Oct 21, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Colorado Avalanche right wing Steve Downie (17) follow a loose puck during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Colorado Avalanche won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Downie To Play Alongside Sidney Crosby?


Its been well-documented that Sidney Crosby doesn’t have an official right winger.

Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Penguins, they’ll have Beau Bennett and Pascal Dupuis presumably healthy at the start of next season, and they’ve added a few other right wingers – Steve Downie, Patric Hornqvist. So, head coach Mike Johnston will certainly have a pool to choose from.

The only thing left to do is pinpoint Crosby’s other winger.

We know Chris Kunitz will be on the captain’s left, but is it a smart idea to put Downie on the right? Sounds like a bad plan at face value, given Bennett and Hornqvist’s scoring ability, however, Downie’s prior experience playing on the top-line with superstars may work in his favor.

Totaling 46 points (22G, 24A) back in 2009-10 for the Tampa Bay Lightning – the most Downie’s ever recorded in a season – he skated alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Who was the coach of that team? Rick Tocchet – who’s now an assistant coach for Pittsburgh. If Downie has Tocchet’s tutelage and the NHL’s best facilitator at his disposal (Crosby), why not give him a chance with top-line duties?

If Downie’s on the top, Evgeni Malkin can have Hornqvist slot in as his right wing, and Bennett can return to being on the second-line, but as a left winger. For as much as ex-Pens’ coach Dan Bylsma tried to integrate Bennett with Crosby, it just didn’t work. However, Bennett’s had success playing alongside Malkin, so he may be better off on the second anyway. Dupuis is in no way, shape or form able to play on the top-line, considering he’s coming off ACL/MCL surgery.

One of the biggest reasons Downie was signed is because he’s tough as nails – he adds a boatload of grit. Grit seems to be what every team longs for, and it couldn’t be more needy with Pittsburgh. Especially for Crosby’s line. Should the captain manage to find himself in a frustrating situation, Downie is the type of player who’ll keep him at bay.

As it stands, Pittsburgh has quite a few right wingers: Craig Adams, Bennett, Downie, Dupuis, and Hornqvist – all of which are projected to start. Given Bennett’s flipped around before, it makes sense for him to play Malkin’s left wing; Adams is going to be the fourth-line’s right winger; Dupuis will find himself getting acquainted with Brandon Sutter on the third; and Hornqvist, as I said earlier, will make a great fake James Neal partner with Malkin. Leaving Downie on the top.

This way, the Penguins can have some balance to their lineup – something they weren’t able to manage last season. And while the team can clearly put Bennett on the top, it just makes sense for composition purposes that Downie is there instead.

You want to maximize Downie’s value, and the only way to do that is to place him with Crosby. Obviously, there’ll take some getting use to, but the potential of a ’09-10 Downie is evident.

Can’t go wrong with Hornqvist being Crosby’s right winger either.

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  • Daniel

    I’m calling it now Bennett will be a healthy scratch 30 games into the season.

    • Skip Carlsbaugh

      I hope so.
      I don’t have high hopes for him. He shows flashes of skill, but is highly inconsistent, and has the frail body of a 13 year old girl.

      • bern1417

        It’s not his body that is frail it’s his wrist that is a mess.. They knew this when they drafted him.. If La wants Martin so bad they should send Bennett in a package with him..

  • Neil

    I agree and disagree with this article. I think Downie should definitely be given a chance at the top line, why not try it out. But two things I want to disagree with.

    1. Bennett has had more success playing on the right wing. Hornqvist has already stated that he doesn’t care, he’ll play either wing because he spends most of his time in front of the net anyways. Therefore, why not make the second line Malkin centering Hornqvist on the left and bennett on the right? Maybe we’ll see better production from BB that way and Hornqvist claims he will have the same production on either wing.

    2. I just want to say that it’s a bit rash to say there is no way Dupuis can return to the first line. not that it matters, because I would play him on the third line too, but I think he is in good enough shape that if he wanted to he could return to the first line.

