Pittsburgh Penguins: An Unsuspecting Surprise For September

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 30: Ryan Reaves
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 30: Ryan Reaves /

In September, the NHL is a pretty quiet place. I predict the Penguins will surprise a few observers in one way this month.

Silence is Deafening

For the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, the new twist this year is a minor changing of the guard. Despite a lot of calls for blockbuster trades, the Pens stayed mostly solid, with the biggest notable change the addition of Ryan Reaves. The acquisition of Reaves seems intended to bring a bit more grit to the Pens. Makes sense, considering how often the Pens key players are targeted (nothing new here).

But mostly, the trade wire has heard crickets coming from the Penguins. Players are already starting to take part in informal skates at the UPMC Lemieux Complex, and team chemistry starts to get re-established now.

So here is my September (not-so-surprising) Surprise of the Month: the Pens will stick with the players they have for the first month of the season.

Surprise – No Surprise

So the big surprise is that there will be no big surprise (i know, you clicked on that tempting headline for that?), but I believe the Pens do not need to make a big move right now. Especially not to fill the much-discussed “hole” at the third line center position. I mean, really, since when is it hyper-critical to get THAT position squared away before the season starts?

Nope, not only is it a minor problem, for now, let’s consider the fact that even with the recent player turnover, the only ‘glaring’ problem is third line center? Not a bad problem to have.

I think the solution will come (mostly) from within. The Pens still have to see what they really have with some of the new players (Danny Sprong, anyone?). I also expect we will see another Guentzel-like surprise from the Baby Pens. You will see, the Pens to fill the center positions from within. Hey, I would rather not see it happen, but Jake Guentzel is technically listed as a center – just saying.

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: Jake Guentzel #59 of the Pittsburgh Penguins pursues the play in the first period of Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 11: Jake Guentzel /

Success Happens at the Finish

Too many people forget how long and grueling the NHL regular season is. The best teams have a bit of a luxury. They can use the regular season to evaluate talent and tweak lineups and systems, while still winning. This is where GM Jim Rutherford and Head Coach Mike Sullivan are at their respective best.

Expect the Penguins September to be a quiet test-fit of several new pieces. It will be interesting, fun to watch, and I also predict it to eventually be very successful.

Next: Pens Don't Need Danis Zaripov