When You Point the Finger, Evaluating Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero

dan-bylsma-glareIn the mainstream media everyone has already decided on their scapegoat, Dan Bylsma, and at least in their arguments they seem to have plenty of good cause: 4 years of elimination at the hands of a lower-seeded opponent, the first Penguins coach to be swept in the playoffs in 34 years, a losing record in the postseason since his historic 2009 Cup win. But they are decidedly wrong. If you had wanted to pick this fight with me last year or the previous two years I wouldn’t have argued, but the problem against Boston was not a failure of coaching, it was a failure of the players to listen, or to CARE to execute.  And that’s all fine and dandy, but if you ask me, you have to go up another level to find the culprit behind this collapse.

Yes, in fact, I am talking about Ray Shero. The architect of the most talent laden roster since the inception of the salary cap is the guy that I think is most culpable for this team’s collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals (if you can ever collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals, even if you’re swept and get outscored 12-2, I mean you’re still one of the four best teams in the league right?). And here’s why: he overspent his hand. Now, here us out, we’re not going to pretend that Shero should be fired, and we’re definitely not saying that he hasn’t made some amazing moves: just think about where the Pens would have been if he hadn’t made a move on the “washed up” Tomas Vokoun. But when it comes right down to it, answer yourself this, did his deadline moves work? If you answer yes you must be a Bruins fan. Get the explanation after the jump.  Read the rest of this entry »


Coming in Hot: Pens/Sens, Forwards

As what should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever heard of hockey, Ray Shero has been named one of the finalists for the GM of the Year Award. All he did in the last 12 months was trade a 7th round pick for Tomas Vokoun, sign Sidney Crosby for life, turn Jordan Staal into Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumolin, and Derrick Pouliot, rescue Mark Eaton from early retirement, trade for Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jussi Jokinen, and Jarome Iginla, and Beau Bennett and Simon Despres have erased any doubts people have held about Shero’s scouting and drafting ability.

When looking at the intangibles between the Penguins and the Senators you have to look at the coaches: both Dan Bylsma and Paul MacLean are systems coaches and while Bylsma has already won a Jack Adams for coaching his team to an impressive record despite the absence of his two biggest stars, MacLean seems to be the frontrunner for the award this year after playing large chunks of the season without Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Craig Anderson (his three best players). With that said, I can’t honestly claim to know anything about MacLean. I can’t imagine that he’s that different from Bylsma so we’ll chalk this up as a draw. Whatever, nobody ever cares about the coaches unless they are looking for someone to blame other than the players.

Man he's old

Man he’s old

Forwards: If the Senators hold a slight advantage between their defense and goaltending over the Penguins, as we have said they do, they quickly give it all right back to the Pens when you match up forwards. I don’t think we need to go into detail about this, you know who plays forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and along that same line of thought you probably can’t name hardly any forward on the Senators. The Senators have some skill, and most importantly they have a lot of grit that could prove problematic if the Penguins aren’t able to play the puck more effectively in their defensive zone. But they aren’t all that good. The nearly-fossilized Daniel Alfredsson produced 6 points in the first round, good for a share of the lead along with defenseman Erik Karlsson. Nobody else had more than 5 for the Sens (for some comparison the Pens have 7 players who have at least five points already). Despite the lack of top end talent the Sens managed 20 goals in 5 games, the second most in the first round in the East behind only the Pens (25 in 6 games) including two 6 goal explosions.

Also he looks like John Steigerwald, which is bad news

Also he looks like John Steigerwald, which is bad news

The only question for the Penguins is, will they be able to beat Craig Anderson? We certainly don’t expect them to average over 4 goals per game, but if we’ve learned anything, they’ll capitalize when they can. But what if they struggle? Coming out of the gate we expect no changes in the Pens’ 12 forwards (from Games 5 & 6). But you also have to wonder how much longer of a leash some guys, namely Brenden Morrow (who only got noticed when he took stupid penalties), and despite his faceoffs and wheels Joe Vitale, will get. With former 30 goal scorer Jussi Jokinen and future stud Beau Bennett waiting in the wings it doesn’t seem impossible that the Pens could have a totally different complexion at forward in this series.

Bottom line: The Pens invested everything in offense, and so far it’s worked, keep it going and the series should come to the Penguins.