    • Johnny

      Very good points, Neil. And I agree with Bennett and Hornqvist. Either way, my general opinion was to have them slotted on the second. Doesn’t really matter how, just have them there.

      As far as Dupuis, I just don’t think he’ll be as productive. He doesn’t really take quality shots, and who knows if he’s even capable of keeping up with Crosby and Kunitz after having serious surgery on his knee. Besides, if he’s on the third, it’ll give Sutter a concrete winger – something he didn’t have all of last season.

      • Neil

        yeah like I said I too would put dupuis on the third line because like you said that’s just depth that we haven’t had in quite some time. I just think that we shouldn’t assume that because of the injury dupuis wont be as productive. who knows, either of us could be right, but I’m just saying we shouldn’t count him out just yet

      • bern1417

        Well if Dupuis wasn’t a fitness nut I would say scratch him from line 1… However, he’s ahead of schedule so who knows.. I also, would prefer him on the 3rd line since he’s been a B6 player most of his career anyways.. I just hope 87 and 14 don’t try persuading Johnston or anything like that.. Then we’ll have another Iggy situation on our hands bc Bylsma was tp big of a pansy to say NO to Sid.. Line 1 Kunitz, Crosby, Downie… Line 2 Hornqvist Malkin Bennett… Line 3 Spaling, Sutter, Dupuis… Line 4 Comeau, Goc, Sill.. Unlike you I think Adams’ days in Pgh are numbered and I could care less about his 700k cap hit.. His -16 sticks out more to me.. Plus when JR straight up calls your +/- out in his inaugural press conference I wouldn’t feel real comfortable.. Adams was/is also the snitch of the locker room and isn’t like by a few.. His morning coffee talks in the coaches room got old among the players.. He’ll either be gone by Sep or he’ll be the 13th forward..

  • Skip Carlsbaugh

    There is still no balance to this team, they are SOFT. Even softer than last year if you go right down the roster man for man. Its a joke. Downie was a good signing imo, but more as a matt cooke type than some “protector”. He fought 4 times last year and lost them all. And was injury riddled. Even though the team overall was soft, Engelland and Glass were both tougher than Downie by a mile, but were handcuffed by bylsma. Didn’t want them “mixing it up”. Need more toughness, or they aren’t going anywhere.
    Count on it.

    • bern1417

      If you think this team top to bottom is softer than last year you’re lacking… First off Downie isn’t here to fight!!! He’s here for the grit and if he has to fight he will, but fighting in hockey isn’t about how many one wins or loses it’s about sticking up for your teammates. Something that the 2013-14 Pens knew nothing about especially come the post-season. Downie was injury riddled bc he has a hearing disorder and he actually lost his hearing, but he had surgery and he’s fine.. Plus the lack of hearing effected his balance. Sure he had a concussion, but so did a mess of NHL players at some point last year. While I liked both Engelland and Glass bringing either or both back was pointless!!! Between Downie, Spaling, Sill and Comeau they got players who hit, play 200ft, PK, and now have a balanced 4 lines.. Engelland played how many games? and couldn’t crack the post-season roster.. Glass can’t skate and couldn’t crack the post-season roster.. They brought in 3 players who are better all around hockey players who can do the same thing that Engo and Glass did. A bottom 6 of Sutter, Spaling, Dupuis, Goc, Sill, and Comeau looks a heck of a lot better than Sutter, Gibbons, Adams, Megna, Vitale, Glass or Conner or whomever else played among the worst/softest bottom 6 in the NHL…. And just bc they lost Nisky and Orpik doesn’t make them not tough either. Nisky isn’t a hitter and Orpik isn’t the same player he was 4 years ago. Plus Bort, Despres, and someone else can make up for it on the back end. By January you’ll be thinking differently..

  • Michael J. Coslo

    Any of these guys willing to plant themselves in front of the net, ala Kevin Stevens?

    If not, it’s going to be a repeat of the last 5 years.