Penguins Need Lineup Changes


Penguins bench boss Mike Johnston has been stubborn with his lineups in 2015-16 and his refusal to make changes has landed the team in turmoil.

It’s no secret that the seat of Penguins head coach Mike Johnston’s pants is heating up very quickly. This is partly because his defensive schemes are choking the life out of the explosive offensive talent of the Pens.

Another reason is his bullheaded approach to the roster. One way or another changes will be made.


Rob Scuderi is a noose around this team’s neck. A noose that will ultimately hang Johnston.

The definition of madness is doing the exact same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The fact that Johnston prefers playing Scuderi over Adam Clendening or pretty much any other defenseman at his disposal, game in and game out, is unbelievable.

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The recent games against the Ducks and Kings flashed a giant spotlight on Scuderi.  It showed Scuderi’s skills for what they were. At this age he’s a turnstile or a traffic cone. He’s an aircraft carrier’s anchor. Opposing teams use him as offensive kindling, burning him over and over again.

Yet he continues to be on the ice and in the lineup and is averaging 17:11 per game. Why is he immune to the so-called youth movement to become faster and quicker?

Is it his price tag?  Does the coaching staff really put that much weight on the only thing that they perceive that he does well which is kill penalties? When he’s not constantly, blindly dumping the puck to the other team, he’s interfering and screening Marc-Andre Fleury, or lying face-down, prone on the ice.

It’s madness to think that he’ll ever keep up with our youth or fill any meaningful hole in the defense.


Daniel Sprong is a tougher case.

He has youthful exuberance and energy.  He has offensive potential.  He’s clearly ready for the NHL. Unfortunately he’s a right wing on a team already stacked with veterans at the position. Who sits?

It’s very clear he needs to be in the lineup.  You don’t burn a year on a kid’s entry level contract just to have him sit and enjoy nachos and pretzels in the press box. There’s no sitting Phil Kessel or Patric Hornqvist, that’s a given.

By dumb luck, Johnston found chemistry between speedy skill of Beau Bennett with Sidney Crosby on the top line. The best bet is to rotate Eric Fehr around, who is able to play anywhere up front and the most versatile forward of this group.

The third line has not been as dazzling as the Evgeni Malkin line nor as effective as the fourth line this season. Sprong could add that energy, drive, and offensive punch. Despite that the problem remains: Who sits?

Chris Kunitz is suddenly on a streak, otherwise he’d be a candidate for the press box. Sergei Plotnikov has sat before. After the last few games where he’s been so strong and played so hard and been so close to that first NHL goal, however, it feels like taking him out of the lineup now might derail his progress. With those names off the list, only one player is left.

I hate suggesting this because he’s such a fan favorite, but that option is Pascal Dupuis.

Dupuis has had a couple of health issues this year. He’s tried to get rolling after a couple bigger injuries in previous years. Unfortunately for him, he’s the the odd man out at this point should they want Sprong to play. Everyone else is producing on the score sheet or with “intangibles.”

Maybe Dupuis could sit and rest a few games to give Sprong a shot and allow the Penguins to see what the rookie can bring to the team.


Offense is what we’re looking for and a big part of that is the power play. David Warsofsky has been a pleasant surprise in the wake of the awful Olli Maata injury.

Take him as he is. Sure he’s undersized and he’s not super fancy, but he can move the puck and apparently LOVES to fire off shots. That doesn’t sound like much, but on a power play where everyone passes, passes, and then passes some more, it becomes apparent what the Penguins lack is a defenseman’s shot.

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Warsofsky’s shot on the power play does a few things.

It forces defenders to drop down to block it, and since he’s blasting it from a good distance the defenders get caught out of position further away making it harder to recover and get to the puck.

His shot, even if it misses by a mile, forces our scoring talent to follow it. This ensures the puck ends up around the net which is exactly where goals are scored, especially on the man advantage.

His shot causes a disruption to the usual Penguins power play standard of perimeter passing until they turn it over. It’s an unpredictable element on a very predictable power play set up and provides an element of surprise which has proven effective and is the reason why Warsofsky is still with the Penguins.

With a few lineup adjustments, this team could snap out of it’s mediocrity and finally get on track toward being the powerhouse it was predicted to be. It’s worth a shot, what is there to lose?