Pittsburgh Penguins Weekly Round-Up: Latest Trade Rumors, Phil Bourque Comments, And More…


It’s been a rough week for the Pittsburgh Penguins, to put it lightly. They began the week with a somewhat promising performance against the Chicago Blackhawks, which saw them fall just short in a shootout loss. I felt that they played a pretty complete game though, and simply lost to a really good team in a game that could have gone either way.   From there it was all downhill, and Penguin fans are currently in full-blown panic mode. Phil Bourque, Pittsburgh Penguins color commentator for radio broadcasts drilled the team’s recent performance. You can find it here, courtesy of Sean Gentille of the Sporting News.

Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals was an embarrassment. After Alex Ovechkin slashed Kris Letang, the Penguins attempted retribution only to be humiliated. They continue to go about “revenge” incorrectly and ineffectively. It resulted in a Washington victory and even more frustration for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We also witnessed a Sidney Crosby scrap this week as the Penguins battled the Columbus Blue Jackets.

However, I use the word “battled” lightly as this was another embarrassing outing. Pittsburgh had a terrible start and looked lethargic for a full sixty minutes. Crosby dropped the gloves with Brandon Dubinsky, which looked to be an attempt to get the boys fired up. The crowd responded loudly and the arena was rocking, but Head Coach Mike Johnston followed up that fight by deploying Maxim Lapierre, Craig Adams, and Steve Downie. They produced no offense, or offensive zone pressure for that matter, and the momentum in the building dissipated quickly. The Penguins went on to lose the game 2-1, having lost yet another game to a Metropolitan Division opponent bringing their division record to 7-11-4.

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It’s clear at this point that the Pittsburgh Penguins need a shakeup. That shakeup needs to occur in the bottom-six. When the season started Jim Rutherford was praised for his attention to that area, and his intent to add team toughness. However, his efforts have resulted in yet another year of suffering through poor bottom-six play, and the toughness this team brings is nothing more than ineffective antics. The disappointing performance of this team hasn’t gone unnoticed by Rutherford, and he reportedly did not travel with the team Friday as he was working the phones to explore possible trades. Jason Mackey reported in his TribLive blog that a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins front office was quoted in saying “we’re going to be watching the next two games as closely as we’ve watched any games this year”. You can find his full blog here. It sounds like Management may be just as panicked as the fans.

If the Penguins do make a move, who’s available? Rumors still tie Pittsburgh to Jaromir Jagr. I personally feel that too much would have to happen for this work. Mostly, Chris Kunitz would have to be moved. If not, he will continue to flank Crosby’s left side, with David Perron on his right. That leaves Patric Hornqvist playing right wing on the second line. Jagr simply wouldn’t excel with Brandon Sutter, not that anyone really could. So although Jagr would help this struggling power play, I just don’t see him fitting without Kunitz being shipped out. That is very unlikely.

A few other familiar names are still floating out there with Pittsburgh as a possible landing spot. Daniel Winnik is a big one, but Toronto is said to be asking for a second-round draft pick in return. That may be too steep for Pittsburgh, who will not pick until the fourth round if they forfeit their second-round choice. However, a newer name has surfaced as his contract talks in Calgary have gone south. Curtis Glencross is a name that Rutherford is said to be interested in. Glencross could be a solid addition despite his lower possession numbers. He has 26 points in 49 games played, and he plays a solid defensive game as exhibited in the chart below:

I’d also like to bring up an older rumor, based off recent trade events, and suggest that maybe we’ll see life in the Paul Martin and Justin Williams swap. The trade has always made a lot of sense for both sides, and as the Kings get healthy up front it may not be out of the question. L.A. was rumored to be in on Cody Franson, and are still said to be looking for a defenseman for down the stretch. With the recent play of Derrick Pouliot and Christian Ehrhoff nearing a return from his concussion I don’t think it’s out of question for Rutherford to pull the trigger on a deal like this. Pittsburgh is in dire need of a veteran that can play a solid two-way game while contributing on the scoreboard. Williams is exactly that, and is a known playoff performer having won the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP in 2014.

With all of the talk about trades, and the need for change, I believe that there is also a need for internal change. There is a need for change in the bottom-six and yet there is little movement on those lines to determine the best fit for the postseason. My suggestion is that Brandon Sutter be moved to the fourth line. I’d like to see Nick Spaling get a chance at centering Steve Downie and Beau Bennett. He has very similar faceoff numbers, but much better possession numbers. Sutter hasn’t been producing offensively, so Spaling can’t really be worse from that perspective. Why not? Why has Sutter not had to face any kind of discipline or loss of minutes for his poor play?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have another back-to-back this weekend against the St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers. The Blues will be a great test as they are coming off a convincing win against the Boston Bruins. The Florida Panthers are proving to be an important matchup as well considering Pittsburgh’s recent slide in the Eastern Conference standings. How will the Penguins respond to the trade talk coming out of the front office? We’ll see this weekend.

As always, thanks for reading. Be sure to visit again for next week’s round up and check me out on Twitter at @Michael29Angelo for more hockey talk.