Jan 27, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Brian Gibbons (49) takes a shot on Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) during the second period at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Gibbons to Replace Pascal Dupuis on the Top-Line?


Unfortunately during last season, Pascal Dupuis went down with an ACL tear, and his absence was noticeable.

The Penguins were more than capable of producing offensively without him during the regular-season, but eventually faltered in the postseason. Due to the construction of the roster, the Penguins needed their top players to show up every game and they were unable to. This method of building a roster does not produce Stanley Cup victories – as the Penguins’ ownership has finally realized.

With Dupuis coming back from a serious injury he will almost certainly be slower and more cautious than he was prior. Most players usually take at least part of a season to get re-acclimated with the speed of the game and regain confidence. I propose that Dupuis moves down to the third-line with Brandon Sutter, they re-sign forward Brian Gibbons, and put him on Sidney Crosby’s right wing.

Given the Penguins’ limited cap space of just around $14.5 million – per Cap Geek – Gibbons could be re-signed on a three-year deal for less than a million annually. During the Columbus series, Gibbons was on the top-line for the first two games, until he was injured. He seemed to be a perfect fit, and was flying around the ice with Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

The biggest criticism of Gibbons is his physical size.

He stands at 5-foot-8, and weighs 170-pounds, but he makes up for his small size with eye-popping speed. Similarly to Dupuis, Gibbons uses his speed, and is capable of making breakaways where most other players cannot. Surprisingly, Gibbons also has slick hands, and is able to make great goaltenders look completely average during 1-on-1 situations.

A prominent example was during Game 2 of the Blue Jackets and Penguins series. Gibbons, while on the penalty kill, not only created his own breakaway with his blazing speed, but used his creative hands to score on ‘Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.

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Now, by giving Gibbons a chance to be on the top-line, that would give Sutter a reliable and productive linemate in Dupuis. The so-called “youth movement” that will be happening on the Penguins’ blue-line also needs to happen within the forward corps. By putting Gibbons on the top-line with Crosby and Kunitz, it spreads out the older players within the lineup. Another benefit of moving Dupuis to the third-line is that he will add much-needed secondary scoring to the Penguins’ lineup, without taking up any extra cap space to sign another player.

I have two concerns with placing Gibbons on the top-line though. First, he has very, very limited NHL experience.

This last season was his first at the NHL-level, and he only played in 41 games. During those games, he averaged 11:57 minutes per game, mostly with the third or fourth lines. Despite the lack of ice-time or high quality players around him, he was still able to produce 17 points, which is respectable for how little he was on the ice.

The other big concern I have with putting Gibbons on the top-line is his durability, given his small body. Opposing teams would view him as the weak link on the line and quite possibly target him with their most physical defenseman to try and rattle him.

Given the Penguins salary cap situation, they need to at the very least re-sign Gibbons though. Time will tell if they decide to give him a chance on the top-line. But one thing is for sure, I cannot see the Penguins being able to replace him with an equally talented forward for the little amount of money he would command.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins