Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Grades: A Look At Steve Downie’s Impact


Over the past few seasons the Pittsburgh Penguins have been declared as soft and easily bullied. They’ve been criticized for not having a true enforcer, or anyone that could stand up for their stars in the event that someone is taking liberties on them.

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The Pens have had their share of aggravators. But, it’s been quite some time since they had someone that would actually make opponents consider their safety and what retributions would come their way if they were to take a shot at someone in black and gold. Jim Rutherford knew this, and swung for the fences with Steve Downie.

Downie isn’t your prototypical enforcer considering his size. But, he’s not necessarily an aggravator either, as it’s rare to see him simply take a cheap shot without expecting to drop the gloves. Plus, he’s a pretty skilled hockey player when he’s focused on the actual game.

When he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins it was clear what his job would be. Basically, to stop this from happening…

In my personal opinion, I don’t believe that the enforcer has a place in hockey anymore. I’m not anti-fighting, and I enjoy a spirited bout between two players heavily involved in an emotional game. But, two big guys dropping the gloves for the sake of fighting isn’t entertaining to me. That’s where Steve Downie is different.

Downie finished the season with 28 points (14g, 14a) in 72 games and even played in the top-six from time to time. He was pretty productive considering his small salary by NHL standards. Even more impressive, though, is his league-leading 238 penalty minutes. The closest player was Cody McLeod with 191 PIM. The opposition knew when Steve Downie was on the ice.

My biggest gripe with Downie was the timing of some of his antics. He seemed to be insistent on crushing any momentum the Pittsburgh Penguins could gather. He took quite a few penalties late in games in which the Pens were trying to battle back from a deficit. For a team that struggled so badly when trailing, that’s simply inexcusable.

He also seems to have little or no self-control in pressure situations. Though, I’ll give him credit for maintaining his composure in the playoffs. He took a terrible penalty early in the series and seemed to get his head on straight afterward. But, either way, what should we have expected from him? That’s what Steve Downie does.

My grade for Downie is a B-. He’s going to be one of the higher graded players due to his surprising production and ability to contribute much more than I thought he would. And, while it’s easy to debate the impact it has on a game or a player’s actions, when someone did take their shots at his teammates he was right there to take that person to task. You have to respect that.

I’m a strong supporter of bringing Downie back. The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t hinted one way or the other yet, but hopefully they have another 1-year deal ready for him if he should choose to accept it.

Next: Offseason Grades Continue: A Look At Sidney Crosby's 2014 Season

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