Final Preseason Thoughts
Tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins suit up for their first preseason game against conference rivals and my sleeper team for the 2015-16 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both teams, once they assemble their regular season rosters, will boast young talent, a young, promising defensive core, and solid netminding.
As for tonight, we will only see (or should I say hear about) only a few of those players who will don the sweaters in the regular season.
Before I go any further, I have launched my podcast, "The Pensimist Podcast." Click here to hear the first episode.
But this is not a preview post for the aforementioned game; this is a summation of the last several months for the Penguins.
Like all of you, I'm thrilled that in two weeks, the regular season will commence and we will finally see some hockey. It's been a long time since May and I'm amped up! Let's go Pens!
If you're reading the title to this post and asking yourself, "What the hell is a 'pensimist?'" I don't blame you. In fact, I'm glad it even registered and garnered a response.
A few weeks back, I had said that I will have some announcements coming up as we get closer to the season and well, Pens fans, this is the first and arguably the biggest. It is certainly the one I am most excited about, so here we go:
Throughout the regular season, I intend to release a weekly podcast, entitled "The Pensimist Podcast." Below is the demo logo I put together last night. It may change in time, but for now, here it is:
The podcast will be more or less a recap show of the events throughout the week. How the games went, what players did what and how they performed, and other ramblings that I may have. I plan to release it every Sunday, but if there are other topics that I want to discuss anytime between then, I will release them when possible.
Of course like all of us fans, we do have other responsibilities in our lives. Like I said, I want to do one every Sunday, but there may be instances where I'm unable to release them. We'll play that by ear as the season gets going.
I am very excited to do this and depending on how well these go, I will attempt to get guests when possible to make this an interactive experience. With that said and as you can see in the logo, feel free to send me questions through my Twitter feed or comments on the website (adamwilliams13.weebly.com) and I'll answer them with my opinions on episodes.
I'm curious to see how this will take off, or if it even does. I know being a fan that we all love to talk about our Penguins. I know that there are other podcasts out there specifically dealing with the Penguins. I understand all of this, but I too have a passion like those hosts do and want to talk some hockey with some of the best fans in the world.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you guys will check this out. I promise to be as good as I possibly can be and make this informative, entertaining, and interactive. The last part only happens with your help, peeps!
Lastly, you may have read all of this and still asked yourself, "What the hell is a 'pensimist?'" When I post the first episode, hopefully within the next week, you'll absolutely find out, Pens fans!
(That right there, is called a "tease.")
Thanks again and.....
Is it October yet?!
Pens in Person
Hello fellow Pens fans and great morning to you all. We are officially 30 days away from the start of the 2015-16 NHL season and I cannot be more thrilled. That is until October, of course.
With that being said, a quick update here with more to come in the coming days/weeks.
I will be attending the Penguins November 14th contest against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. It will be my third time seeing the Pens live and first time in an away arena. Reasons for this are pretty simple:
I've been pretty good luck for the Penguins in the past, as they've outscored their opponents 5-0 in both Mellon and Consol. Hopefully that luck will continue in Jersey.
WBS= "We Be Seeing" Some Baby Pens
I apologize for the title. Sometimes attempting to be clever looks foolish.
Nonetheless, I plan on attending a fair share of WBS Penguins games this season as well. The ride is quick, the games are fun, and you can't beat the crab fries...seriously delicious.
I'm curious to see how the team will play this year with Matt Murray returning, a host of AHL veterans with ample NHL experience, and of course Bobby Farnham. Some younger players return as well.
It's a favorite for my father and I to attend these games and this season will be no exception.
Hockey to me is like professional wrestling, my other sporting passion (and yes, it IS a sport). I can't get enough of it. The speed, endurance, hitting, and absolute skill that these players exemplify, no matter what league they're in, is fascinating and at times, awe inspiring to me.
The chance to see both teams play this season is one that I look forward to and will share personal thoughts and opinions on throughout the year.
There may be some more Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coverage this season, which I'm excited to bring to the page. This and some more updates will follow shortly.
Until next time, "Is it October yet?"
It's the topic that has been beaten to death and pounded in our minds for months now. However, it seems that every time there is a consensus on which lines would look best, General Manager Jim Rutherford or Head Coach Mike Johnston throw a wrench into the plan. Now, with the roster all but secured (hopefully), I'll take my stab at how I would like the lines to look come October.
This was a tough one, honestly. Personally, I'd love David Perron and Patric Hornqvist to stay on the top line, however, I feel that Chris Kunitz is due to have a bounce-back year and he has undeniable chemistry with Sidney Crosby. Phil Kessel, while I believe is better suited to play alongside Evgeni Malkin, will be able to adjust to Crosby and his skill set. With that being said, Crosby is the greatest player in the world, there's very little to argue about with that. Crosby should be able to make adjustments in his game to gel with Kessel and become one of the most dangerous one-two combinations in the National Hockey League.
Evgeni Malkin reprising his role as second line center was no surprise. Keeping Patric Hornqvist in the top six was again, a no brainer. It was the left wing spot that gave me a bit of a dilemma. KHL superstar Sergei Plotnikov will be making his NHL debut this season with the Penguins and provides them a bit of an enigma in terms of what he can offer. I think with Malkin's tutoring along with the determined playing style of Hornqvist, Plotnikov may be able to find a niche on the second line. Plus, rumor has it Malkin loved playing with Hornqvist and would like to continue their combination.
With this line, everyone is playing their natural position. Nick Bonino, acquired from the Brandon Sutter trade last month, is a proven third line center and one could even argue, a second line center. He brings speed, puck possession, and the ability to win key faceoffs that will be crucial for success on any given night. David Perron is a sharpshooter with grit and tenacity who I believe will be more comfortable this season and provide solid production. Beau Bennett, I'm still up in the air with him. I think that he has the talent to become something, but he needs to stay healthy. Hopefully he will.
This is the line that will draw the ire of Pens fans, I'm assuming. I promise, this was not intentional; hear me out. I have a good feeling about Tom Sestito, who is currently signed to a PTO. He's a big body who is looking to prove something to the NHL and its teams. He brings something the Penguins do not have on their roster and that could help him secure a spot. Matt Cullen going in ahead of Eric Fehr is simply for Fehr to have the necessary time to recover fully. I don't expect the 18-year veteran to suit up every game, but from October to December, he should see his fair share while Fehr recovers from elbow surgery. The last player to address is Pittsburgh fan favorite, Pascal Dupuis. Could Dupuis find time on the second or third line? Of course. But should he right away? I don't believe so. Battling a potentially life threatening condition with blood clots found in his lungs, I find it safer for Dupuis to play less minutes even strength, while still being able to contribute short-handed.
Looking at the lines, I don't expect them to stay in tact for all 82 games. I understand that changes are made and needs are addressed when a team is struggling. These lines that I've assembled I believe bring balance of speed, skill, and finish, be it with a goal or big hit. I find that the Penguins have more than their fair share of talented forwards this season and are arguably interchangeable. The only two absolute positives are that Crosby and Malkin are the one-two centers on this team.
Where everyone else will play, what wing, what line(s), how many minutes and what special units they'll be on still remains to be seen. I mean we haven't even started training camp, so everything is pure speculation.
But, I believe I speak for us all #PensNation when I ask, "Is it October yet?"
A look at the defense will be posted later this week.
All photos courtesy of penguins.nhl.com and nhl.com
Pens Post-Week Thoughts
A couple bits of news regarding the Penguins this past week:
Thoughts regarding all of these topics:
Really not too much more to add to the previous three points.
Like most, if not all of you, I'm dying for October to start. I'm getting antsy and it's killing me to know we still have another month and change until we see Phil Kessel on the ice. We get to see the debuting Plotnikov. How about the additions of Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr, both of whom have been very under the radar signings. Will Jeff Zatkoff be a solid back-up and will Marc-Andre Fleury continue from last year's career year? What about the defense; will the youngsters be able to keep the Pens in games.?
There are so many questions that need answers. I only wish that today was September 30, 2015 so we could start getting some answers next week, instead.
Stay tuned for some announcements coming up in the next couple of weeks. Wanting to get more in-depth with my Penguins coverage and going to play around with some ideas. Will update once I confirm and commit.
Like always Pens fans, is it October yet?
With the title alone, I put myself in the minority. Sometimes I enjoy doing it to bother other too adamantly voiced Pens fans and then there are times, like this, where I truly believe my statements.
Rob Scuderi is the subject of many verbally pitchfork led talks about who to run out of town. "He gets paid too much!" "He's too slow!" or the simply put, "He sucks!"
I disagree with the latter and can see the points in the other two, but you know what Scuderi has that most on the roster does not? A Stanley Cup ring. And do you know what he has over everyone else except Chris Kunitz? Two Stanley Cup rings.
He brings a winning pedigree. Hell, six years ago, he was Pittsburgh's favorite player as he was "The Piece" to their 2009 Cup win with his outstanding saves in Game 6. When he left the city, fans were furious. When he resigned a couple seasons ago, everyone was thrilled.
Now, he's the one fingers are pointed at. Last time I checked, there were 19 other players that dressed that held responsibility for the team's success or failure, not just number four.
When you think about the Penguins defensively this season, who is going to stand out on the penalty kill? Kris Letang is surely a top-notch defenseman, but will he see a ton of time short-handed? I'd venture to say no. Olli Maatta, once healthy, will be a bright spot on those units. Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy can be a risk at times. And are we as a fan base going to truly put our full belief in Derrick Pouliot right away? I doubt it.
The loss of Paul Martin stings...bad. Especially in terms of penalty kill, but do you know who is a "master" of the 5-on-3 penalty kill and kills in general?
Mr. Robert Scuderi is, that's who.
And it's not like Jim Rutherford and the Penguins haven't parted with "dead weight" this offseason. Craig Adams was told his services would no longer be needed, Nick Spaling is in Toronto as part of the Phil Kessel trade, and Brandon Sutter was recently traded away.
If the Penguins have been listening to the fan base, then they've done a good job of finding ways to eliminate bad contracts/players, in some people's views.
I'm not the one running the Rob Scuderi fan club, but I'm sure not part of the majority that wants him gone. I believe that he has a role on this team and will play a responsible role this season. He will mentor the young defenseman and contribute on the third pairing.
What he did for Simon Despres last season was invaluable and raised Despres' stock tremendously. He was a calming factor for the unbridled stallion and helped Despres tighten up his game. Scuderi deserves some credit for that at least.
Would trading him to free up cap make sense? Yes. But is it absolutely necessary to move Scuderi? I don't think so at all.
So, #KeepScuderi. He's kept for now. Hopefully it remains that way.
Pens Moves: Fehr In, Sutter Out
In the immortal words of everyone's fictitious anchorman, Ron Burgundy, things have "escalated quickly."
With two moves less than ten minutes apart, the Pittsburgh Penguins continued to rebuild, reshape, and reform their bottom six. One move is more favorable in my mind than the other, but let's recap a bit first:
Pens Sign Eric Fehr to Three-Year Deal
In a move that had been rumored quite a bit online and among inner circles of Penguins fans, General Manager Jim Rutherford was able to sign former Washington Capitals center Eric Fehr to a three-year, $6 million dollar deal.
Fehr, 29, spent nine of his first 10 NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals, recently posting 33 points in 75 games last season, amassing a plus-8 rating.
The Winkler, MB, Canada native underwent elbow surgery in June, putting him out of action for "4-6 months." Earliest time we may see the 6'4" center would be in October, but could be pushed back as late as December.
I like the signing. Fehr is a big body who will add his size, penalty killing, and scoring touch to the bottom six. He also has a tendency to score against the Penguins, so if you can't stop him, add him to the fold. The injury is unfortunate, but if all goes well during his recovery, we still may see him relatively early on in the season. Solid signing for a good price.
Pens Trade Sutter, 2016 3rd Round Pick to Canucks in Exchange For Bonino, Clendening, 2016 2nd Round Pick
It was a move that was all but expected. Pens fans had been clamoring for the organization to unload either the contract of Chris Kunitz, Rob Scuderi, or Brandon Sutter.
The latter was the one to move.
Brandon Sutter, along with a 2016 3rd round pick, has been traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening, and 2016 2nd round pick.
Bonino, 27, has 121 career points (48G, 73A) in 284 career games split between the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks. Clendening, 22, was the second highest scoring defenseman in the AHL last season and was part of the Utica Comets team that reached the Calder Cup Finals.
I am not going to break down statistics as much in the aforementioned section simply because by the time most fans read this, they will already know each player's Corsi, and other advanced statistics and what not. Not what a "recap" or "thoughts" section is about.
Immediately, I must say I'm personally upset that Sutter's gone. Again, one could argue his paper stats, but his relationship with the team on the bench and in the locker room is what will be missed. His clutch goals and performances over his last couple of seasons will be missed. His hockey heritage and lineage will be missed. I will miss Sutter and his contributions, especially when both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were not contributing...at all.
