Penguin Notes: $idney Crosby’s worst stretch ever

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By John Toperzer

Statistically, Sidney Crosby is in the midst of a career-worst, 10-game slump — scoring one goal and four assists in his last 10 games. Those five points in 10 contests represent the lowest scoring stretch of his 645 NHL games, including both the regular season and postseason.

From Nov. 27, 2005 to Dec. 17, 2005, Crosby also compiled five points in 10 tilts, but two of those points were goals.

Even when dousing Crosby with well-deserved criticism, it’s funny to think about how high he’s set the bar. How many players would love to average a half-point per game?

That’s not to make light of his struggles, however. Crosby had a chance to do much more than score a grand total of one time against both the Blue Jackets and Rangers.

What struck me as odd and fascinating at the same time was how the Penguins superstar treated the puck like a hot potato. It was if he couldn’t get the biscuit off his stick fast enough. Throw in low percentage passing attempts (to put it nicely) and his gliding on skates instead of trademark short, choppy “I’ll beat you to the puck” strides, and Crosby had the ingredients for a more-than-disappointing nine points in 13-game performance.

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“In Shero We Trust”

For the past several seasons, this mantra was bounced around whenever the team was looking to make a trade. Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle and David Morehouse voted Shero out of the Penguins’ circle of trust last Friday.

I was never a fan of repeatedly drafting defensemen high in the draft for anything other than flipping them. Why? Defenders typically take a longer time to develop than forwards. Also, the Penguins organization was perceived as ahead of its time, stockpiling blue line talent, but that wasn’t the case either.

Take the 2012 draft. Thirteen of 30 picks in the first round taken were defensemen, including eight of the first 10 overall selections. Every organization loaded up on the blue line.
What’s interesting in the Dejan Kovacevic interview with Lemieux and Burkle is that upper ownership apparently doesn’t want the team to spend to the cap every year, something which Shero did and was always fighting to stay under.

Ron Burkle said the following.

“We certainly don’t disagree with you on that. I think when we made a decision for a lot of good business to go to the cap six years ago, we were opening a new arena, and we wanted to let our fans know we intended to win. It was actually one of those two or three moments where we all got involved in the hockey operations, the GM’s world, and everything else. It’s ultimately our decision how much we spend, but we all sat down and said, look, you guys have a plan for the team you want to have in five years, we want to step it up. We don’t want to wait five years. I’ve got Crosby now. I’ve got Malkin now. I don’t think a five-year plan makes sense.

But what that wasn’t was a commitment to spend to the cap just to say we spent to the cap. And I think what we fell into was spending to the cap just because it was there. We don’t have a driven reason to spend to the cap just to do it. That’s foolish.”

I’m not sure what to make of Burkle’s statement, unless he’s simply saying he wants younger talent – which makes less money – to become a more prominent part of Pittsburgh’s roster.

Even drafting defensemen with the intent to perhaps deal them for a winger or center is risky business. What if your potential trading partner doesn’t need a defender? You can’t fit a round peg into a square hole, or something like that. For example, lots of folks have suggested that Winnipeg’s Evander Kane would be a nice fit with Pittsburgh, but the Peg doesn’t need defensemen. They have Jacob Trouba (taken one pick after the injured Derrick Pouliot and already contributing to the Jets) and plenty of others.

Once Shero finds employment with another organization, it will be interesting to hear any comments he might have to say about the Penguins organization.

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Vice President Dan Bylsma?

One scenario has the recently fired, no wait, the recently Not fired Dan Bylsma taking a front office job with the Penguins for the remainder of his contract.

He could really use a break. Two crushing playoff runs and a nightmare Olympic finish in the past 12 months. What if Bylsma re-charged his batteries and took a front office job with the Penguins?

He’s on the payroll. The organization really, really likes him.

Why else would Burkle and Lemieux keep Disco Dan around?

It makes sense moving him into a consultant’s role. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened.

It would also help explain was he wasn’t fired with Shero on Friday.

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Think back to when the Pens canned Michel Therrien. Did you know how to pronounce the word “B-Y-L-S-M-A”?

Be honest.

Keep that in mind as the team searches for its next head coach not named Mike Babcock.

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What if James Neal says he suffered from some remnants of his concussion in the second half of 2013-14? Forty goal scorers are hard to find. The first half Neal looked like a pretty good deal at $5 million per year. But he took more unneeded and unnecessary penalties than ever before and hasn’t had much success in the playoffs. Most likely, given his tradable contract, Neal’s played his last game in a Penguins sweater.

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“Kovacevic: Finish off wretched Rangers” Click here.

I wonder if the Rangers used the above article as bulletin board motivation against Pittsburgh.

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There’s been talk about a corporate culture within the Penguins. I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the importance of Sidney Crosby and his meaning to the organization. His presence has made it possible for the Penguins to sell out 334 straight games at Consol Energy Center. That’s what makes his disappointing postseason so scary to the franchise. Lose Crosby and lose the sellout string. A drop in the stock of 87 means a drop in the stock of the Penguins, on and off the ice. Pittsburgh’s marketing run has been unprecedented. The team sold over $900,000 worth of Penguin bags during a single broadcast during the 2013-14 – and could’ve sold more inside of Consol (had there been more bags for sale).

The team has basically been able to print money the last six or seven years. Losing Crosby as the NHL’s best player tag means an inestimable amount of money for the franchise, in marketing terms. You don’t think that makes the front office nervous?

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There’s nothing wrong with shaking goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s hands and saying “thanks for your service” and moving on. The Flower’s had a nice run with the Pens, but paying more than $5 million per year for him is probably too much. Historically, goalies come out of nowhere and succeed. Goalies typically play their best hockey in the late 20s and early 30s, but Fleury’s game is more about durability than eliteness. No one is ever going to call Fleury an elite netminder. At the same time, you know what you’re going to get from the Flower and you can’t say that about some other tenders.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

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