Pittsburgh Penguins: Roles and Regulations – Stop Limiting Your Best Players


Yes, I meant to type “Roles” in the title, as I’m talking about reevaluating the roles of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It’s time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to stop regulating their usage and restricting the on-ice situations in which they’re deployed.

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In a season that saw the Pittsburgh Penguins attempt to get grittier, and more playoff-capable, they also saw a drop in offensive production and an increase in penalty minutes. The Pens were the third-highest penalized team in the NHL this season with 471:21 shorthanded minutes. To put that into perspective, they ranked 22nd in that category last season. Ultimately, the outcome meant less time for your top-tier talent to perform and more time for grinders and penalty killers.

I think you know what I’m getting at.

It’s imperative that the Pittsburgh Penguins join so many other teams in a not-so-new way of thinking and start using Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the penalty kill. Yes, they also need to decrease the amount of time they’re shorthanded, but maximizing the amount of time your impact players are on the ice is of equal importance.

Brandon Sutter led the Pens in shorthanded goals last season with four. While I’m hard on Sutter for a lot of things I’ll admit that he’s a very good opportunist and takes advantage of shorthanded scoring chances when they present themselves. But, there’s a good chance he won’t be with the Pittsburgh Penguins next season. Joining Brandon Sutter in the top-five for shorthanded goals are Tyler Toffoli, Rick Nash, Blake Wheeler, and Max Pacioretty. Those aren’t fourth-line grinders like Craig Adams and Maxim Lapierre.

Crosby and Malkin are capable of playing a two-way game as much as anyone in the league. The only downside of having them on the ice is risk of injury from blocking a shot, but that may not be valid after the league irons out how they’ll limit shot-blocking to increase scoring chances.

This argument isn’t only valid for Sid and Geno, either. Patric Hornqvist should also be considered for more shorthanded TOI. It’s a simple formula. To put yourself in a situation to succeed, you need to maximize the amount of time your best players are on the ice.

Speaking of the amount of TOI your best players are seeing.

Mike Johnston made it clear that he wanted to decrease Sid’s ice time and not run him into the ground like year’s past. And, he did as Crosby averaged 19:58 of TOI, down from 21:58 in 2013-14. But, at the same time, Evgeni Malkin dropped to 27th among NHL centers and averaged only 18:58 TOI. Decreasing Crosby’s minutes from almost 22 minutes per game was a must, but not ensuring that Geno is getting roughly 20 minutes as well is setting yourself up for failure. One or two minutes may seem minimal, but consider that we’re talking about two or three shifts in the NHL.

Player usage has been one of my major gripes with Johnston since joining the Pittsburgh Penguins. Let’s hope that he holds back a little less next season and takes full advantage of the generational talents he has on his roster.

Next: An Increase in Scoring is Needed in the NHL - We Discuss How to Do It.

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