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Rutherford: Pittsburgh Penguins Need More Balance At Forward

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Despite losing to the Carolina Hurricanes last night the Pittsburgh Penguins remain tied for the Metropolitan division lead with the New York Islanders. Pittsburgh currently sits at 15-5-2 and is a perplexing team.

New GM Jim Rutherford has done an adequate job of crafting a new roster for the Pittsburgh Penguins but a familiar problem exists. A balanced attack is something the Penguins have not had for years. Every offseason it seems with the moves made that this problem will be fixed, but once again it has not worked fully.

Apr 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jussi Jokinen (36) reacts after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Before I begin taking heat again let me elaborate. With the loss of Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett for the foreseeable future, the Penguins depth players have been forced to move up in the lineup. Players like Nick Spaling, Blake Comeau and Steve Downie have all taken shifts with the top two lines. Not only were these players not brought into fill these roles, but they better serve the team in the bottom six.

Some may argue that Comeau “deserves” to be in the top six but his situation is eerily similar to former Penguin Jussi Jokinen‘s. Before being traded to Pittsburgh, Jokinen was struggling and highly unproductive in Carolina. Unsurprisingly once he gels with superstar Evgeni Malkin he has one of his best years in his career.

The same thing is happening with Comeau, he was a struggling player who joined with the Penguins over the offseason. Now that he is playing with Malkin his production has returned and at the end of the season he will take his career year to the bank. Blake Comeau will leave Pittsburgh at the end of the year.

My point is not to bash on either Jokinen or Comeau, but merely point out while Comeau has played well in the top six that does not mean he is a true top six forward. Really any player that can develop chemistry with a player like Malkin or Sidney Crosby will be productive.

Rutherford also believes what I speak of, while the team is productive overall they need true top six forwards and more balance in their attack.

"We’ll still make some changes with the team. We need to get more balance in our forward lines. And I say that with all due respect to the players we have. The guys have worked hard. At the same time, there’s a lot of good teams in this league, and I recognize that we’ll have to get more depth up front."

Comeau, Spaling and Downie all have been great additions but none of them are true top six forwards. With the loss of Dupuis and Bennett, I smell some trades coming. Two teams that could be potential partners are the Hurricanes or the Edmonton Oilers.

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The issue is that of the Pittsburgh Penguins twelve forwards, only eight of them have more than eight points. It is not just the amount of points that are not being produced by the bottom six. The issue is that the difference between the top six and bottom six is too great.

Presently the Pittsburgh Penguins are relying on the same top heavy formula that has failed them year after year. Rutherford seems to have some ideas of who to bring in, but only time will tell.