Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 07/09/14 at 10:31 AM ET
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.)
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