You May Have Heard the Penguins are “All In,” Now with Jarome Iginla

iggy

We don’t need to waste a lot of time on this post, you all know what happened, and if not check Twitter for #WakingUpToIginla. Jarome Iginla is now a Pittsburgh Penguin. Perhaps one of the most heroic players in the league in the last several decades Iggy is just an all around stud addition, and the best part? Still no changes to the NHL roster, the Pens gave up their first round draft pick and two promising, but secondary caliber, prospects.

The best read you can possibly get on the trade comes from the Puck Daddy himself Greg Wyshinski. Read it here. Profound thoughts especially coming from a Devils fan right here:

If Jay Feaster is now The Man That Traded Jarome Iginla, then Ray Shero is The Man That Traded For Jarome Iginla. And Brenden Morrow. And Douglas Murray. And James Neal. And Bill Guerin. And Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis. And all of the other additions to the Penguins through the years that earned them annual success, two conference titles and a Stanley Cup.

If Calgary Flames management seems like a rudderless vessel adrift at sea, the combination of Shero, owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle seem like an unsinkable battleship. The assemblage of talent on the 2013 Penguins makes them one of the deepest and most star-studded teams in recent memory.

Also Shero’s comments about what Iginla told him after the trade was made are unbelievable.

SHERO: I just talked to him after the fact. That was it. He agreed to waive and come to Pittsburgh. The trade conference call was done with the league. Everything was final. That was it. I talked to him a while ago after it. He said he was excited to come to Pittsburgh. He said he would help anyway he could, didn’t care about role or who he was playing with. He wants to help the team win and be a part of it. It was a big change after 16 years in Calgary so I’m sure it will be quite emotional. We have a month sort through the emotions, find some roles for guys, players accepting of those and playing good hockey. The team on paper doesn’t mean too much. We have to do it on the ice. Chemistry for a hockey team is very important.

Stoked above reason now that I see that kind of comment from Iginla.

The Pens are all in. Shero has literally built a team better than what anyone in the NHL probably thought possible in the salary cap era. Seth Rorabaugh contends that Shero will go down as an all-time great GM IF the Pens win the Stanley Cup, for our money he’s already there. Mere mortals can’t do what he’s done. In Shero we trust.

Ray-Shero-watching-practice


Shero’s Shopping List, Part 2: Forwards

Ray-Shero-watching-practice

April 3rd marks the NHL trade deadline, for what it’s worth the Pens  will literally have 10 regular season games left after that date. As such there will be a real premium on rental players–teams will want to give up as little as possible from their core and receive as much as they can in return, even if the investment will only be for the length of the playoffs. Further, it seems obvious to us that the price for rental players will necessarily be high for a number of reasons, first, the salary cap will contract next year, so teams are not worried about trying to resign guys with expiring deals. Two, this will probably be the last time that teams can try to buy their way to a championship for a few years. And three, why not? With guys like Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar and other future Hall of Famers presumably on the market what will stop contenders from making huge moves?

This week also marks the annual GM Meetings which is supposed to be a time for the GM’s to weigh in on possible rule changes, but really is a carefully contrived opportunity to lock all the GM’s in a room and make them talk to one another. Some of the biggest publicity for the league comes during a crazy trade deadline, and after a slow deadline last year the NHL doesn’t want to risk a repeat so you just know that things will be interesting.

What follows is our list of guys that, if we were King Shero, we would be inquiring about during these meetings. We have organized the post into two parts: defensemen and forwards. Our viewpoint is that the Pens need two players, a shutdown defender and a bottom-six forward. There’s no guarantee that either will happen and certainly we aren’t opposed to the Pens zeroing in on Jarome Iginla or Chris Stewart if the price is right, but we’ve already discussed what Beau Bennett has done for the top-6 forward complexion moving forward, not to mention that the biggest offensive addition the Pens can make is a healthy Evgeni Malkin, as such, those guys aren’t essential pieces for us right now.

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Shero’s Shopping List, Part 1: Defensemen

Ray-Shero-watching-practice

April 3rd marks the NHL trade deadline, for what it’s worth the Pens  will literally have 10 regular season games left after that date. As such there will be a real premium on rental players–teams will want to give up as little as possible from their core and receive as much as they can in return, even if the investment will only be for the length of the playoffs. Further, it seems obvious to us that the price for rental players will necessarily be high for a number of reasons, first, the salary cap will contract next year, so teams are not worried about trying to resign guys with expiring deals. Two, this will probably be the last time that teams can try to buy their way to a championship for a few years. And three, why not? With guys like Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar and other future Hall of Famers presumably on the market what will stop contenders from making huge moves?

