With the acquisition of Marian Hossa and Hal Gill, many are saying that the Pens are now one of the top teams to beat in the East. I disagree.
The Penguins offense is dynamic, there is no doubt about that. It continues to produce even without Sidney Crosby and when he gets back it will be a huge boost. Offense with this team isn’t a real problem, at least not talent wise. But there is more to winning than offense. Here is why I think the Pens aren’t top contenders.
The defense is still mediocre. Gill is an improvement but nothing great. Whitney continues to be a liability in his own zone, even on his good nights. Orpik is our best stay at home all in all, and Scuderi, despite playing well this year is still Scuderi. Sydor has been a bust and Letang is still learning. Gonchar continues to be an offensive threat and hasn’t been awful in his own zone.
There is no shut down defenseman on this team capable of taking another team’s top players. Though it is better than last year, it is still only an average corps.
With the rash of injuries the Pens lower line depth has been depleted with call up after call up filling in. Unfortunately, Taffe has been the best of the bunch all he really manages is not being a liability. Minard, Smith, James, Stone, Filewich, all have shown little in their games. I am surprised Shero didn’t go after a bottom line player like Martin Lapointe to help out and bring some more experience in.
There is a single symbol that can sum up the Pens goaltending going into the playoffs: ?
Now I know what you’re thinking: teams with a mediocre defense and depth have won, even in the modern times. And you’re right. Those are two reasons, but neither is the most significant reason why the Pens are not contenders. This is the most significant reason.
I like Therrien as a person, but he has demonstrated time and time again he does not know what to do with talent. He is a good coach for teaching fundamentals and developing young players like he did in Wilkes Barre for the Baby Pens, but since the Pens have developed into a good team he has been constantly unable to bring them to the next level.
Half the nights this team doesn’t look like they came out to play with many first periods looking like a warm up. Still, two years after he has taken the reigns players are complaining they still cannot get a good 60 minutes in. Two years! In now way shape or form does a good coach have this problem. Sometimes a team won’t look like its ready, it happens, but with Therrien it happens more often than not. And if you want proof, tkae a look at tonights game against the Bruins. The Pens got three new players, including the most prized in Marian Hossa and they come out and act like its a scrimmage. The team is getting out hustled in every aspect and looks pathetic, and sadly this is not uncommon under Therrien.
And what is Therrien’s solution? Why switch the lines up of course! Line changing is his solution to everything. He has no imagination or creativity. When the Pens call a timeout or are looking to make a set play, look over at the bench. Therrien is standing there doing nothing while Mike Yeo is drawing on the clip board giving instructions. Therrien does nothing with the game plan at all.
And yes, Therrien still plays favorites. It’s the only reason a guy like Whitney, the defenseman with the worst defensive skills is on the penalty kill. He constantly plays Scuderi and Whitney in situations he shouldn’t and gives Orpik, better in his own end than both, the shaft. And he still has yet to figure out how to use either Ruutu or Laraque properly.
Talent wise, do the Penguins have the ability to win the cup? Yes. But I’m afraid that the lack of coaching on Therrien’s part makes it so that as long as he is behind the bench this team cannot win (meaning that Hossa trade will most likely be a big waste). You can't win on talent alone, the talent needs to be molded together and utilized to it's fullest, something Therrien is incapable of doing.