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June 4, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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MACKEY: Expect Pens to go young on D

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A new feature here, a columnized look at how the Penguins will approach free agency:

Finding a top-six winger or two will headline what the Penguins do in free agency, through a trade or both.

A much less heralded move, however, will be getting younger, especially on defense.

The Penguins were the third-oldest team in the NHL in 2014-15. Average player age: 28.225. Ranking: 28th. Translation: not good.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have an average player age of 26.382, and they’re still playing hockey.

How do the Penguins get younger?

Well, I’m told that buyouts aren’t seriously being considered at this point, so scratch that off the list.

Trades are much more likely, specifically deals that help the Penguins shed salary for picks or players you’ve never heard of. You know, cheap ones that come low-risk.

Essentially, we’re talking salary dump.

Rob Scuderi is a candidate. A strong one, actually, provided the Penguins find a dance partner. Chris Kunitz, too, but to a lesser extent from what I understand.

Moving Scuderi will free up $3.375 in salary-cap space. It, along with the expected departures of Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff through free agency, will open the door for Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington to find regular NHL work.

Just think, the Penguins’ opening night defensemen in 2014-15 averaged 27.4 years.

If Harrington takes the same step Dumoulin in the playoffs and nudges Ben Lovejoy into the seventh spot, the average age for the 2015-16 iteration could become 23.6 years.

Even if Lovejoy holds his ground and forced Harrington or Dumoulin to the American Hockey League, the average age is still 25.2.

But it’s not just the defensemen who are in need of a youth movement; it’s the whole team.

September will mark the seventh start of a season since the Penguins last won the Stanley Cup, in 2008-09. That year, the Penguins were the 10th-youngest team in the NHL with an average age of 27.435 years.

Over the next six seasons, they ranked 25th, 15th, 24th, 26th, 28th and 28th. You know what they did in the playoffs: reached the Eastern Conference Finals once. And this past season, surprisingly, was the second-lowest of those six numbers.

It has to start on defense. Ehrhoff was 32 years old on opening night last year. Martin was 33, Scuderi 35. Ehrhoff won’t be back. I’m also taking Taylor Chorney out of this equation because I believe another team will be wise to snap him up, making an offer the Penguins can or won’t match.

The door isn’t closed on Martin, but the Penguins aren’t expecting a July 1 deal — if at all. It will likely have to come later, after Martin decides he doesn’t want to play for a mediocre team and takes what the Penguins can give him to stay here. It’s not likely.

What the Penguins are banking on is Derrick Pouliot, Dumoulin and Harrington being ready. Or at least as ready as they will ever be.

Nobody was thrilled with how Pouliot finished the year. To the point where coach Mike Johnston has been given the offseason task of figuring out Pouliot’s game, how to best motivate him and keep him playing responsible defensively while not sacrificing offense.

But the kids have to play.

If not now, when?

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 2, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Link: Weekly TribLIVE Radio appearance

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Earlier today I joined Ken Laird and Guy Junker to talk about John Hynes leaving for New Jersey, the health of Kris Letang and Pascal Dupuis and several other topics.

Listen here.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 1, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Comparing Penguins to Lightning, Blackhawks

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How do the Penguins compare to the Blackhawks and the Lightning, who will compete for the Stanley Cup Final starting Wednesday?

I spent some time thinking about that and researching it this morning, and the results aren’t pretty, especially when it comes to the NHL Draft.

The two Cup contenders have drafted more frequently than the Penguins. They’ve also been more successful in those drafts, picking a group of players whose production has dwarfed that of the local hockey club.

Chicago and Tampa Bay have more homegrown products, too. And despite allocating the most money to forwards, the Penguins had the worst offensive output of the group in 2014-15.

Advanced stats do favor the Penguins, who also posted the best defensive numbers of the group.

So, without further delay, here’s a little bit – OK, a lot – on how the Penguins compare to the NHL’s best.

Drafty in here?

Let’s start with the draft stuff, which I tweeted out earlier in the day from my Twitter handle, @Mackey_Trib.

Over the past five years, the Penguins, Blackhawks, Lightning and the 27 other NHL teams were allocated a total of 35 picks.

The Penguins made only 31 of those, often mortgaging them for the future, while the Lighting made exactly 35, and the Blackhawks spun assets into a total of 46 picks.

In the first three rounds, the Blackhawks picked 21 times, the Lightning 17 and the Penguins just 12.

So much action obviously affected what those draft picks have done at the NHL level. Check out this chart of production in the NHL by draft picks taken since 2010:

Team             GP       G         A         Pts.

Lightning       799       131     218         349
Blackhawks   675       132     168         298
Penguins        278       25        58          83

*Note: Of the Penguins’ 25 goals, 10 have come from Olli Maatta, 10 from Beau Bennett, two from Derrick Pouliot and one apiece from Bryan Rust, Joe Morrow and Kenneth Agostino, who’s now with the Calgary Flames.

They Penguins have also lagged behind when it comes to retaining talent they’ve drafted. Or, depending on your view, maybe it didn’t exist in the first place. Regardless, just nine of 27 players (33 percent) on their season-ending roster were players the Penguins draft between 2010-14.

You can compare that to 13 of 27 (48.1 percent) for the Lightning or 14 of 31 (45.2 percent) for the Blackhawks.

Bang for your buck

Tampa Bay led the league at 3.16 goals per game. Chicago was 17th at 2.68, while the Penguins were 19th at 2.65.

When you consider how much each prioritized its forwards, it becomes a big plus for the Lightning and likewise a negative for the Penguins.

Let’s take a look at 2014-15 salary camp spending on forwards, per stats.nhlnumbers.com:

Penguins $41.498 million
Blackhawks $38.805 million
Lightning $37.485 million

Conversely, the Penguins were fairly solid consumers on defense. Their $21.577 of cap funds allocated to defensemen was the lowest of the three teams, while the Penguins finished fourth in the NHL in goals-against per game at 2.20.

It should be noted that, although Tampa Bay spent $25.746 to finish eighth in defense, they used just $2.934 million on goaltending – less than half of the Penguins and Blackhawks – and I don’t think anyone is complaining about Ben Bishop these days.

Doesn’t have to be special

I’m not ready to say special teams are overrated, but the Penguins fared much better on the power play and penalty kill – yet here we are.

Take a look:

Power play success rate (2014-15 regular season):
Penguins 10th, 19.3 %
Lightning 14th, 18.8%
Blackhawks 20th, 17.6%

Penalty kill success rate (2014-15 regular season):
Penguins 3rd, 84.8%
Lightning 9th, 83.7%
Blackhawks, 10th, 83.4%

Hit me … or don’t

I also found it interesting that the physical part of the game isn’t all that important – at least not by a few basic metrics.

(Yes, I know hits and PIMs aren’t perfect, but quantifying “physicality” can be difficult, if not impossible.)

The Penguins dished out 2,389 hits during the regular season to finish fifth in that category, while the Blackhawks came nowhere close. They delivered 1,765. Only five teams were less physical than Chicago, though who’s really complaining?

Especially not when you consider how well-behaved the Blackhawks are; they averaged 7.3 penalty minutes by game, the second-best figure in the NHL. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Penguins were last, taking an average of 13.7 minutes in penalties per game.

Advanced look

The Penguins gave up fewer scoring chances than either the Lightning or Blackhawks, according to war-on-ice.com. Check it out:

Penguins 1,675, 6th
Lightning 2,014, 24th
Blackhawks 2,147, 28th

What this tells me was the Penguins played a slower, more controlled game. Even did well at it. But the offensive upside, especially for how much they prioritize offense, was not there, and it hurt.

All three were strong possession teams, finishing in the top five of SAT%:

Blackhawks 53.63%, 2nd
Lightning 53.03, 4th
Penguins 52.81, 5th

Size ‘em up

When again looking at the roster, Penguins forwards were the tallest at 72.7 inches and weighed the most at 197.9 pounds – not necessarily a good thing if you consider the NHL a speed game these days.

They averaged 28.9 years of age compared 25.7 for Tampa Bay and 27.1 for Chicago.

Defense-wise, the Lighting have the bigger group, averaging 208.8 pounds to Pittsburgh’s 205.3. This time, the Blackhawks are the oldest at 28.7 years versus 27.9 for the Penguins.

Hope you made it to the end. Also hope you enjoy the SCF. Can’t wait myself.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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May 15, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Mackey: More on Hynes, Farnham

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Hope by now you’ve had a chance to read my Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-centric analysis piece that ran in Thursday’s Trib.

It essentially looks at whether Bobby Farnham, Kasperi Kapanen or Matt Murray will be in Pittsburgh next season. Ditto for Bryan Rust and coach John Hynes.

An interesting note on Hynes, who could interview for the New Jersey Devils head coaching job under Ray Shero – although he hasn’t yet.

Hynes spoke to reporters in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday, and look below for what he said. Thanks to future beat partner Jonathan Bombulie for passing it along.

“You always have an interest in being able to get to the National Hockey League, but as of now, this is where I’m coaching,” Hynes said. “This is what my focus has been, and nothing has changed.

“At this point in time, I’m the coach in Wilkes-Barre, and that’s what my focus will be. If something comes along the road that makes sense for myself and my family, then that’s something I would consider. But none of that has happened at this point.”

My read on the Hynes thing: First off, nothing will happen until Shero gets back from the IIHF World Championships. I think he will ask to speak with Hynes, and I think there’s a 50-50 chance the Penguins deny Shero permission.

Hynes is a solid coach. The Penguins aren’t dummies; they know this. Keeping Hynes in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, should something go awry with Mike Johnston at the NHL level early next season, is not the dumbest idea. Could almost mirror what happened with Jeff Blashill in Grand Rapids, Mich., who soon could replace Mike Babcock in Detroit, if the latter decides to leave.

Not allowing Hynes to interview might not appear great to outsiders – you know, stopping someone from furthering their career – but it also might not be the dumbest move tactically. Like I said, will be interesting, for sure.

A couple other things to note:

=You see in the piece I quoted general manager Jim Rutherford. One thing I asked Rutherford that didn’t make it in was, if he had it to over again, would he have had Farnham here for the playoffs. Rutherford answered simply, “No.”

=Another quote from Rutherford, on Farnham, that didn’t make it in: “If he doesn’t make (the NHL team) out of camp, I believe you’ll see him play quite a few games because he just brings a certain energy level that drives everyone.”

=Farnham was his typical, legendary self when I talked to him in the locker room after, sporting a few stitches in his lower lip. One of the questions I asked was whether, on some nights, it’s tough to find the intensity he’s known for.

“You have to get yourself going some games, you know?” Farnham said. “I’m a pretty intense guy. I always like to think of it as a switch that you turn on. You’re off the ice, you’re someone else. When you’re on the ice, there’s another person in you, that you have to find that within you every single game to go out there, play that way and be that person.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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May 12, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Pouliot asserting himself, TribLIVE link

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Here’s a link to my weekly TribLIVE Radio appearance, talking Mike Babcock and other Pens-related topics with Ken Laird and Guy Junker.

WILKES-BARRE — Let’s rewind to the second period of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins’ 5-2 loss to the Manchester Monarchs on Monday. Power play. Defenseman Derrick Pouliot at the top. Huge hole opens up.

In the NHL, Pouliot likely would have looked to pass to Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Here, in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference semifinals, Pouliot stickhandled his way to the net for a scoring chance.

The Penguins didn’t score, but this was an important development given what management has wanted to see, which is for Pouliot to shoot the puck more and be more assertive on the power play.

“I think I need to be a little more aggressive attacking the net,” Pouliot said. “On that play, maybe pulling up at the blue line wasn’t the best decision. I made everyone stop, and we kind of lost our speed. It opened up, and I tried to get through. Like I said, I think I need to be a little more aggressive.”

Far too many times through his 34 games the NHL level this season, Pouliot passed on perfectly good shots. To be fair, though, so did several members of the Penguins’ power-play units; Pouliot is hardly alone.

That Pouliot pulled up early in this instance is minor. That the 21-year-old’s next thought was to take advantage of open space is not.

“Those guys have been playing for a long time,” Pouliot said of Crosby and Malkin. “You know what they can do. You want to get them the puck. They want the puck. You have to trust yourself that you’re going to make the right choice.

“You can still make good plays, and then you dish it off to them.”

Ideally, the Penguins could deploy a group of six defensemen next season that looks something like this:

Olli Maatta-Kris Letang
Pouliot-Ian Cole
Brian Dumoulin-Ben Lovejoy

This, of course, would mean they traded or bought out Rob Scuderi. That could be dicey. If Scuderi’s still here, put him on the third pairing and take two of three from Cole, Lovejoy and Dumoulin.

Cole and Lovejoy could play the right side with Pouliot. Would make more sense — for me, anyway — to keep Dumoulin on his natural side.

Regardless of how the Penguins configure their defense, they want Pouliot, assuming there’s no regression in his play, to see significant power-play time.

That requires that he shoot the puck, and he knows it.

“A big part of the power play, especially when you play the top like that, is you get a couple shots through, especially early, and then stuff opens up for (Crosby, Malkin, etc.),” Pouliot said. “They have to respect your shot. I don’t think I made them respect my shot that much.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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May 7, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Mackey: Welcome Bombulie, offseason questions

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First and foremost – this is for the three of you who read this but aren’t on Twitter – I’d like to introduce my new beat partner, Jonathan Bombulie.

Jonathan has covered the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins since the franchise’s inception in 1999. He will handle more of the biographical stuff when he gets here, but Bombulie replaces Josh Yohe, who left to pursue another opportunity alongside Dejan Kovacevic at DKonPittsburghSports.com.

Josh was a great coworker and remains a close friend. I/we wish him nothing but the best. Like Josh, Jonathan knows a ton about the game. He’s similarly friendly, easygoing and hard-working.

Together, Jonathan and I will do everything we can to deliver the best Penguins coverage possible.

And hopefully Bobby Farnham.

(Bombulie will be here following the Baby Penguins’ playoff run; he has until then to convince Farnham that he should live in Pittsburgh and Penguins’ management to pay Farnham to be here.)

Also, and I feel inclined to say this after what has been a crazy 17 days or so since the Ice Cream Incident, thank you for reading.

Seriously. There’s never a day where I take for granted the idea that you have a choice, and you’re actively choosing to read what I have to say. It’s humbling.

Anyway, with things mostly quiet – publicly, anyway – around Consol, I thought I’d toss out a few offseason questions and provide answers based on what I’ve learned from talking to people within the organization.

Q: Will the Penguins buy out Chris Kunitz and Rob Scuderi?

A: I don’t believe so. The Penguins want to maximize what they get out of the salary cap, and this would be, to quote Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, money for nothing.

Also, as we were told at general manager Jim Rutherford’s season-ending presser and I was recently reassured, the Penguins view Kunitz’ 2014-15 season as a one-off situation; an iron deficiency put him in a weird place physically, and confidence was a major factor.

Scuderi – like Ben Lovejoy and others – was basically playing out of position or role because of the multitude of injuries to defensemen.

Q: If the Penguins make a trade, who’s involved?

A: First, the Penguins will do something. Too few draft picks and too many needs at the NHL level not to. Maybe for a top-six winger, too (see below).

Based on what I’ve been told, Brandon Sutter is the most logical option – no, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury are not on the trading block.

Resigning Sutter when his contract expires after next season will be tough based on what other teams will be willing to pay and the money the Penguins have invested in those four. Trading him at the 2015-16 deadline could send the wrong message.

Sutter’s stock is also extremely high based on the 21 goals he scored this past season.

Q: Among the Penguins’ free-agent forwards, who’s the best bet to come back?

A: Blake Comeau. Plain and simple. Wrote it before in my season-ending analysis. Comeau appreciated that the Penguins saw him as more than a fourth-liner. Provided some grit and offensive punch, too … but not enough to where he’ll be out of their price range.

Maxim Lapierre underperformed during the regular season but may want too much to fit within what the Penguins can offer based on his profile and postseason work. They also have a third- or fourth-line center worth monitoring in Oskar Sundqvist.

There remains a concern that Steve Downie will similarly seek more than the Penguins can afford based on scoring 14 goals in 2014-15. Another team might bite, but it’s hardly a secret the Penguins weren’t thrilled with Downie’s penchant for taking penalties, especially in the third period.

Q: Who will the Penguins get to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

A: That’s tough. It’s early. Drew Stafford? Jiri Tlusty? Not terrible ideas. General manager Jim Rutherford knows the second of the two from Carolina. But there’s a lot of variables at play here.

One variable I believe the Penguins will consider is having a fellow Russian on the team to benefit Malkin.

