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Hubris sinking Penguins

April 14, 2019, 4:00 PM ET [205 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
How about that Tiger Woods? Now that was something worth watching today. Amazing stuff.

As for the hockey game that was rumored to be played today, the Penguins are suffering from the mistakes of their general manager and head coach. They made their choices and now they have to live with them. They find themselves down in an 0-3 hole to an Islanders team that has outplayed them. There were paths for the Penguins to be successful in this series, but the coach bailed on them because the team lost by one goal in overtime in Game 1. He decided to tank his team’s ability to push the puck forward. After putting up 70 shot attempts in Game 1 they haven’t broke 50 in Games 2 or 3. The Penguins are built to generate, or were.

The Penguins don’t have a lot of defenseman who can skate and make passes. One of those players is Justin Schultz and we know what happened to him in the last two games. It’s the same thing he has dealt with since coming back from injury: Coaching malpractice. Mike Sullivan refuses to dress his best roster and because of it he doesn’t have the ability to push back against the things Barry Trotz is trying to accomplish with his team.

It is in clear sight. Has been for months.

Maybe I’ve been going about this wrong the whole year.

I’ve been using certain measures to evaluate players throughout the season. For those still on Jack Johnson Island perhaps minus-3 is the language that needs to be spoken. Not possession stats, not points, not expected goals, but one of the worst stats in hockey for one of the worst players. Johnson is minus-3, has taken a ton of penalties, and his worst offense is what he does best, slaughter all offensive potential for his teammates. He’s one player, but when a player is literally below replacement level and is squashing the ability of others it makes a big deal.

The Florida trade was good, but you can’t undo the damage of playing a radioactive option 20+ minutes a game. Some players are just that bad. It was a self-own by the GM in a series of self-owns the past few years.

I’ll be the first to say that Erik Gudbranson performed above what I thought he would when he came to the Penguins. His over-performance still doesn’t help the team for who they are and the kind of hockey they want/need to play to be successful. When things tighten up you need players who can skate and pass. He can’t do those things. While the forwards could stand to play better during this series we are back to an issue we’ve seen the last two years. The issue of the forwards not getting the puck as often as they used to in prime situations going through the neutral zone.

The series isn’t over, but we can all see where this is going.

Be careful over the summer when you are reading about this team and what they should do moving forward. A lot of coverage with the biggest reach is going to blame the better players. They are going to try and create cover for the general manager and coach because they want their juicy access to continue unabated. The current situation is because the roster has not been managed properly on the fringes. This should be the easy part. Skill and speed have been replaced with less puck skills and plodding players. When your core is in their early-30s, the importance of nailing the depth is more paramount than it used to be. They went back to the Cullen well, they gave up Conor Sheary to get Jack Johnson, they turned an expiring Carl Hagelin contract into a $4 million bottom pairing defenseman who doesn’t complement the roster for another two years. Patric Hornqvist isn't trending in the right direction at the moment. This should be one of the easiest gigs in NHL general managing.

When you bail on your identity after two championships I'm not sure why it should come as a surprise the results aren't as good. Hubris has gotten the best of the decision makers on the Penguins. To salvage this season they will have to do what they Islanders did to the Penguins in 1975 and that is overcome an 0-3 deficit to take the series.

Thanks for reading!
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