Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Yesterday in the Post Gazette, Dave Molinari reported this:

It took most of the season -- and a couple of serious injuries -- for defenseman Brooks Orpik to get a spot on the Penguins' penalty-killing unit.
Getting him off of it might be tougher.
Orpik has logged 18 minutes, 23 seconds of short-handed ice time in the past seven games and has not been on the ice for any of the seven power-play goals the Penguins have allowed in that span.

All I can say is this: how damn stupid is Michel Therrien? To rip off a Guinness ad: “use a stay at home defenseman on the penalty kill instead of an offensive defenseman? Brilliant!” Seriously, Therrien is just figuring out now that using Orpik, a guy who’s pretty good in his own end, is more effective on the penalty kill that Ryan Whitney, who has proven to be a liability at best in his own end and is the softest defenseman on the team. I always thought this was obvious, but apparently not. It is also forcing me to reiterate what I have said in the past: the Penguins cannot win with Michel Therrien as coach. This is a perfect case of him not grasping a simple aspect plus shows he is still playing favorites.

I would also like to mention again that whole effort thing, or lack thereof that continues to plague this team. When is the last time the Pens actually outplayed the other team? I honestly do not remember. And the most disturbing recurring trend: having about ten shots through two periods of play. You are one of the most offensively gifted teams in the league and they are managing about five shots in each of the first two periods before they decide to show up in the third. When it happens once or twice, ok, the team is in a funk. When it happens on a regular basis? I’m sorry, but that is coaching. Two years after Therrien has taken over this team can still not get up for an entire game. Two years!

The Pens have been frustrating to watch this year because they can be so much better than they are. It’s simple, idiotic moves like putting Whitney on the PK that is keeping this team from being better than they are. Therrien’s complete lack of strategy is also another grave concern, as all this team can really do is cycle the puck.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pens Are Still Not Top Contenders

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.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pens Deadline Fallout

The deadline has come and gone, and the Penguins made two deals in an attempt to bolster their roster. One wasn’t a big surprise, the other shocked the league and everyone did a double take.

Hal Gill for a 2nd and 5th round pick
Shero addressed the Pens lack of physical blue line play by acquiring Hal Gill from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Gill isn’t great, but he’s a definite upgrade over Scuderi and while not the most physical is physical enough. Plus he can clear the net. The price was a bit high, as is his contract that goes through next year, but all in all he will help.

Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 1st round pick
I am not a fan of this deal at all. I don’t think this is the year for the Pens but Shero and ownership apparently does. While Armstrong is replaceable and I don’t think Christensen could fully develop playing behind Crosby, Malkin and Staal, their loss will be felt especially in the locker room. Losing Esposito, arguably the Pens best prospect and a 1st rounder will take away from an already depleted prospect pool.

Dupuis was brought in for his penalty killing skills, and it’s quite obvious why Hossa was traded for. He will give Crosby the much needed winger as Hossa is one of the best in the league.

This trade has some long term implications and I’m sad to say they’re all bad. Hossa is going to seek $7+ million for his new deal, and while the Pens can afford it they will become the new Tampa Bay when Malkin gets his new deal, having the big three of Crosby, Malkin and Hossa. If they don’t resign him and don’t win the cup (both slim, but I think the former the less likely sadly), then this deal will be nothing but a waste. Either way, the Pens lose.

I feel Shero gave up too much this deadline. It’s not that the return was little, it’s that the price was too steep and the long term implications too great. Frankly, I liked the deadlines where the Pens did nothing better than this.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pens Deadline Status

With the current play of the team, barring a serious meltdown the Pens are poised to make the playoffs yet again. Where is another matter as the Atlantic division is such a tight race you can be first in one week and fourth the next. That makes shoring up the team that much more important for the deadline.

In a recent interview with the Post Gazette Ray Shero said not to expect any big deals from his end. This fits right into Shero’s MO and frankly one I agree with. I do not think it is prudent to give up a first round pick and more for a rental player that won’t be signed. When you look at past deals like this, they normally don’t help a whole lot. Just last year the following big names failed to have a significant impact on there new teams after being obtained for a ransom: Bill Guerin (Sharks), Mattias Norstrom (Stars), Keith Tkachuk (Thrashers), Ryan Smyth (Islanders) and Peter Forsberg (Predators) just to name a few. Most these teams were gone in the first round. They didn’t do bad, but they failed to take the team to the next level, which is the whole point of making the deal.

