Is Beau Bennett Completely Remapping the Penguins’ Future Personnel DecisionsPosted: 08/03/2013
Excluding the obvious (Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz) you would have a hard time naming a better Penguin last night than Beau Bennett. All he does is hustle for loose pucks, make crisp passes, and find spots from which he can launch a puck, or at the very least force a team to abandon a double team on Geno and or Nealer, the league’s reigning MVP and perhaps its second best pure sniper. That’s awesome.
He’s got points in 4 of his last 5, and his minutes have been steadily increasing. He played over 15 and a half minutes last night, probably the ideal figure for a #6 forward, and the Pens will have 2 more full years with him on his current rookie salary figure after this one. That’s also awesome.
And perhaps even more important, the Pens almost don’t even need that much scoring, they’re miles ahead of pretty much every other team in scoring so far this year, so if you ask me, they don’t need to give up a few defensive prospects to bring in a veteran scorer on the back swing of his career (Jarome Iginla).
What the Pens do need to address is their defense. After watching the last two weeks I personally am convinced that Brooks Orpik is never going to go back to the player he was five years ago, and unfortunately that’s dangerous for the Pens. If they’re going to view him as a shutdown defenseman, he needs to start playing like it. Right now he seems frequently out of position and a liability in the defensive zone. Although he started the season by getting back to his traditional hitting game, that’s since tailed off. We’re not advocating for the Pens to trade him, but we definitely would not mind seeing Brooksie being relied on slightly less.
Beyond Brooks there seem to be issues of stick compatibility–the top 4 defenseman all play with a partner with the same handedness–Letang and Niskanen, and Martin and Orpik. That means that someone always has to play the non-natural side, and unfortunately, it only seems like things get worse when the Pens try to make a meaningful change to fix things and put one righty with one lefty.
What the Penguins need is a bonafide top 4 defenseman who can shut down the opposing team’s best forward. Preferably we would like a right handed shot to play with Paul Martin and hopefully he’s under the age of 30. Otherwise we’re open to pretty much anything.
But the story doesn’t end there: Kris Letang will be a UFA after next season, and he could be exactly the kind of guy who isn’t worth keeping around. Make no doubt, he’s been one of the best defensemen in the league this year and he stands a very good chance of getting his Norris Trophy THIS YEAR, at least so long as he keeps his health and his productivity (touch wood). But is he really that good of a defenseman? Sometimes his defensive zone play has looked inconsistent and plenty of people love to point out his short temper, given these factors do you want the Penguins to give Kris Letang $7 million a year or more? Because if they don’t, someone else will.
Now it’s impossible to predict the future but Simon Despres looks to be just a little bit ahead of Letang in his development, and he’s considerably younger than Tanger was. If Despres can continue to develop he could become nearly Letang-like for half the cost. Further, the Pens still need to clear out the logjam building in the AHL and major junior level. Moving a couple of pieces now and expecting less from Orpik and others in the future could virtually fix the system by itself, and that’s good, the Pens need to find out what they have, and the only sure system is to actually play the guys.
So that’s what Beau Bennett has done: rather than needing to trade for an aged winger, the Pens are now in a position to make a crucial hockey trade that would completely remap the future personnel decisions for the franchise. Rather than “renting” they’re in a position to fix their current issues and be set up for long term prosperity. That’s no small feat if you ask us.
Now we turn the discussion to all of you, who is one defenseman the Penguins should target for the long term? Let us know in the comments!
Also epic stuff from the guys over at Faceoff-Factor. They broke out the Telestrator, and they’ve got a lot of good stuff on the little things that Beau has been doing. Check it out here.