Pittsburgh Penguins: Keep Calm and Offseason-On


While my expectations weren’t extremely high for the Pittsburgh Penguins coming into the post season, it’s still disappointing watching your team eliminated by a team that ended a very hopeful run just one year prior.

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After the series and season was officially over, I wanted to take a day to reflect before getting back to writing about this roster. I don’t like to write emotionally charged articles.

So, here we are. I’ll have a lot of coverage throughout the offseason with player analysis, draft, and free agency information. But, for now, let me express my initial thoughts on the collapse of a very promising team.

After an extremely hot start under new Head Coach Mike Johnston, the Pittsburgh Penguins began a landslide that proved to be uncontainable. The slide started toward the end of December, but after a 2-1 victory on New Years Eve the Pens found themselves sitting pretty at 23-9-5.

That’s right about the time the 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins began their collapse.

After the New Year, they finished the season with a 20-18-7 record. They saw players such as Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang, and Blake Comeau sustain injuries that would keep them out for an extended period of time. They also received the devastating news that Pascal Dupuis would officially not return this season. And, if that wasn’t enough, Ollie Maatta had season-ending surgery.

And this, my friends, is why I’m not ready to panic and blow up the core of the Pittsburgh Penguins. At this point, that would simply be a knee-jerk reaction that proves to be detrimental in the future.

There will be a lot of folks calling for Mike Johnston’s firing this summer. Many of them will cite the fact that Dan Bylsma was able to win convincingly throughout the regular season while dealing with injuries similar to what we witnessed this year. But, to Mike Johnston’s defense, Bylsma wasn’t the sole reason for that.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and their AHL counterpart employed the same system during Bylsma’s tenure. A lot of credit goes to Wilkes-Barre Scranton Head Coach John Hynes for his ability to groom players to fill-in almost seamlessly when needed. They didn’t step into the NHL and light the score sheet on fire, but they played their role’s well and allowed Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and the rest of the Pens’ big guns to take care of business. Mike Johnston didn’t have that luxury.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not completely defending Johnston. I’ll visit his performance in more detail down the road. But, I’m pointing out that maybe he wasn’t set up for success in the same way Bylsma was when dealing with an immense amount of injuries.

There will also be a lot of people calling for the termination of General Manager Jim Rutherford. Like Johnston, I’ll dig deeper into this topic and give my overall opinion at a later date. For now, I’ll simply say this. When you enter a new role and look at the roster you’ll have to work with, you create a plan. When your team sustains the absurd amount of long-term injuries to the key players that the Pittsburgh Penguins did, that plan is doomed.

And, finally, there will be folks that are calling for a gigantic, monumental trade. Yes, there are fans and media members that believe trading Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is the answer. There’s a big problem with a move like that, though. Once you make that move, you no longer have either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Offseason analysis is just beginning. It will be a very busy summer with a lot of changes. All I ask for now is that you take a look at what occurred with so many key players on this roster, and think logically about what change you’re calling for. The New York Rangers would have looked much different in round one if you took away Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Keith Yandle only to replace them with a pair of AHL defensemen and an aging, past-his-prime liability.

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