Yesterday, I made the case for the Penguins re-signing Bryan Rust to a multi-year contract. Today, I will make the case for the Penguins to walk away from Tom Kuhnhackl.
Tom Kuhnhackl has been a semi-regular player the last three years with the Penguins playing in a career high 69 games this season. His best perceived attribute is that he blocks shots and is good on the penalty kill. For me you’d better be great on the penalty killing side of things if you aren’t great at 5v5. In Kuhnhackl’s case he isn’t great on the PK and his 5v5 play is a liability.
He is offensively impotent at even-strength and has shown no ability to drive possession. Yes, he plays on a good team and not every player is going to be a positive possession player relative to his teammates, but he is unnecessarily low considering his ability to defend is his main attribute.
This falls into the popular category that players who play in their own zone a lot are “defensive” players even if they aren’t effective at it.
There are places in the league for bad possession players. Thomas Vanek is an example of this. His offensive production has allowed some general managers to overlook his dreadful possession numbers. This is not the case with Tom Kuhnhackl. He has a 1.20 5v5 points per 60. His production is anemic. It is non-existent and that is with Matt Cullen as a fourth line center for two years.
Ok, so we know 5v5 isn’t Tom Kuhnhackl’s thing. How about the PK? It isn’t all that great on that front either. Here are the Penguin forwards who played at least 50 minutes of 4v5 this year and the shot volume they allowed.
Well, that’s not great. This is supposed to be his strength and he is significantly worse than his fellow teammates. Where is the value with this player? Why was he a nightly fixture in the lineup? If Mike Sullivan isn’t going to remove him from the lineup then Jim Rutherford needs to not give him that option.
This is such an easy pass. Stop giving credence to penalty killing specialists that don’t specialize in it!
It’s time to get back to optimizing the lineup for another Stanley Cup push. Better decisions have to be made this summer than last.
Thanks for reading!