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Translating locker room clean-out quotes

April 18, 2019, 10:09 PM ET [161 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It’s that time of year. This is the earliest the Penguins have cleaned out the locker room since 2006 when they didn’t make the playoffs at all. You remember those Penguins: Sidney Crosby was 18, Marc Recchi was on his second tenure with the team, John freaking LeClair was on the roster, Ziggy Palffy was a point per game player and noped out on the second half of the season, and people thought Sergei Gonchar was overrated and his contract sucked. Yeah, it’s been some time.

A lot of quotes from the players are generic in situations like these. There are some worthwhile and I’ll focus on those. Usually the quotes from management and coaches tend to have a little more substance and I’ll include some of theirs as well. Here are some thoughts on their thoughts:

You’re officially on notice, Mike Sullivan. This general manager isn’t going to look inward for blame. If there was a lack of perceived cohesion then it is going to fall on the coach. Rutherford’s last comment is also an effort to shift the blame off of him. The Penguins weren’t competitive because the back end wasn’t good enough and the team has lost speed through Rutherford’s choices. Also, the coach elected to keep ramming forward the same tired strategies three games in a row after ignoring a successful one in Game 1. The players were failed by their superiors. It doesn’t totally absolve the players from any blame (they did make mistakes), but you’d like to think the people above you would put you in the best position to compete. That 100% did not happen.

The problem here is the valuable assets I see are the ones that are part of the solution. Maybe he perceives Patric Hornqvist and Olli Maatta as valuable assets, but the time to garner back max value on those two is in the past. You have to get ahead of these things. They waited until their performance dried up to the point of demotion in the lineup, or in Maatta’s case out of the lineup completely. Phil Kessel at 6.8M is a good asset for a win now team. I’m assuming this is the category the Penguins still view themselves in. Kris Letang is a valuable asset and trade talk about him is complete lunacy. I can’t believe there are people who claim to watch this sport and view a player like him as part of the problem.

Remember Jim Rutherford is a “straight shooter” that is what everybody loves about him so I guess you have to take this at face value and at face value this is the most embarrassing comment of the day.

What the hell does “push back” even mean ? A lot of good it did pushing back against the Islanders. Pushing back describes the direction the team went in this year and against the Islanders. This was the worst defensive group since Rutherford took over in 2014. Let’s talk about this push back mantra which is now apparently a huge part of the roster construction. Why was it so important to get rid of Ian Cole? He was a known commodity that should fit this hypothetical push back philosophy, certainly better than Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson. He’s in the price range, too.

The thing about being content with having a puck mover on each pairing is that you can’t then go and desecrate that puck mover’s value by anchoring him with one of the worst players in the NHL. Being content with the defense as is (assuming Maatta traded) is sealing the fate of the Penguins as also-rans for the remainder of Crosby and Malkin’s tenure. Shameful, ludicrous.

You neutered the forwards and developed a case of amnesia on why your team had the success they did. The coach also bailed on what was a successful process in Game 1 because of an overtime loss on an amazing play by Barzal. Speaking of the coach…

Another case of mistaken identity. Playing the game the right way is using a strategy which best maximizes the ability of your players. Not shoe-horning in some defensive style that snuffs out the ability to generate. The problem with the GM and the coach is that they wanted to be a defensive team and tried doing it with players who aren’t even good at being defensive. In turn it made them less dangerous offensively. The complete opposite of what needed to happen.

Your lineups made the team easier to play against. Not adjusting the breakout or the personnel to best push back against the Islanders made it easier to play against. Players aren’t stupid. They know when things aren’t working and if you keep trying the same approach the players’ human nature starts to take over. If there was self-doubt among players it would be for the same reasons there were at the end of the Dan Bylsma era. Same shit, same tired slogans, same results.

“Play the right way”

“Just play”

“Get to our game”


On to some of the players…

So there were two possible answers to this question, neither of them great, but this one is the better of the two.. It means Hornqvist just wasn’t good enough this year. While there are certainly issues with this answer it also means he wasn’t continuing to play with a bad melon. That would have been way worse. One thing is for certain he needs to pick his game up for 2019-20 because his 5.3M to be a bottom six player on the second power play is horrible value. We are talking about a very one-dimensional player who doesn’t really make the others around him better. He feeds off of others and has shown to be a solid complementary piece at times. Right now he isn’t even living up to that standard.

Amen, Kris. You are one of the very best players in the NHL at your position. You are tasked with doing way too much. Despite your boss thinking your peers are the best they’ve ever been, they are not. The team leans on one pairing to do all the heavy lifting, has one of the most pathetic pairings in hockey on the second pairing, and then a vanilla at best bottom pairing. If you changed your game the team would be even more screwed. Fix the bad players not the great ones.

Tough to disagree. He had an amazing stretch midway through the season, but the rest left a lot to be desired. He makes 3.5M and isn’t on an ELC anymore. I love his speed. I think he does a great job with controlled entries because of his speed. That said, he needs to find a way to help his linemates more. He had a career high of 18 goals, which I think is a total close to where he needs to be. The issue is the 17 assists. He gets a ton of ice time with a former Rocket Richard winner and a now 40 goal scorer. You have to find a way to create a little bit for them. Right now I don’t really like him playing on the top line because of his inability to distribute the puck, but if he isn’t going on the top line then where else does he slot? Kessel and Hornqvist are going to take up two slots and if Rust is off the top line it is like Guentzel will be on the right wing to accommodate Jared McCann. I don’t think Rust is as good on the left side so he’s in a weird gray area with his spot in the lineup. There really isn’t a great spot for him at the present moment unless he ups his game.

Awesome career. I really liked him as a player when he wasn’t a Penguin and I thought he was a great pickup back in 2015 when the Penguins were recovering from the likes of Brandon Sutter and Max Lapierre. He can’t be a part of this roster moving forward. He’s shot. It’s tough to play in this league nowadays past the age of 35 let alone 42. I hope his life after hockey is great.

Last and certainly not least is Sidney Crosby. When he speaks in these situations he knows exactly what he is saying. He more than most any other player in the league chooses his words carefully. The “will leave management decisions to management” is the Connor McDavid version of exasperating how frustrated he is. It is understated, but gets the point across. He wants help and he wants it now. He knows the clock is ticking and the last two years the team hasn’t been close to the level of the 2016-17 team let alone the 2015-16 powerhouse.

Thanks for reading!
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