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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Amazing Tire Fire That is the Pittsburgh Penguins by @DXTraeger

Pictured: the 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins' Team Photo
 I hate the Philadelphia Flyers, and I hate their fanbase.

I take immense pleasure in watching that franchise flounder on its face, and I openly reveled in the Flyers missing the postseason for the third time since the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.

But if I'm going to be fair and honest in how I interpret the games that I watch and the teams that I observe, then it's only fair that I reach the following conclusion:  the 2014-2015 Pittsburgh Penguins are a Springfield Tire Fire that is beginning to rival the wasteland that is the Philadelphia Flyers.

Getting right to the point, how do you define "success" for an NHL franchise?

I'm asking rhetorically, because regardless of your definition, the Penguins have failed to achieve it this season.

Disappointment rains down from every angle, and everyone, from owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, down to the Zach Sills and Beau Bennetts of the roster, is getting drenched in the proverbial shit storm that has enveloped the organization over the past few months.

I spent way too much time breaking down the awfulness that is Zach Sill, and yet the Penguins are 9-10-3 since GM Jim Rutherford moved Sill to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Daniel Winnik and two draft picks.

Rutherford's other deals— acquiring David Perron for the Oilers for the Penguins' 2015 1st Round Draft Pick, and swapping Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres for Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy, respectively— sound fantastic on paper but the end result has been far from ideal.
"Oh look honey, David Perron's face says
that our Coors Light cans are ice cold!"

Winnik's impact has been virtually negligible, as he's been unable to finish plays on any kind of consistent basis.

The same goes for Perron, who started off his tenure with the Penguins on an immensely hot streak, but has gone so cold that Coors Light is going to have Perron's face turn blue on their next beer can.

Lovejoy had a miserable game last night, finishing a -2 with numerous giveaways in his own end.  Yeah, it's lovely that Lovejoy is the greatest locker room interview in the land, but it's not going to help the Pens win any games.

Ian Cole has recorded points in his last five games, and while extremely nice (especially with the absences of Ehrhoff, Letang, and now potentially Pouliot), the Penguins acquired Cole more for his size and puck moving than his offensive acumen.

Rutherford doesn't inherently deserve the bulk of criticism, as he has assembled a roster that, as individuals, is infinitely superior to the unbelievably bad team the Penguins skated out in the playoffs last year.

To that end, Rutherford's been playing his GM poker hand minus a few cards, as the Penguins' much-discussed salary cap woes (in the form of Rob Scuderi, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis) are giant albatrosses hanging from the neck of the Pittsburgh Penguin's logo.

Where to go next...oh, the power-play.  Yes, the power-play, the power-play, the power-play...

The 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins power-play motto
SHOOT.  THE.  PUCK.  The Flyers have a tremendous power-play, and their team, outside of Giroux and Voracek is horribad.  COPY WHAT THEY DO!  And guess what the Flyers' power-play does?


It's almost as though the Penguins, not content with passing the puck around the perimeter without scoring, conscientiously decided that the solution was, in fact, MOAR PASSING!

I hereby submit that the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins' jerseys add a solid double yellow line on the shoulders, and that Rutherford sign Gandalf the Grey to a 1 year deal to not-so-subtly remind the #1 PP unit that THEY SHALL NOT PASS.

Injuries have hurt the Penguins this year, sure.  Malkin looked pained last night, and was virtually invisible outside of getting his face smashed into the glass.  Losing Pouliot halfway through didn't help the Pittsburgh cause, either.

But that's still no excuse for the Pens to be obliterated in the third period and overtime.  It's a welcome change that in all of the chaos and anger that followed Mark Stone's game winner, nobody seemed to be blaming Marc-Andre Fleury, and that's progress.

Fleury was amazing, as the final score could have easily been 10-3 Senators, and that "10" isn't hyperbole.  The Penguins' defense broke down like a Pontiac Sunfire and let Ottawa- especially Stone and Turris- wail away on the Flower with total impunity.

Crosby and company could very well still make the playoffs, and I kind of like their odds against the Montreal Canadians, but at long last, the years of the Penguins going "all-in" have caught up to them as the organization is now devoid of draft picks, devoid of developing offensive talent outside of Kasperi Kapanen, and have two superstars beginning to enter the early twilight of their tremendous careers.

No matter how you shake it, it's a grim time to be a Penguins' fan.

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