by Tony on 01/04/11 at 03:13 PM ET
Things could be worse in Penguinsland, to be sure. Tied for the most points in the Eastern Conference, only two behind Vancouver for most in the NHL. It’s not like things are in crisis mode, I get that.
But I was perusing the stats of the Penguins’ regular starting lineup, and while it certainly isn’t breaking news, the amount of “role players” is noteworthy. Of course, role players are an integral part of an NHL team. Role players help teams win a Stanley Cup.
However, I think it’s always a delicate balance for coaches and GM’s not to overload your roster with too many role players, especially if those role players don’t score other than every once in a while.
After all, you need to score to win.
The Penguins have the fortune of having two world-class forwards in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Of course, world-class centers cost world-class money. So in some ways it’s quite understandable in the salary cap NHL that the Penguins’ roster, particularly the forwards, will consist of Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal and “everyone else” for the foreseeable future.
Penguins’ GM Ray Shero has compiled quite the diversified roster, complete with all of the requisite role players that are necessary to compete for a Cup. He’s got more than enough forward enforcers in Eric Godard, Mike Rupp and Arron Asham. Oh sure, Rupp and Asham have their offensive flashes, but those are few and far between. He’s got one of the top agitators in the NHL in Matt Cooke. He’s got a line of speedy wingers in Tyler Kennedy, Chris Conner and Mark Letestu that excel in puck possession. He’s got character ham-n-eggers in Max Talbot and Craig Adams. And finally, he’s got Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who for lack of better words, are “the guys who play with Crosby”.
But the reality with the majority of these players, for the most part, is that they simply do not score on a regular basis. Let’s fact it, odds are that Crosby won’t keep up with the torrid scoring pace he’s been on. Not trying to be overly-dramatic, but after his 25 game point streak ended, he’s gone scoreless in the last two games. Just saying, there will be games in the final 40 that Crosby won’t be on the scoresheet, someone else has to put the puck in the net if they want to win. Malkin is as streaky as he ever has been. Battling through a nagging knee injury, Malkin has had flashes of his ‘09 brilliance, but the consistency still isn’t there yet.
Staal is the real wildcard here. Not only could he be a contributor in the scoring department, but he could open up space for his new linemate in Malkin. Naturally, it’s gonna take some time for Staal to get his timing back, but his return should really help in top six scoring.
After that, frankly it’s a crapshoot, where goal scoring comes at a premium. Kunitz is playing his best hockey as a Penguin, with 10 goals so far. Is he the ideal linemate for Crosby? No, but he’s definitely holding his own. Put it this way: No one else (other than Malkin, obviously) has earned a chance to play on the top line. Dupuis has 8 goals, but often goes several games without scoring. His speed at times makes up for his lack of scoring, but one would think a top-line winger should be contributing more. I know I for one wasn’t surprised to hear HCDB’s comments about Dupuis on the “24/7” episode recently.
The goals get rarer as we go along. Kennedy has 5 goals, but only with one goal in his last 19 games. After an injury-filled ‘09-‘10 season, the Penguins were hoping Talbot would rebound offensively this year. Well, so far, Talbot has 5 goals as well, but is scoreless in his last 14 games. The remainder of the “role players” all have under a handful of goals, the majority of which having played all 40 Penguins games.
Now of course, no one expects guys like Godard or Adams to score 25 goals a year. In addition, some could argue that the Pens’ roster has done well for itself in this same type of setup in the past, going to four straight playoffs, a Conference championship and a Stanley Cup. That may be true, but in the Cup year of ‘08-‘09, the Penguins had 10 players score at least 10 goals. Unless things change for players not named Crosby or Malkin, I highly doubt that will happen this season.
Is this the year that GMRS finally pulls the trigger on a trade of one or more of his veterans for some secondary scoring help? We’ll see, but with 8 UFA and 2 RFA players at this season’s end, this might be the year.
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Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
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