Another thing is team chemistry. The Pens have pretty good chemistry on the ice, but the locker room chemistry is great, possibly the best in the league. Many are young and have grown together the last few years and Therrien, despite his faults, has helped facilitate this with such things as team meals and taking a bus to practice instead of separate cars. You don’t want to add too much to disrupt things.

Finally, there is good reason for the Pens not to make a big splash. First is that there is little chance of the Pens resigning someone. With upcoming contracts to young stars in the coming years plus some UFA’s this year (who will be mentioned below) the Pens wont be able to dish out a long term deal unless they want to let a young player walk or trade him for picks. Second is that the Pens prospect system is now quite depleted. We had one of the best pools for years but now those guys have made the team leaving the Pens with little to fall back on. Shero needs to restock the prospect pool and he knows that, especially now that with a cap system losing a player has become that much more likely to happen, so a constant supply of talent is needed.


The Pens have a number of unrestricted free agents after this year. Here is the list and whether or not they should be kept for the deadline, or used as trade bait.

Gary Roberts- Keep. Roberts is always a sought after deadline acquisition because he is a playoff beast. He’s won’t the cup, has loads of leadership and experience and adds much needed grit. You could get a good amount for him, but he is more valuable to the team.

Ryan Malone- Keep. Malone is one of the Pens best wingers and has picked up his play this year. On a team lacking wings trading him shouldn’t be a thought.

Geroges Laraque- Keep. While not the best playoff performer, Laraque puts things on an even keel. You need him to protect the stars, and he should definitely be resigned.

Jarkko Ruutu- Listen to Offers. Agitators are good, but Jarrko hasn’t done well here since Therrien doesn’t know how to utilize him. If someone offers a good deal for him, I would say take it as I don’t see him coming back after this year.

Adam Hall- Keep. Hall is good on the PK and forecheck, and doesn’t really hurt as a 13th forward. Return would be minimal so it wouldn’t even be worth while to deal him.

Kris Beech- Discard. Little more than a stop gap for injuries, as soon as players start coming back look for him to be on waivers and sent to WBS.

Mark Eaton- N/A. Eaton is out for the season and little use to anyone at the moment.

Brooks Orpik- Keep. Orpik gets a lot more flak than he should, often being the scapegoat for defense. If you think either Scuderi or Whitney are better than him in the defensive zone you’re blind. He needs to be kept as defense is always key in the playoffs, and he should be resigned in the off season.

Ty Conklin- Keep. You can’t get rid of a hot goalie, period.

What to target

As mentioned earlier Shero wont go for a big acquisition. But the Pens still need some help.

Scoring Winger- someone that can at least keep up with Crosby and tap it in. It doesn’t need to be a big name but there has to be someone better than Armstrong to play along with Sid. Kennedy will most likely take one spot upon his return but we still need another.

Lower Line Depth- Pens still need some additional grit on the lower lines. Taffe and Smith while not playing horrible are only able to not mess things up at their best. You need better than that. You need guys that make the other team play with their head up and be responsible in their own end.

Physical Defenseman- Orpik remains the only physical defenseman on the team, and Letang coming in at #2 is kind of sad, nothing against Letang but he’s not quite a physical presence. Even if it’s a #4 or #5 guy, give Scuderi the bump to the press box and add this guy in. If you can get the likes of Barret Jackman from St. Louis without spending too much, do it.

Who to Dangle

Like I’ve said a few times the Pens can’t afford to give up a bevy of higher picks to land guys. But we do have some young players that are tradable.

Erik Christensen- don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. But the problem is I don’t think he can succeed on this team. Look at our center depth: Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Talbot. Crosby and Malkin have the top two lines while Staal and Talbot should fill out the lower two. Christensen’s attempts to adjust to wing have failed, meaning center is the only place for him. With that being crowded, they should attempt to deal him for either a young defenseman or winger where the Pens lack depth.

