It was about two years ago when new head coach Mike Sullivan took over a languishing, under-achieving Pittsburgh Penguins team.
With a few weeks, the Pens had a reboot, and were on the way to the first of two consecutive Stanley Cup Championships. Now here we are again, watching a Penguins team under-perform through the first part of a once-promising season. Is it time to thrown in the towel, or can Sullivan work some magic with this current crop of Pittsburgh Penguins?
Maybe it is just me, but this Pens team now feels like the 2015 edition. The team has more talent than wins, and some nights it almost appears as if some players don’t care. Back then, there was growing frustration with then-coach Mike Johnston’s inability to do much of anything about the problems. There was a palpable sense that the Penguins needed a change…ANY change.
While we are not quite at the 2015 level of desperation, it is clear the Pens need a shakeup. While it’s easy to point out the specific deficiencies – lack of bottom six scoring, lack of Malkin, lack of defense – it’s the overall feeling that this Pens team just doesn’t have it.
They may need some player changes in the near future, but more than anything, they need another reboot.
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There is a certain style of play that champions have. Maybe it’s confidence or even arrogance, but the best teams play with swagger. When they are down a goal or two, it doesn’t seem to concern them. When they are up a goal or two, they enjoy make the other team work to try and catch them.
This Pens team is starting to look a bit discombobulated. Too many bad passes, turnovers and especially odd-man rushes given up. The problems are all over the board – where is that reset button?
I am spoiled by watching almost two years of smooth, slick, fast, efficient and deadly hockey precision. Why don’t our forwards streak past opposing defensemen anymore? Why does our breakout resemble the slow, patient circa 2014 breakout? Why won’t Evgeni Malkin fire a wrister from the slot anymore?
If not for Phil Kessel, I feel like this year would be described in more apocalyptic terms.
It is Coach Sullivan’s Time. Two years ago, I went to a Pens game and held up a sign that said, “#Sully2015 – Making The Penguins Great Again.” Political commentary aside, it seemed appropriate at the time. If I were to make a new sign, it might read “Sully2017 – Please Make the Penguins Great Again.” Because right now, they are not great. They need to play “the right way” as Sullivan used be so fond of saying. Anything and Everything is on the table.
Benching Ian Cole, while a bit puzzling, did seem to shake things up a bit. The nice thing about being the new sheriff (or coach) in town is that everyone gets a reboot. A fresh chance to impress and make a new reputation. Somehow, Sullivan has to install some freshness into this team. There are a few new faces, maybe we need a few more. I am a big fan of giving the Baby Pens players a chance to shine, and sit a few guys that might be playing a bit too comfortably.
While we miss Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen, and having Justin Schultz out with injury isn’t helping, our stars (except for the aforementioned awesome Kessel) need a kick. Malkin looks lost, Letang is starting to revert back to his old turnover-plagued ways, and even Crosby is showing that disinterested passive style lately.
We Still Have Hope
As frustrating as some of this is for me, I still believe in the Pens GM, front office staff, coach Sullivan, and the talent we have. I think they will find a way to pull it together and start reaching for the Cup one more time. I hope begins soon though, I am starting to look for my Panic button…