Not that he needs shown the city or anything like that. More of a comfortability thing. And Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov, a former No. 1 overall pick, would provide an intriguing option if the Oilers finally agree to part with him.

There will also be a push, much like there was with Crosby this past season, for Malkin to play more of a two-way game in 2015-16. Have to give to receive, right?

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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May 2, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Pens Roundtable link

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Josh Yohe, Ken Laird and I got together one last time to wrap up the 2014-15 season.

We tried to sort out the series loss to the Rangers and what affected the Penguins this season.

Also offseason priorities and what might happen over the summer.

Most importantly, Bobby Farnham came up. Hope you can listen.

Here’s the link. Thanks, again, from all of us for listening all season.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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April 30, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Year-end evaluation: bottom-six

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You could theoretically configure a third line that includes a total of 44 goals scored in Nick Spaling (nine), Brandon Sutter (21) and Steve Downie (14).

Yet I don’t think anyone would say the Penguins’ bottom-six forwards were a strength this season.

A big part of that was the fourth line.

If you slot the aforementioned players on the third line, that essentially left some combination of Beau Bennett, Craig Adams, Maxim Lapierre, Daniel Winnik, Blake Comeau or Scott Wilson.

Management grew frustrated with the first two on that list, to the point of saying they’d explore options from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the playoffs – eventually Wilson.

Expect for this area to be addressed further this summer.

Daniel Winnik

The regular season was fine. In 21 games, Winnik was 2-7—9 and a plus-8. But his performance in the playoffs was not great. Winnik was 0-0—0 and a minus-6 against the Rangers.

Winnik seemed to struggle playing with more skilled players. He’s a solid PK guy, but he’s also 30 years old.

Management wants to get younger and faster, which would squeeze Winnik out of a job. Winnik is an RFA whose cap hit this past season was $1.3 million.

Really doubt the Penguins are going to want to pay that for the possible return on investment.

Nick Spaling

Spaling scored nine goals, but that number is skewed slightly because of the amount of top-six time he was given. He finished with one goal over his final 31 games, when he was consistent case in a bottom-six role.

On the positive side, he’s an above-average penalty killer – statistically speaking, anyway, their best forward – capable of playing all three forward positions, consistent, durable and a solid locker-room guy.

The downside is that, through arbitration, Spaling wound up making $2.2 million this season.

He’s signed through 2016, and my guess is he’s back; it’s not exactly a transportable contract for the production another team would theoretically get.

Steve Downie

Take penalties out of the equation, and Downie is an incredibly skilled hockey player. Great hands. Can score. An asset to any team’s third or fourth line, for sure.

But you can’t take penalties out of the equation.

General manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday at his year-end news conference that discipline was a problem for the Penguins.

Nobody fell into this category more than Downie, who led the league in penalty minutes. Really wouldn’t expect Downie to be back for that reason alone.

Craig Adams

Adams’ career as a Penguin closed with one 35-second shift in a game, then dressing and sitting for the entire game. Strange, to say the least.

Adams won’t be resigned, and that’s hardly a surprise.

He was cited by many as the team’s top penalty killer, though coach Mike Johnston had no problem pulling him out of the lineup down the stretch.

A lack of scoring ability and speed were the two most frequently cited flaws on the Penguins’ fourth line by management, and I don’t think Adams did much to address either of those concerns.

It will be interesting to see whether another NHL team wants to bring in a two-time Stanley Cup winner. Or whether the 38-year-old Adams wants to hang ‘em up.

Scott Wilson

Wilson impressed management with how he played in the playoffs. It validated what they thought when they promoted Wilson in December, only to see him injured in the first period of his NHL debut.

Don’t want to say Wilson is a lock for NHL duty next season, but a bottom-six spot will be his to lose.

Wilson produced 19 goals and 41 points this season for the Baby Penguins, despite playing just 55 games because of his leg injury.

He doesn’t have a ton of size, but he can play a gritty game and is an underrated playmaker.

Pascal Dupuis

What to make of Dupuis? I’m not sure.

Best case, he returns and doesn’t belong in this discussion – he’s a top-six guy playing with Sidney Crosby.

He also hasn’t been cleared, so I’m trying to be realistic.