Alex Goligoski- again, nothing against him, but look at the Pens defense. You have Gonchar, Whitney and Letang as offensive guys, Sydor a two way and Orpik and Scuderi as stay at homes. Goligoski is offensive, something we don’t really need. If you can swap him for another young/younger guy then do it. He could end up a good player, but offense from the blue line isn’t something we’re in need of. I would say only give him away if you get a young stay at home blue liner though.

Mid to Late Round Picks- don’t give up a high pick unless there is a young player coming back. The mid to late picks have a much lesser chance of yielding a future player and thus are more expendable. As I said before, we need the early picks to restock our prospect system.


Friday, February 8, 2008

The Whitney Saga

Since Michel Therrien publicly called out Ryan Whitney for his poor play against the Devils on Monday night, there has been quite a bit of fuss over it. Whitney hasn’t played well the past month or two, and has actually regressed this year. But Therrien, despite getting criticism for his maneuver was absolutely right in doing so. Whitney needed a kick in the ass. He had yet to be benched and we hadn’t heard any criticism on him from the organization at all this year. He responded last night with two goals and an improved defensive game, almost making you wonder if Therrien should call him out after every game.

But that’s not the main point of this article. There has been quite a bit of buzz since Therrien’s call out about Whitney from the fans and media, two members in particular, and I want to address them.

The Fans
As opinionated as ever, the fans tend to have a wide range of emotions regarding the young blue liner, but there seem to be three that are prevalent.

1) The “I love Whitney” Crowd
These guys gush over Whitney like he is the second coming of Orr at times. They see nothing but the upside Whitney can bring but ignore his struggles. In other words, they’re fanboys. Overly optimistic is a good way to describe them and they get annoyed when you say something negative about him.

2) The “I Hate Whitney” Crowd
These guys are over the top but luckily in the minority. They see only what he has done recently and some go as far as to say trade him and get what you can. These are the kind of people we always tell we are glad they aren’t our GM because they just don’t btehr to think things through.

3) The “Whitney has a way to go” Crowd
This is where myself and most of the logical fans stand. Whitney has tons of potential no doubt, but he also has some serious flaws. His defensive game is suspect even for an offensive minded defender, and worst of all he seems to be terrified of physical contact never playing the body or willing to take a hit to make the play. We also realize Whitney is only 24 and still has a long time left to develop. He’s had his problems, but he’s far from a bust.

The Media
Now for the most part the Pittsburgh media has remained unbiased, seeing what Therrien did as necessary. However there are two well known members that immediately rushed to the rescue as soon as Therrien called Whitney out: Rob Rossi and Mark Madden.

Rossi sites that no one should expect Whitney to be physical and that Therrien calling him out for it was basically a cheap shot. Rossi couldn’t be more wrong. When a guy is standing in front of a net you move on him, not let him stand there because, just like Monday, they will score on you. You don’t have to run him over, just tangle him up. Rossi doesn’t seem to know the difference between this though. People don’t expect Whitney to be physical, that’s not a problem. What they expect is for him to cover a person in front of the net or take a hit to make a play. If Kris Letang is willing to at 5’10 there is no reason Whitney shouldn’t be at 6’4. But Rossi doesn’t get that, thinking that saying a lack of physical play means people expect play like Orpik. Rossi, please don’t comment on things you don’t understand. And that you stated how nice a guy Whitney is and willing to give you interviews only shows you are being biased on the matter.

Then there is Mark Madden. The self indulged radio host who is desperately wanting to be a cool badass. Whitney always appears on his show, and anyone who does that Madden will forever defend like he did Ian Moran who everyone knew was awful but Madden would actually call a second pairing guy. But you have someone like Jerome Bettis who missed one show and Madden takes shots at him every chance he gets not only at the person as a player, but as a person as well. It’s this kind of petty behavior that sparks the booing at the Igloo every time Madden appears on the jumbotron. Look Mark, we get you don’t want to say anything bad about him because he is friendly with you, but really, you go way overboard. Saying Whitney will be a Norris contender in coming years is, well, idiotic. When is the last time the Norris Winner wasn’t good in both ends of the ice? Whitney still has a long way to go before he is even decent in his own end.

