Brooks Orpik is a week removed from speaking up TO the Penguins at a team meeting.
Now he is reduced to mostly biting his tongue.
Orpik, perhaps the most candid player when speaking on the record in my eight seasons covering the Penguins, clearly is trying not to say the wrong thing about the current state of affairs.
There is no easy way to define that state.
The Penguins are not scared.
The Penguins are not worried.
The Penguins are not beaten.
The Penguins are not… anything.
That is probably the reason coach Dan Bylsma offered two long pauses to questions I asked after a 4-1 loss to lowly Carolina on Tuesday night.
What else is there to do but pause for thought with this team?
The first question:
Dan, one of your players said he wasn’t worried about the team’s up-and-down play since the Olympic break. How do you feel about it?
Bylsma waited 14 seconds, then offered this response:
“The word ‘worried’ – I guess when you look at the last six games and the inconsistency of our play I don’t think any player looks at that and says we’re all right with that.”
Bylsma is not a man of few words.
He is not a man to haphazardly answer questions in post-game news conferences.
He is a smart man, a man that makes habit of mixing honesty with spin in a way that provides insight even if he does not really say anything.
The 14-second pause was insightful in that he clearly wanted to make sure he provided the best possible response to that question.
A former player, he knows that all players read.
He also knows that messages can be sent without screaming.
He will never scream. I asked him about that a year ago. Screaming, even once, I suggested, might convey something needs to change.
“That’s not who I am,” Bylsma said. “If you’re waiting for me to change who I am, to become a guy that goes negative, screams and throws things – that’s never going to happen.”
Bylsma sends messages in ways that are subtler than screaming.
Like, say, saying nothing for a bit.
The second question on Tuesday night:
Dan, what needs to happen to get this team to the all-right phase?
Bylsma paused 9 seconds, then offered this response:
“I can say that that game against Columbus, the game against Chicago are indications of our team being in the right spot. This game is not. We’re going on the road for three games and two out of three isn’t an indication we’re in the right spot. It’s in our team, it’s in our group of guys, that’s how we’re going to prove it’s alright.”
The Penguins are going to the playoffs.
They are going as no worse than the No. 2 seed, barring a complete collapse that would include them losing their last six games. (Even then, they’d need help to lose the division.)
They are 8-8-2 since the Olympics.
They would love nothing more than to pause right now.
>> What happens when the team meeting didn’t work? A 4-1 loss to a lottery squad is what. http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5864172-74/penguins-hurricanes-crosby#axzz2xgOpmOxu
>> Kris Letang is up for an award that no player ever really wants. http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5864181-74/letang-penguins-masterton#axzz2xgOpmOxu
>> Josh Yohe is in Winnipeg and Minneapolis. I’ll be in Denver.
Be EXCELLENT to each other,