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Evgeni Malkin’s self doubt stems from Penguins taking him for granted

September 10, 2019, 6:13 PM ET [185 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Today Rob Rossi of The Athletic published an excellent article about Evgeni Malkin. It is definitely worth the time to read it and covers a lot of interesting topics.

Throughout the article there were frustrating passages where I believe the management, coaches, and organization have let Evgeni Malkin down. They treat him like a magical unicorn who is robotic in nature with his ability to approach the game and his performance. This treatment has gotten to the point where Malkin actually thinks he was part of the problem. Instead of investing and maximizing in Malkin’s ability to succeed the team places him in unfavorable positions and expect similar performance. It has worn on him.

Nobody was more shocked than Malkin when last season turned into “the worst” of his 13-year NHL career.

“I think last year, it was all my fault,” Malkin says.

He scored half as many goals (21) as the previous season. He seemed slow in transition. He took too many risks and made too many turnovers. He was injured at times but also frustrated.

He grew distant. He fought with his coach. He lost faith in his winger. He looked like a “regular player.”

Let’s get real with the framing of this narrative. At the age of 32 when most players are washing out of the league Malkin had 72 points in 68 games. His 5v5 points per 60 of 2.48 is the sixth best out of his last 12 seasons. This is in despite of receiving the bare minimum from the Penguins as far as support. His quality of teammate is never as good as Crosby. They don’t even pretend to try. Crosby gets the best defender and best winger. Malkin gets saddled with one of the worst free agent faux pas in Penguins history as his most common defender. A true poison pill who has sucked the life out of almost every player he shared the ice with. It’s not a debatable talking point. It’s that bad.

Malkin declined to elaborate on how his on-ice relationship with Kessel fell apart. But it’s clear he grew tired of feeling caught between the ongoing Sullivan-Kessel rift, according to multiple team and league sources.

What a pathetic display from Mike Sullivan and the organization for putting Evgeni Malkin in this spot to begin with. It isn’t Malkin’s problem, nor his responsibility, to do Mike Sullivan’s job managing the roster. It shows incredible weakness it got to the point that it did. Again, expecting Malkin to do things for the team, but the team not really doing anything for him. What does Malkin get out of playing the middle man in a rift between two professionals? Better linemates? Nope. His other superior sure didn’t go out of his way to make his contributions feel valuable. That’s for damn sure…

In June, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said only Crosby was untouchable in trade talks, a shot across Malkin’s bow, intended or not. Multiple team sources said Crosby, rarely one to involve himself in management matters, made it clear to the Penguins that Malkin should not be traded for any reason.

“It’s me and Geno,” Crosby said.

What a sad situation. Sidney Crosby really had to assert how important Malkin is to the general manager? It’s laughable that the front office doesn’t bend over backwards publicly to praise Malkin and his contributions. The fact that almost every summer Rutherford leaves the door open just enough for crappy trade rumors to gain traction is embarrassing. It is deplorable.

Malkin downplayed Rutherford’s comments. He rolled his eyes while discussing them and noted he had heard trade talk before. Privately, the trade talk stung. It hurt worse because he first heard the news while with Team Russia at the World Championships in Slovakia.

And this is the other thing with Rutherford which screams of low class. He does all this through the media. You always hear about how he hasn’t actually spoken to Malkin over the offseasons, but it doesn’t stop him from spouting off to the media creating these fires to be put out. There is zero need for the fires in the first place, but you can set your watch to them every summer. Where is the respect? Rutherford’s job is a relative cake walk compared to most all other gigs in the league because of Evgeni Malkin, not in spite of him. You’d think Rutherford would be grateful for Malkin’s contributions. Instead of being treated like a legend of the game his treatment is closer to that of Joe Corvo. Someone who is just another player and annually in trade rumors. At least Rutherford has had the decency to not actually trade Malkin, yet. Unlike Corvo Rutherford wouldn’t get a second, or third chance at acquiring Malkin again. It would be a one off catastrophic mistake.

All of this doesn’t even take into consideration the language barrier and being away from family which would take an understandable toll on any human being whether or not they are a superstar hockey player or not

He had gone long stretches without seeing his family. Nikita accompanied Malkin’s wife, Anna, to Moscow, where she spent the Christmas and New Year holidays working for Russian television. When they weren’t in Moscow, Anna and Nikita spent many winter days at the Malkins’ property on Fisher Island, just outside Miami.

Daily video messages and phone calls only made him miss them more.

Even with the Penguins taking Evgeni Malkin for granted, 13 years after he literally escaped Russia in a plot made for a movie, he is still committed to them beyond his current contract.

“It’s (a) huge next three years,” Malkin says. “I still want to play 100 percent — and sign (for) three more years with Pittsburgh.”

I just wish the Penguins had the same commitment to Malkin as he does to them. He deserves better. He deserves the best.

Thanks for reading!
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