Welcome ladies and gentlemen to our annual State of the Penguins Address. If you are new here this is where we look back on the most recent Penguins season and address the current state of the team. Boy was this season something, especially the playoff series that just ended roughly 48 hours ago. So sit back, relax, and just know if you hate criticism of players and the team team as a whole, this post probably isn't for you. We won't judge if you stop reading.
Ready? What in the actual hell did we just witness. The Penguins were just swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the New York Islanders. There has been a lot of finger pointing recently and hear us out...a lot of it is warranted. You want to blame Jim Rutherford? Ok, there is some blame there. You want to blame Mike Sullivan? Yep. There is some blame there too. You want call out some players? Ok, we can blame them too. When it all comes down to it, the Penguins, from top to bottom, completely butchered this season from the beginning.
We'll start with General Manager Jim Rutherford. This summer GMJR made two major moves, signing defenseman Jack Johnson and center Matt Cullen (for the second time). These two signings were....not great. Jack Johnson started to play better near the end of the season (pretty much from the Stadium Series game onward), we know that doesn't fit the narrative but it's true. The Penguins needed a defenseman and they figured they could strike gold again like they did with Justin Schultz back in 2016. This signing isn't nearly as bad as signing Matt Cullen. Yes that's right. Matt Cullen was the worst signing Rutherford made last summer. But Dad!! He's the team Dad!! Yay Dad!! Newsflash - Matt Cullen sucks and should have never seen the Penguins locker room this year. The Penguins had better options in house, see Blueger, Teddy and if they did not want to see what they had in Blueger then there were infinitely better options via free agency. Anthony Duclair signed for the same price as Matt Cullen. Duclair also did this at one point this year (click video link below). Meanwhile Cullen skated around with a walker and an oxygen tank and shot pucks into the goalies chest.
video via Sportsnet
With that said, Jim Rutherford also made some magic happen in the trade department this year. As much as we loved him and thought he should have been given a better opportunity alongside competent NHL players, Daniel Sprong was never going to work out here. Along with his lack of opportunity came the way in which he was utilized. Sprong played roughly four minutes a night on the fourth line with players like Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson. That didn't do Sprong or the team any good so trading him for Marcus Pettersson was probably the right call. That said, what a pleasant surprise Pettersson came to be. Rutherford's trade gems didn't stop there. He shipped a god awful, abysmal Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan to Florida for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad. We would give Jared McCann a lifetime contract tomorrow if we could. The jury is still out on Bjugstad though he showed some positives throughout his time here, so a full year in the Penguins system can only make him better. Finally, the biggest surprise of them all, Erik Gudbranson. He was incredible for the Penguins. Gudbranson came from an abysmal situation in Vancouver and managed to step up his game with here the Pens. It was certainly a year of ups and downs for Rutherford and while he's not void of all criticism, there are some moves that surprisingly worked out. We'll have more thoughts on Rutherford this offseason as the 2019-2020 team gets constructed.
Now on to the roster. Talk about a team that you just couldn't figure out. One week they are world beaters, the next they are getting smoked by some jabroni team that's ranked last in the LEAGUE. That was just the regular season. The playoffs were another head-scratcher altogether. This team looked disinterested at times and minus Game Four, the effort just wasn't there. Part of that maybe falls on the coaches but the players have to take responsibility too. I mean, it's the playoffs for Gods sake. It didn't help that Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel didn't have any points until Game Four. It certainly didn't help Malkin looked like a lost child 97% of the time. We know this is a touchy subject but Matt Murray needs to be talked about. Now before you send us all your angry tweets, hear us out for a minute, Matt Murray let the Penguins down and the Penguins let Matt Murray down. We know this might be hard for some of you to handle but like I said, please hear us out. In games two through four this postseason, the Penguins got a lead and immediately after they got said lead, Matt Murray would get scored on and the wind would be taken out of the teams' sails. Surrendering these leads was especially frustrating at home largely because it took the crowd out of the game as well. At some point you've got to make a save when your team has the lead. In the same breath though, the Penguins just didn't score. They scored as many goals combined in games two through four than they scored in game one. That's definitely a problem. Matt Murray, despite not making any saves when the Penguins had the lead, gave the Penguins a chance to win. He kept the games close and manageable but the Penguins just didn't score. Like we said, Murray failed the Penguins and the Penguins failed Murray. You probably don't like hearing that but it's the truth.