I could also see value in deploying Dupuis as a third-liner, if he’s healthy at the start of next season.

Chris Kunitz and Dupuis as third-line wingers around either Oskar Sundqvist, Sutter or a third-line center the Penguins acquire? It’s not terrible.

And having Dupuis in the lineup certainly upgrades the whole team speed thing.

Others

As I typed above, this area will be addressed through trades and free agency. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team make a run at resigning Comeau, for one.

The development of center Sundqvist and a potential trade of Sutter could also affect the makeup of the group.

And there’s the case of Bennett, too. Is he a third-liner? A top-six guy? I don’t think Bennett is suited to play on the fourth line.

If you’re going to do that, you might as well trade him; it’s a style that’s not even close to suited for his talents.

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April 28, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Year-end evaluation: top six

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Yesterday we examined the Penguins’ centers. Today, their top-six wingers. Tomorrow, their bottom-six.

Chris Kunitz

Everything looked fine early. Kunitz scored eight goals in the Penguins’ first 11 games, then 10 over his next 68.

There was a fractured foot and a nasty slump. Kunitz talked on locker-cleanout day about needing to get healthy in the offseason and work on his quickness, two things I can’t exactly argue with.

It’s likely the Penguins will explore moving Kunitz – I was told mid-season that the perceived value on Kunitz and Brandon Sutter would be higher in the summer than it would in-season – but I’m not sure on the return; I was also told there wasn’t much interest, if any at all, around the trade deadline.

If they could move Kunitz for a seventh-round pick in 2016, to me, it would seem like a victory. If not, a checking-line role in the future must be explored.

We can say this about Kunitz this season: He still played a physical game. An expensive physical game but a physical game.

David Perron

Remember the time Perron scored nine goals in his first 16 games as a Penguin? Few do.

That also happened to be the time when Perron was his most physical and assertive, when he averaged 3.875 shots on goal per game. In the final 27 games of the regular season, Perron scored three goals and averaged 2.222 shots on goal per game.

On getaway day, Perron talked about having a full offseason, something he didn’t have last year because of a hip injury. This summer, Perron needs to get his ribs healthy. He also needs to find a way to assert himself, whether it’s with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Patric Hornqvist

A case could be made that Hornqvist deserves to have an “A” on his sweater next season, and I wouldn’t argue with it. His energy was contagious. His play was effective. Fans complained about some of GM Jim Rutherford’s moves, but I never heard a peep about this one.

For good reason.

With a broken rib, at times, no less.

Hornqvist’s goals per game mark of .39 ranked second on the Penguins behind Malkin (.41). Hornqvist (11.1) averaged the third-most scoring chances per game, according to war-on-ice.com, behind Crosby (12.5) and Malkin (12.3), in all situations.

Beau Bennett

I don’t know if Bennett is a top-six winger, and I really don’t think he’s a left wing. Yet Bennett-as-top-six is a pressing issue with the Penguins, and he spent the majority of his games this season at left wing. So here we are.

Bennett has 10 goals in 96 professional hockey games, an average of .10 per contest. Looking at this season, Bennett’s closest comparable is Nick Spaling (.11).

Rutherford blamed himself for what he essentially called the flawed development of Bennett. Said, essentially, that the Penguins rushed him. Should have let him play more in Wilkes-Barre.

It also wouldn’t hurt to, once he’s developed, give him actual top-six opportunities.

Blake Comeau

I put Comeau on this list because he really did see a decent amount of top-six time this season.
Do I think the Penguins should resign Comeau? Yes. Do I think they should count on him in their top six? No, I don’t.

Comeau is a physical player, an honest player. Someone the Penguins need. But I have a tough time saying he’d be who he was – when healthy, mind you – early in the season for an entire year.
If he does, great. But I would look elsewhere first.

Others

Oskar Sundqvist is a solid prospect, but he projects more as a bottom-six center. The name to watch here is really Kasperi Kapanen. There are holes in his game, sure. But he’s 18 years old. There are holds in a lot of 18-year-old’s games.

As Rutherford said today, “Kapanen had a really good first game and then he dropped off a bit for a couple of games. … Now, he’s back on track and playing really well.”

The best thing that could happen for the Penguins is for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to make a long run in the Calder Cup playoffs, giving Kapanen more time in the minor.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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