Colliding awkwardly with captain Sidney Crosby and crashing into the boards against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 23, Pascal Dupuis suffered a torn ACL and MCL which effectively ended his 2013-14 campaign.
Dupuis underwent surgery to repair the injuries on Feb. 12, and was adamant that he would be 100 percent by the time next season rolls around. Knowing Dupuis’ determination and toughness, Pens’ fans can assume he’s true to his word when he says he’ll be raring to go come October, despite receiving a 6-8 month timetable.
At the start of this past season, Dupuis was lined up on his then usual pairing of Crosby and Chris Kunitz. As the season progressed, head coach Dan Bylsma opted to replace Dupuis with Beau Bennett on the top-line, but it would be short-lived. Undergoing surgery for his hand/wrist on Nov. 25, Bennett would land on the injured reserve, equating to a first-line reunion for Dupuis. Then, obviously, Dupuis went down.
However, for 2014-15, Dupuis could become a fixture on Brandon Sutter’s third-line.
Despite having hand/wrist surgery again this month, Bennett figures to be – as it stands – Crosby’s right winger for next season. Although he was designated to the third-line for most of the playoffs, Bennett will be entering his third season, and his chances of putting up significant numbers – given he’s able to stay healthy – is plausible. And that means Sutter could enjoy Dupuis’ company for the entirety of the campaign.
Sutter never had concrete wingers last season, and the lack in chemistry of the various forwards who rolled through his line absolutely had something to do with his marginal offensive production. With Dupuis along his side for the long-haul, we could see the two of them building quite the bond. While Dupuis would be a viable option to place on the top-line, I think it’s in the team’s best interest to give Bennett that role.
Yes, Bennett was wildly inconsistent last season, but he’s a former first-round selection for a reason, and he’s shown true goal-scoring promise – something Crosby had issues with towards the tail-end of this past season. Bennett also would bring a right-handed shot to the first-line, and a full season could benefit him and the team. Besides, Dupuis’ experience and crash-the-net style would suit Sutter better.
In the NHL, it’s wise to have every line pose as legitimate scoring threats. While I’m not suggesting Dupuis is a deadly sharp-shooter, he does go to the dirty areas and grind out much-needed goals. Sutter, who started to turn it up following the trade deadline in which his name was thrown around, is in line to take his game to the next level and contribute greatly next season. Having Dupuis in his pairing would provide stability.
Of course, Pittsburgh is one of those teams where they’ll alter the lines mid-contest, so ultimately, is there really a solidified pairing? But nonetheless, Dupuis’ re-insertion is going to aid the Pens in general.
Flexibility is a luxury, and whether Dupuis is on the first or third, his return will be utterly valued.