Secondly, Nick Bonino is a solid return. Good hands, good down low on the boards. He's quick, has a great release and was quite the playoff performer for Anaheim in 2013.
Clendening may be the diamond in the rough in this trade. Taken 36th overall in 2011 by the Chicago Blackhawks, he has not quite found his footing in the NHL, but is a solid player in the AHL. He will surely help the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. If his development improves down there and there are injuries on the main squad, I would not be surprised to see Clendening called up and potentially challenge other prospects for a permanent spot.
Final, Final Thoughts
Lastly, like all deals the Penguins have made this season (Kessel trade, Plotnikov signing, Bennett signing), they all look great on paper, as do these. Paper trades and signings are fantastic, but what will happen once they take the ice? Will the chemistry be diminished with the loss of Sutter? Will Fehr's injury impact the lines and throw the team off in the first two months of the season?
Will the players live up to their expectations? That's the biggest question this team faces.
Currently speaking, my lines would look like this:
I place the question marks because in terms of left wing, you have Scott Wilson, Bryan Rust, Bobby Farnham; just to name a few. If Fehr does not immediately start, do we see Oskar Sundqvist?
There are still some questions surrounding this team, but these moves certainly answer some questions and further shape the team.
Exciting times to be a Penguins fan, Penguins' fans!
In a move that had been rumored for at least a week or so, General Manager Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger. He found his top-six winger who was his "number one priority."
Introducing the newest Pittsburgh Penguin, Phil Kessel.
Kessel, who I wrote about in an earlier post, is an addition much needed for a Penguins team whose offense seemed to disappear for the last month of the 2014-15 regular season. Depending on chemistry with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, it's safe to say Kessel will hit 30 goals easy, potentially and even probably more as long as the team stays relatively healthy.
He is knocked on his defensive efforts or lack there of and his minus-34 from last year does not help his cause. However, one has to assume, like I do, that playing under head coach Mike Johnston and playing on a team that was in the top five defensively last season that those numbers will turn around. I expect Kessel to be a plus player this season and even more determined with something to prove against his former suitors.
To acquire Kessel was quite the price tag for the Penguins. Heading to Toronto included 2014 first round draft pick winger Kasperi Kapanen, defenseman Scott Harrington, center/winger Nick Spaling, a 2016 lottery protected first round pick and a 2016 third round pick. Toronto also sent winger Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon, and the 2016 second round pick that the Penguins had traded at this past year's NHL Trade Deadline to acquire winger, and newly reintroduced to Toronto, Daniel Winnik. Lastly, the Leafs will retain $1.2 million for the remainder of the contract. Kessel's cap hit in Pittsburgh then will be $6.8 million instead of $8 per year; certainly a plus.
When you boil it down to the bones here (I think I'm combining too many sayings), Kessel is the elite scoring winger the Penguins were looking for and Toronto was looking to rebuild/shed the contract. Mission accomplished for both teams. Plus, especially for the Penguins, defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta remain in a Penguins jersey. That's absolutely huge.
Plotnikov Officially a Penguin
It was rumored about a week or so ago that KHL winger Sergei Plotnikov planned on signing with the Penguins come July 1. Today is July 1 and Sergei Plotnikov is a Pittsburgh Penguin. For once a rumor was completed without any hiccup.
The deal is a one-year entry-level deal worth $925 thousand dollars. A low risk signing with potential huge rewards, especially if he plays alongside fellow countryman, as he is expected to, Evgeni Malkin. Is Plotnikov a top-six winger? Time will tell, but it is an experiment worth attempting. Overall, I like the signing because of the diversity in nationalities on the team that it brings and the mystery of what could be with Plotnikov.
Depth, depth, and more depth
One would be crazy to think Rutherford was going to go all out and for broke on day one of free agency. There are still plenty of good players out on the market now that he may circle back to, but the Penguins chose to add some depth forwards and defensemen. Signings include Kevin Porter, Kael Mouillerat, David Warsofsky, and Steve Oleksy. They also signed Conor Sheary to a two-year, entry-level contract. Sheary, who was a huge bright spot for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will continue to develop in the AHL and hopefully has an opportunity to bring his speed and tenacity to the big line-up within that time frame.
The signings help replenish some of the depth spots lost in free agency from both Pittsburgh and Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. Barring any horrible injury crisis that Pittsburgh has been a part of for the last several years, I expect most of those signings to stay in the AHL. Porter is the only name I really see making occasional appearances on the fourth-line.