This week also marks the annual GM Meetings which is supposed to be a time for the GM’s to weigh in on possible rule changes, but really is a carefully contrived opportunity to lock all the GM’s in a room and make them talk to one another. Some of the biggest publicity for the league comes during a crazy trade deadline, and after a slow deadline last year the NHL doesn’t want to risk a repeat so you just know that things will be interesting.

What follows is our list of guys that, if we were King Shero, we would be inquiring about during these meetings. We have organized the post into two parts: defensemen and forwards. Our viewpoint is that the Pens need two players, a shutdown defender and a bottom-six forward. There’s no guarantee that either will happen and certainly we aren’t opposed to the Pens zeroing in on Jarome Iginla or Chris Stewart if the price is right, but we’ve already discussed what Beau Bennett has done for the top-6 forward complexion moving forward, not to mention that the biggest offensive addition the Pens can make is a healthy Evgeni Malkin, as such, those guys aren’t essential pieces for us right now.

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Shero Sighting in Minnesota

It's coming...

It’s coming…

So Twitter has been all abuzz because Ray Shero was in attendance for tonight’s Minnesota Wild versus Colorado Avalanche game. Everyone seems to be stressing that he was at the WILD game and ignoring the fact that the Wild were playing the Avalanche.

Don’t get me wrong, there is one guy out there on the Wild who is actually attainable (unlike Parise, Heatley, Suter, or Koivu) and actually desirable in a Pens jersey. Devin Setoguchi is pretty good. It’s not hard to see him as a Chris Kunitz type of player, someone who was a #6 forward, just barely getting the opportunity that other guys got, but when given the opportunity to play with a superstar like Sid or Geno becomes incredibly consistent. He had one excellent year and has typically always hovered around the 40 point range, which is good enough. He’s got one year after this on his current contract and at $3 million per season he makes sense for years to come.

But for my money there are no fewer than three guys from the Avalanche that make sense in a Penguins jersey. Just earlier today we talked about Ryan O’Reilly. The Avs have established that they don’t plan to bring him back and he’s the right age to become a huge part of the Penguins going forward. He’s yet to play this year because he’s currently without a contract. He’s a natural center but he impresses me as someone who can make the shift.

Milan Hejduk would be a classic rental player. He’s on the last year of his contract, he’s 37 years old, and he’s a pure sniper. He could be a perfect fit with Sid, which could free up Kunitz to return to work with Geno and Neal. If I were Hejduk I would want out of Colorado. He was stripped of the captaincy in favor of 19 year old Gabby Landeskog. Last year marked the first time since his rookie season that Hejduk didn’t score at least 20 goals, but as we always say, he wasn’t playing with a player like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Perhaps the biggest dark horse, and also the best fit, would be David Jones. He’s posted 20 goals the last two years and he’s a classic power forward. If you’re really looking for a permanent solution for the Geno-Neal combo, look at this guy, he’s signed for another 4 years, he’ll do the same things that Kunitz did with those guys last year, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s 28 and in the prime of his career.

So there you have it, yes Shero was in Minnesota, and for all we know he just wanted to watch a hockey game, but to say that he was scouting MINNESOTA is to ignore the fact that the Avs, who are likely to be sellers at the trade deadline this year, were also there.


Stud of the Week 02/13/13

Really up and down week for the Pens last week. Started with two marquee victories over the Islanders and Capitals, shutdown D and prolific offense, over the weekend though the Pens ran into the buzzsaw that is the New Jersey Hockey Devils. As such it’s hard to feel really strongly one way or the other about how the Pens played this week. Our Stud of the Week for this week will reflect this roller coaster of emotion.

We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits. We all know who is putting the puck in the net, but hockey, perhaps more than any other sport, is a team affair and we want to recognize the unsung heroes that make the Penguins so great to watch and root for. After the first weekend of the season we gave the inaugural award to Paul Martin for blowing us away with his unreal play-making, skating, and defensive zone presence. Two weeks ago Sid earned the award for keeping the team from turning on itself despite some ugly losses to some traditionally bad teams. As one of the best players in the league last week we had no choice but to give the award to Chris Kunitz.

This week we’re going in a different direction check it out after the break.

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