Pittsburgh Penguins Find Their Identity – Simply Incapable


Pittsburgh Penguins fans sat and watched as the team completed yet another monumental collapse against the Ottawa Senators, this time with a lot at stake. In a way, this particular game was modeled after Pittsburgh’s 2014-15 season. They came out flying, dominated early, and then imploded.

There has been a ton of analysis on this team and their struggles. There has also been a ton of criticism on individual players, even absurd claims that trading Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is the fix. If you believe those players are the issue, you clearly aren’t watching the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Let me be very clear on what the issue is with this team. They are a team that is forced to give far too many minutes to below-average hockey players. They have no choice but to ask players that are incapable of stepping up to do so, and to do so in extremely important games.

Frankly, they are a team that is incapable of sustaining success without Olli Maatta, Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang, and Christian Ehrhoff. But, what team could lose that many crucial players and survive?

Yes, players like Chris Kunitz and David Perron are playing poorly. Perron has been invisible, and while analytics are in Kunitz’ favor, he simply isn’t producing. Whether your possession numbers are great or not, if you aren’t scoring on Evgeni Malkin’s line you’re just another underachieving $4 million Left Wing.

Nov 8, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Player usage is an issue as well, as Mike Johnston has made a number of poor personnel decisions. For example, a player like Max Lapierre has little value, but he has been highly effective for defensive zone faceoff’s. Why was Brandon Sutter taking a late third period draw with Sidney Crosby on the wing and Lapierre on the bench? That faceoff loss led to the Ottawa Senators tying the game.

We can also revisit the Ben Lovejoy for Simon Despres swap again. But, I was already pretty hard on Lovejoy in a recent article found here, and honestly, his struggles aren’t entirely his fault. Yes, the trade was terrible. Ben Lovejoy simply isn’t as good as the Pittsburgh Penguins think he is. They need to stop deploying him in situations that he isn’t suited for. Injuries make that difficult, but I don’t have confidence that it would stop if Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff were healthy.

I still believe that the Pittsburgh Penguins will make the playoffs. I also believe that they will be eliminated very early. However, the thought that this team needs blown up in the offseason is simply incorrect.

Is Mike Johnston the right man for the job? I personally don’t think so. But, if you add guys like the aforementioned Maatta, Dupuis, Letang, and Ehrhoff, a lot of shortcomings can be covered up.

Fans need to take this team for what it is. An injury-depleted, incapable team with a rookie head coach. It can only get better from here, right?

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