Where Do They Go From Here?
While I think the Penguins addressed a much desired need, there is always room for improvement. When you think back to the end of last season, the Penguins were without Kris Letang, Maatta, and Pascal Dupuis. Come the start of the year, that all will be different.
As I write this, Alexander Semin is still on the board and someone I would love to see have a chance in a Penguins uniform for a short-term, low money contract (one-year/$1-$1.5 million). While it's been reported that the Penguins have no interest in him and personally neither do I, but what if they could snag Martin St. Louis for a similar deal as Semin? It's tempting to think about. Why not bring in Sergei Gonchar for one last year to mentor young defenseman and quarterback the second unit power-play? The Penguins have a little cap space to utilize, why not take a one year gamble?
Rutherford is on record saying that the main focus now is acquiring a fourth-line center. Zach Sill is a fourth-line center and I may be the only person as a Penguins fan who would love to see him back, but he is certainly an option. Maybe even Tyler Kennedy, Mike Santorelli, or do the Penguins give Oskar Sundqvist an opportunity? That seems to be what most Penguins' fans want.
This write-up is a summary of the massive deal simply because you've probably already read every article written about it. There's nothing more I can add to the specifics of the Kessel trade other than my thoughts. Same deal applies with the other signings and where they go from here.
It's called Christmas for a reason in the hockey season. I have my list. I may get one, two, all or none of the names, but it can't hurt to have them out there.
The Penguins won today, and there is no doubt about that. They got their target, signed depth, and still have a little more room to improve. What happens on Thursday (Day 2), who knows, but I expect it to be quiet. Today was a big splash. Tomorrow may be a ripple. Either way, I think we can all agree, Pens fans:
Is it October yet?
Penguins Lock Up Ian Cole
Quick update today is a great update, in my opinion.
The Penguins re-upped defenseman Ian Cole to a three-year, $6.3 million dollar deal with an AAV of $2.1 million. The 26 year-old was acquired at last year's Trade Deadline from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Robert Bortuzzo.
Cole was originally slated to be either a six or seventh defenseman, but do to injuries to Olli Maatta, Kris Letang, and Christian Ehrhoff, was forced to step up into a top-four role. Despite the increased playing time and new role, Cole performed well posting eight points (1G, 7A) in 20 games with the Penguins. During the 2014-15 season, Cole put up career highs in goals (5), assists (12), and points (17) while remaining at a plus-14.
The versatile Ann Arbor, Michigan native found a change of scenery in Pittsburgh and became quite the locker room guy. This three-year deal comes in at a reasonable price for talented defenseman and sures up on hole heading into free agency on Wednesday.
Personal opinion on Ian Cole:
I love the signing. I know that as a Penguins fan, we are supposed to love all signings, but that simply isn't true.
However, with Cole, I was impressed by him from game one in a black and gold sweater. He can skate well, has a hard shot and is not afraid to jump in offensively. He is a character guy that can agitate the opposition as well as inspire the team. Defensively, he is aggressive and solid on the back-end.
Not to mention that he is still young (26) and has some of his best days ahead of him. What this does for the rumors of a Paul Martin return or even a Sergei Gonchar returns remains to be seen, but I assume that it all but silences those rumors.
Seeing Cole for a full season should be a treat and don't be surprised if his offensive game really takes off during the upcoming season.
Great signing by the Penguins and certainly has me excited moving forward.
After a day filled with trade rumors including Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Sharp, and Jeff Skinner, to name a few, it appears the Pittsburgh Penguins will not be making a deal by the end of June 26.
General Manager Jim Rutherford was quoted as saying, "I don't expect anything to happen tonight" and had mentioned that teams are inquiring about their stockpiled young defensemen. Rutherford also added that the Penguins must be patient to acquire the player they believe will help the organization in the future.
While the news may be disappointing to some fans, myself included to a degree, there is a silver lining.
It does not say "did have." It says "has had," and in my eyes, that means talks are continuing, just stopping for the night. So, for those blockbuster deals that have been rumored, there could still be a chance, but timing is everything.
Tomorrow, the Penguins will make their first selection of the draft at 46th overall in the second round. Whether or not a move is made is to be seen, but as for tonight, Rutherford seems content to lie low and see what could happen sometime down the road.
Adam Williams. B.A. and M.S. from LHU. Pens fan/devils advocate. Self-proclaimed #Pensimist