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Friday, June 6, 2008

Penguins Are Fans of the Trapezoid

I had no idea that some Pittsburgh Penguins players were big fans of my writing. A snippet from the Toronto Sun from this morning:

Brooks Orpik, the free agent defenceman who will be coveted by many teams after
July 1, has told people he will not re-sign in Pittsburgh if Therrien is the
coach. Jordan Staal, the terrific young player who lives in the shadow of Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin -- but is poised to bust out as one of the most complete
centres in hockey -- is another Therrien complainer.

I say they're paying attention here because after Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I called out to the Penguins saying that keeping Michel Therrien on board to coach a young team and then providing the example that crying to officials and complaining is the way to go was the exact opposite of what the Penguins need to become world beaters.

Now word comes out that, indeed, there is a faction of players in the Pittsburgh locker room who are less-than-thrilled with the coaching work of Michel Therrien.

Make no mistake here, if Pittsburgh is able to return to the Finals next season, they'll be doing it with close to an entire new roster. The Pens have a lot of guys hitting free agency and at least two of them are going to get big pay days (Marian Hossa and Brooks Orpik). Considering that Pittsburgh has to contend with having a boatload of younger talent that will require big deals at some point in the near future, there's potential to see this Finals team getting, for all intents and purposes, blown up.

Make no mistake, Ray Shero is a good and shrewd general manager - and I don't mean that in the, "He's dirt cheap and cuts corners to make things happen" kind of way - but he's got his hands full and more in having to deal with this.

Take a look at the list of free agents on the Penguins roster - the important ones anyhow:

Restricted Free Agents
  • Marc-Andre Fleury

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Marian Hossa
  • Pascal Dupuis
  • Ty Conklin
  • Mark Eaton
  • Adam Hall
  • Georges Laraque
  • Ryan Malone
  • Brooks Orpik
  • Gary Roberts
  • Jarkko Ruutu

In a word: YIKES!

You're looking at both goaltenders (Fleury and Conklin), three top wingers (Malone, Hossa, Dupuis), two big defensemen (Orpik and Eaton - Eaton missed a large part of the season with injury and is infinitely better than Rob Scuderi), and a pack of role players (Ruutu, Roberts, Laraque, Hall). Worse yet, they still have Darryl Sydor still under contract at $2.5 million dollars - and he didn't play in the playoffs until part of the way into the Cup Finals and it wasn't because of injury.

Some of them will stay, obviously, it's not as if they're all going to leave - but you're looking at a team that is very likely going to have to change some big parts and the dynamics of the team. That's a lot to ask out of your GM and its even more to ask out of your head coach and I don't know that I'd be one to trust an overhauled team with a guy who seems to lose his head and focus so easily like Michel Therrien.

Change is in the air in Pittsburgh in a big way and this is just the start.

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