This kind of biased fanboy treatment from Rossi and Madden annoy me. They don’t want their “buddy” to be criticized. No, they expect the coach to tell him everything he does is right, pat him on the back and say “good job!” This is exactly how you ruin a player’s development.

A person can only tell so much of what they do wrong. It gets to a point where they need to be told their mistakes. They need instruction. Whitney wasn’t playing well, he got called out and put up a three point night. Do you honestly think he would have done this if not called out? Rossi and Madden don’t want Whitney’s feelings hurt. They guy is making $4mm a year and is a professional athlete, if he cant take come criticism there is something seriously wrong with him. Probably too much pampering of people telling him what a good job he’s done all the time.

Seeing where I am going with this? Rossi and Madden want preferential treatment for Whitney because he is media friendly and they’re willing to ignore his actual play in his defense. They are willing to ignore what really needs to be done to help a player because they don’t like Therrien’s methods. It is very unprofessional for members of the media to do something like this.

After both Madden and Rossi spoke out Whitney said the next day how he wasn’t offended (pay attention Rob and Mark: Ryan can fend for himself!) He’s played for Therrien since his time with the Baby Pens and knows exactly what Therrien is doing. “Tough love” is how he put it. Even Steigy and Errey were commenting on how Whitney can take it and knows what he needs to do. It’s part of the game. If the guy who the comments were made at takes it in stride than there is no reason people should be jumping all over Therrien for doing his job.

The funniest thing about this situation? If Therrien did this to someone Madden didn’t like Madden would be praising Therrien for calling the guy out and needing to do it more often, plus the guy needs benched etc. Madden holds a complete hypocritical stance and nothing but double standards. And face it, theirs is a reason he disconnects people who he can’t beat in an argument because he knows he is wrong but does it anyways.

So in closing, I will say this. Whitney is still young and needs time. He has his faults, and they are plenty, but there is still a lot of time for him to get better. Things like a call out will help him in the long run because it points out something he is doing wrong. Telling him everything is fine is a good way to ruin his career because you will never get anything more from him than you are now. Acting like he is awesome or horrible are extremes that should be ignored. He’s still developing and only time will tell how good he really becomes. But he needs help along the way, and that’s exactly what Therrien did Monday night whether you have the intelligence to realize it or not.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Time to Deal Assets?

For years the Penguins have horded their assets to rebuild a team that can no longer afford veterans. But now the time has come where I believe they can start dealing some of their assets, as in picks and prospects, in order to obtain established players.

The Pens still have some glaring weaknesses, namely a reliable defenseman and a scoring winger, despite these being addressed in the off season. Petr Sykora has done a decent job though better suited to Malkin’s style of play, though Therrien continues to play him with guys he doesn’t mesh well with. We need someone who is quick to keep pace with Crosby, and I’m not talking fast but with hands of stone a la Konstantin Koltsov.

The Pens are a young team, with a core that is mostly below the age of 25. That’s a good start, and it also means that picks and prospects are more expendable at this point in time. So I say lets start dealing some of these picks, even first or second rounders to get some established veterans who are in their prime and not in a coming contract year. I think paying a 1st rounder for a deadline rental is too steep. But if you can get someone who will fill a major team need without thoroughly gutting the draft or prospect pool, than I say go for it.

Now, I’m not saying to do this for every hole in the Penguins lineup. I don’t condone going Pat Quinn ape-shit and dealing every prospect/pick you have for veterans. But I think the team can afford to let some of them go if it means a long term fix and makes sense for the team.

The Pens especially need a defenseman now that Mark Eaton is gone for the year. He was the only one that was consistently reliable in his own end among the defenders. Rob Scuderi, despite having a strong start to the season, is devolving back into his old self. I’m not sure what Therrien’s fascination with him is, but he is definitely playing favorites as he was constantly playing him over Brooks Orpik, who has not been bad and remains the only physical presence on the blue line.

