasn't much of a surprise when Niskanen signed with the Caps this summer without even first visiting the team. Reirden was there.....and the Caps extended him the most lucrative contract to be offered on the first day of free agency. He would have been a fool not to accept.



What was a surprise to many was Niskanen speaking out against what he perceived as the Penguins being less than upfront in the way they handled Bylsma's firing. He told the Trib's Josh Yohe, “The organization can say whatever it wants, that it wasn't sure what it wanted to do, all that stuff,” he said. “But it was (bull)."

 Both Reirden and Niskanen insisted they have no hard feelings and that, on personal levels, were treated well. They both took deals that were good for them and weren't offered to stay. It would be nice to see them applauded at CEC.

Then there's Brooks Orpik.

 Since he received a five-year, $27.5 million deal from the Capitals, he's been uncharacteristically quiet. He was a Penguin since the team drafted him 18th overall in 2000. During that time many considered him the conscience of the locker room. When the Pens played poorly he admitted it. If there was a finger to be pointed, he pointed it. When things went well, he knew why.

He gave the Penguins his best years. He played hard. But he felt pressure in Pittsburgh.  Orpik admitted, "There is a standard in Pittsburgh that is tough. We’d win games, and people would still be criticizing us. People were saying we were winning games the wrong way. I don’t even know what that means, if there is such a thing.”

 Orpik admitted to a Washington Post reporter that he expects his return to Pittsburgh to be an emotional one. He said at first he told himself not to sign with a Metro Division team out of loyalty to the Pens. But between the money, location, personnel and opportunity to anchor a defensive corps begging for depth, Washington was too good to pass up.

He will no doubt feel a twinge in the pit of his stomach as he emerges from the tunnel on to the Fort Pitt bridge. 

 “The thing I imagined the most was the first game, hopefully just get it over with as quick as possible and have fun with it and move on,” Orpik said. “One of those things you’ve just got to get through,” Orpik said. “Once you get through the first time, then it becomes a little more normal, I guess. I don’t know what to expect, to be honest.”

I hope he gets a big, well-produced tribute on the jumbotron. I hope he gets choked up because the crowd rises to their feet and thanks him for his years of service.....and all that "Free Candy"

Stay classy, Pittsburgh.





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