Finally on to Mike Sullivan. I think Sullivan already changed the Pens lines for Opening Night 69 times. He probably also has Dominik Simon and Garrett Wilson, who is a free agent, on said lines. Please God let him sign somewhere else, preferably Mars. We know this is also a touchy subject because "he won us two Cups!!!!!!!!!1111!1!1!" But honestly we don't care. This is a what have you done for me lately league and lately the Penguins have been abysmal, not fun to watch, and the entire playing fast/just play mentality has gone out the window in favor of grit, retaliation and and a fear of being benched for making a mistake. The decisions he made going into the playoffs where nothing short of baffling. McCann-Crosby-Guentzel was so successful during the season and he decided to split them up. Malkin and Kessel were working well, he split them up. Olli Maatta skates with boulders attached to his legs and he was starting Game One against the Isles, a team much quicker than the Penguins. Garrett Wilson received regular shifts while Teddy Blueger ate nachos and texted your mom in the press box. The Islanders took the Penguins game and made them eat it and the Pittsburgh had absolutely no answer. Sullivan refused to change the Penguins tactics until it was far too late in the series. It becomes worrisome because we've seen this kind of stuff from a Penguins coach before and the end result, well, it's not good. The Penguins need to find a new style of hockey to play or else they are destined for another long season. Should Mike Sullivan and company not adjust, drastic changes should be made and fast. The NHL is a copycat league and every team has since caught and captured the Penguins magic that won them back-to-back Cups just two years ago.
So what is the State of the Penguins? To tell you the truth, we don't have an answer for you right now. This was indeed a bizarre year. You could chalk this one up to an anomaly and you would be right. You could also chalk this one up to everyone messes up somewhere at some point. You would be right as well. This organization prided themselves on speed and the mantra of "just play". They now have gone so far away from that mentality that they might as well be back in 2012-2015 years when grit and all that garbage ruled the league. The worst thing to happen to this team in the last two years is Tom Wilson breaking Zach Aston-Reese's jaw. This incident forced the Penguins to totally abandon everything that won them to back-to-back Cups in favor of grit and making sure there is someone around to police the ice all the time. This will be a huge summer for the Penguins. They only have so many years of Crosby, Malkin and Letang left and they need to capitalize on those years. What the Penguins shouldn't do is make a panic move that's incredibly stupid like trading Phil Kessel and signing some reject like Wayne Simmonds to a six million dollar per season deal because he has 'grit.' You will NOT find someone that produces like Phil does via trade or the open market. Phil Kessel makes $6.8m per season and is a point per game player. That is a steal!
What the Penguins should do is shed some of their awful contracts that they've dished out recently, whether it be for picks and cap space or some serviceable players (if possible) in return. The Pens also need to address their bottom six. Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson cannot be on this team next year and if they are then we have a problem. Tobias Rieder and Anthony Duclair would look awfully nice in Penguins jerseys next season. Both of these names could be had at a relatively affordable cost which is essential with some of the contracts that the Penguins dished out over the last couple of seasons. As we mentioned above, the current state of the Penguins is a weird one. We're not in a total panic mode just yet but if they continue down this current path next year, we'll certainly be one step closer to the ledge.
Thank you all for attending this years State of the Penguins Address and thank you for following along with us all season. Whether you only read our posts or if you've interacted with us on twitter we thank you. If you haven't yet be sure to follow us on Twitter, @PensOfAnarchy. We'll be sure to keep our elite twitter content rolling throughout the duration of the Stanley Cup playoffs. So goodbye, goodnight, God bless, and God bless Phil Kessel.
See you guys whenever.
Old Posts from our site, heyyyyyfannnssss (4/11-2/15). Cute name, but impossible to remember.