Our prospect pool is depleted when it comes to immediate help, with only Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich anything close to call ups. But that doesn’t mean the prospects who are still a few years from the minors isn’t deep. Maybe its time to look at dealing some them for help now and some years down the line.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Penguins Wishlist 2K7

As the Chanukah/ Christmas season approaches, we all get certain things in our minds such as gifts, snow, long lines at the mall, gifts, Santa, his elves and reign deer, the same twelve songs played 24-7, gifts, movies like Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, Die Hard, Bad Santa, BOOZE and finally gifts.So in the spirit of the holiday we at View from the Igloo have put together our Chanukah/ Christmas wish list for the holiday season.

1) A stay at home physical defenseman
We’ve been asking for one since Ulf Samuelsson left a decade ago and still have yet to get one outside of Brooks Orpik that is capable of hitting and actually covering people at one time. Sadly the next closest thing we have had is Jamie Pushor and Eric Cairns. Credit to Shero for going after Hannan though losing out, but I can’t figure out why he signed Sydor as a back up plan.

2) Bob Errey fired
I am starting to think the mute button was invented because of Bob Errey. There are few things more annoying than Errey during a broadcast with his homerism, inability to tell who the penalty is on and constantly back patting himself when he sees something on the ice that everyone else saw but said nothing because they knew it was meaningless. Yet Errey continues to bombard our ears with attempts at humor and cuteness that make a Devils-Wild game look exciting and completely idiotic analysis. For a guy that played hockey as a career, he shows so little knowledge at times you really have to wonder. I find myself muting the Pens game more and more.

3) A coach that knows X’s and O’s
Part of me likes Therrien, and while he may be good at developing players, he is not good at using established players. His constant line juggling is insane, and half his scratches don’t make sense not to mention has shown the inability to use guys like Christensen and Ruutu to their strengths.

4) Resign Laraque
Anyone who thinks Laraque hasn’t made an impact on this team either A) doesn’t remember how bad things were before he was here or B) is just an idiot. See my previous article on why we should keep him on this team for some years to come.

5) Ryan Whitney to grow a set
Seriously, I’ve never seen a player so fearful as Whitney. He seems utterly afraid to shoot the puck unless going for a back door pass and he definitely hates being hit. You’re an offensive defenseman whose 6’4 Ryan, really, grow some damn balls and take the hit in the corner and shoot the puck.

6) A scoring winger who can ACTUALLY keep up with Crosby.
What a waste. I’m tired of Crosby get the puck and shoot up ice only to find his wingers are still just up by center ice. Can we have someone that can keep up with him? Please? Most importantly, can that guy be a sniper? Yea yea, It’s hard to find and all so it’s down on the list but still I feel like we are wasting half of Crosby’s potential. Taters has played well this season and Colby is Colby but imagine Crosby with someone with some offensive firepower next to him. He could get over 150+ per season.

7) Marc Andre Fleury to take the next step.
Developing goalies is a crapshoot as it often takes them to develop into something. I hope that he will eventually see the light as he is easily one of the most talented goaltenders of all time but there’s something that seems to be missing. Some my call it confidence, some may say consistency whatever. He has shown the ability to make any and all saves but he can’t string them together during a course of the game. By any means there’s no reason to give up on the guy as he is still young enough to still become a franchise netminder.

8) Eric Christensen to also see the light.
Christensen at this point is a shootout guy. I like his shot and he has improved his skating this season but he still there seems to be something missing in his head. Sure he suffers from Ryan Whitneyitis but he’s trying. Sure he can’t get his shot on net half the time. Sure he can’t do jackshit in the corners but the talent is just oozing off this guy. He could be the sniper for Crosby but again there seems to be some sort of block. I have not seen much improvement in Christensen’s game either, partly to him being scratched every other game

9) Mark Recchi to hang them up.
Look I like Mark Recchi. Really, I do but come on man who are you kidding? I know you are collecting a paycheck but really you can afford to hang up the skates and get on with your life’s work. You’re effort is noticeable but the game has passed you by and you no longer have an role on this team outside of being a 4th liner. When the Pens are busy scratching better players in the 4th line role, it’s about time to look at yourself in the mirror and be honest to yourself. The fact that Recchi is Therrien’s pacifier doesn’t help either. Hopefully this season, Recchi can come to terms with the fact that he is nothing more than a player coach/healthy scratch.