Kukla's Korner Hockey
"It makes me really happy to have a coach who focuses on the time of possession of the puck."
-Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. More from Letang in a translated TVA Sports story...
from Sam Page of Sports Illustrated,
Rutherford’s strategy for fixing this hasn’t so much been to bolster the bottom half as to erase the traditional top six/bottom six divide completely. His first move—trading Neal for Hornqvist and Spaling—typified this mentality. He parted with the team’s best winger for two forwards whose odd skill sets allowed them to play all over Nashville’s lineup.
Hornqvist is a modern Tomas Holmstrom, fearless and gritty in front of the net. But compared to Neal, Hornqvist’s tools are more Fisher Price than Black & Decker. He can’t skate, or score from even a moderate distance, and he will often enter the offensive zone by chasing his own soft, harmless shot, hoping to force a cover-up whistle....
Rutherford also bought low on several free agents, handing out a series of affordable one-year deals—lack of star power, after all, was not the reason why the Penguins hadn’t been back to the Stanley Cup finals since 2009. They now boast five players who have caddied for stars in the past: Hornqvist, Kunitz, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie and Pascal Dupuis. With trade-deadline acquisition Marcel Goc centering the third line, Pittsburgh can follow the skilled-center-plus-crease-crasher model with their top three lines—Crosby with Kunitz; Malkin with Hornqvist; and maybe Goc with Downie. (No one will ever mistake Goc for Malkin, but the underrated German has offensive talent.)
from Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
Rutherford had a chance to reflect a bit on all that has transpired since he succeeded Ray Shero as GM May 6, and he clearly is satisfied with what has been accomplished so far.
"I feel very good about what's happened," he said.
He seemed particularly pleased with the hiring of coach Mike Johnston, even though Johnston got the job only after Willie Desjardins (and perhaps Bill Peters) accepted offers elsewhere.
He's happy with the trade that brought forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling from Nashville for James Neal because the Penguins "added two players who can play a little different style."
And Rutherford is flat-out delighted to have gotten top-four defenseman Christian Ehrhoff as a free agent after Buffalo bought out his contract.
"I feel we've improved ourselves at all positions," he said.
He acknowledged the impact of defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik leaving via free agency, but said: "Our younger defensemen are getting better, and the addition of Ehrhoff makes us stronger."
from Mark Madden of the TimesOnline,
In 2010, Steve Downie played for Tampa Bay. He tried to break Sidney Crosby’s leg. Blatant and intentional. A slew foot on steroids. Watch the video. It’s available on YouTube, along with sundry other malfeasance perpetrated by Downie.
Now, Downie is a Penguin. Crosby’s teammate. Maybe his linemate.
It’s time to forgive and forget. Embrace, even.
Downie is a jerk. But he’s the Penguins' jerk.
It’s not a problem solved quickly, let alone with one signing. But last season’s Penguins packed the punch of a feather duster. So soft, they nearly melted.
continued and watch the incident Madden referred to below...
from James A. Conley of Shnarped,
While there is still the matter of the rest of the roster to be figured out — the team has six pending RFAs and most aren’t ineligible to be demoted without hitting the waiver wire — the picture is coming into focus in Pittsburgh. That picture could conceivably include one more big trade and another free agent or two before training camp hits in September.
Again, on paper, the Penguins have had a brilliant last few days.
It remains to be seen how that plays out on the ice.
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
A troublesome question remains:
Who is going to skate with Evgeni Malkin after the Neal trade and the Jokinen defection?
We’re talking about a star without linemates.
Rutherford had said finding a winger for Malkin was a priority heading into free agency, but he failed to deliver one. It had been widely speculated that the Penguins would take a run at former Toronto forward Nikolai Kulemin — a friend of Malkin’s and a fellow Russian — but Rutherford said no deal with Kulemin is going to happen because of cap concerns. That’s probably just as well; Kulemin has been an underachiever in the NHL and had just nine goals in 70 games last season.
It’s possible Hornqvist, the key player in the Neal trade, could end up on Malkin’s line instead of skating with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Rutherford also mentioned Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett and Spaling as potential top-six forwards. Dupuis will be coming back from a major knee injury. Bennett missed most of last season with a wrist injury. Spaling is better suited for the third line.
“I’m not sure we have to get a top-six forward at this time,” Rutherford said. “I’m not going to get anxious about it at this point.”
from John Mehno at the Times Online,
Tocchet's inclusion on the staff was apparently mandated by ownership, part of the organization's stated goal to increase its level of grit after five years of playoff disappointment. Tocchet's hiring appeared to be non-negotiable, and it reportedly became a deal breaker for at least one potential coaching candidate.///
But it's an awkward fit, especially with a rookie head coach who doesn't have the name or NHL history that Tocchet does. Tocchet is close to Mario Lemieux. He watched playoff games from the owner's box this spring. Isn't it disconcerting to know your assistant plays golf with your boss?
What if the players take Tocchet's message more than Johnston's? Pascal Dupuis did an interview on 93.7 The Fan and said his reaction to the hiring was to do a Google search on Johnston. He'd obviously never heard of him. There isn't a player in the locker room who doesn't know who Tocchet is.
What happens if the players look past Johnston to hear what Tocchet has to say? If Tocchet becomes their go-to guy, doesn't Johnston then become an empty suit, a head coach in name only? The situation has the potential to be uncomfortable.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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