It is this time of year when the sunlight wains more and more at the end of a workday, pumpkin everything starts appearing, Wal-Mart has had X-mas stuff out for 6 weeks, and we all start gearing up for hockey. One of the more fun things to talk about before all the camps, cuts, and practices is what the actual Penguins line-up will look like. I asked our staff what they think and here is what they said:
+Lee C.J. Sobotka (@lcjs) says:
I think the Pens will keep Kunitz with Crosby, though Perron is a better fit in the top 6 these days. For the record I was trying to predict what the Pens would do... not what I would do. I could also see the Pens putting Cole with Lovejoy and Pouliot with Scuds because they need to protect Scuds.@pghgirl15222) says:
Agree with Lee again, honestly I know Letang and Maatta are a given. Cole and Pouliot would be solid too, and you keep Scuds on for the PK for now. To me, Gonchar was brought in to keep the locker room calm with all of the new faces. Just my opinion.
+Sean Griffin (@griffthw) says:
To expand on that -
I dont think they brought Fehr in to play on the fourth line and i see him as more of a wing than Bonino. So I'd imagine the centers are fairly set.
Kessel and Hornqvist are set as the top two right wingers.
Perron was obviously great with Crosby when he first came over so I'd give him a shot riding shotgun again now that he's healthy and with a full offseason under his belt.
Maybe Kunitz isn't fit for the top-six anymore, but he was great with Malkin and Neal a few years back. I'd at least give him a shot to rebound this year banging in the corners with Hornqvist in front of the net and Malkin doing his thing.
With Fehr in the top nine, he's gotta play wing so I'd have him and Dupuis flanking Bonino (though I could possibly see them switching sides).
Maybe Plotnikov and Malkin would could develop chemistry but it seems like a bit much to expect him to jump right into the top-six. And i think Bennett would benefit from sticking on the right side and a chance to play with less pressure on the fourth line.
Sorry that was probably too long.
Kunitz Crosby Kessel
Perron Malkin Hornqvist
Bennett Bonino Fehr
Plotnikov Cullen Dupuis
Notes: I dont think Plotnikov and Bennett are locks anywhere. Dupuis will play everywhere this year. Fehr and Cullen will rotate around. Bonino will be a certified G and bonafide stud. Sucks hard Sundqvist, Sheary, and Pouliot wont get NHL mins without having an unreal camp. Gonchar will get an office job with the Pens and Sestito will play in WBS.+Chris Barron (@chrisrbarron) says:
Plotnikov Malkin Hornqvist
Kunitz Bonino Dupuis
Bennett Fehr ???
Perron Crosby Kessel
Kunitz Malkin Hornqvist
Plotnikov Bonino Dupuis
Bennett Fehr FARNHAM
Letang - Maata
Cole - Pouliot
Lovejoy - Sack of Potatoes
The Crosby/Kessel top line is predicated on straight-line north south speed, so their mystery third linemate should mimic that style. To that end, if he wasn't at the age where speed dissipates AND wasn't coming back from a major health scare, Pascal Dupuis would be a nice fit. Perron seems like an obvious plug, but the only attribute that seems to match Perron's world class hands is Perron's world class ability to disappear and avoid high-traffic areas on the ice.
Malkin and Hornqvist's chemistry has a similar conundrum: while it's just easy to assume that Plotnikov will play alongside Malkin because, duh, Russia, Kunitz is established goods and Kunitz's slowing wheels won't be a burden alongside a center that loves to shake & bake on his way into the offensive zone.
As for the defensive pairings, Penguins fans can only hope that some team somewhere takes on Rob Scuderi's salary (and his lead skates), and that the Penguins give a young prospect the opportunity to eat up #5 or #6 minutes alongside the 78 overall skill (and 99 media savvy) of Ben Lovejoy.
The Invisible Man (57)-Sid-DonutBoy
Kunitz-Bonino's Dog-Fehr(can interchange C)
Dooooper-Cullen-Kid Glass Bones
I call the last D pairing the "tire fire line"
I think forwards are fairly straight forward with some fluidity between Kunitz/Bennett/Plotnikov and whether the coaching staff views Fehr/Bonino as 3C/4C or 3W/3C.
Defense is a dumpster fire. Ideally after Letang/Maatta you'd have Pouliot/Cole, which isn't a good second pairing, but you cannot have a Lovejoy/Scuderi pairing. Problem is Lovejoy/Pouliot and Cole/Scuderi isn't a great solution either. Of course, if we were able to sub in Despres for Lovejoy there it wouldn't look half bad, minus Scuderi, but hopefully that's the last call Rutherford was allowed to make
Also gut feeling says Lovejoy gets dealt in camp, framed as "the younger guys stepped up and made him dispensable." If not, I'd be shocked if he's still here by the trade deadline.