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June 24, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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What 3-on-3 overtime looks like

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With the news that the NHL is moving toward 3-on-3 overtime next season, pending Board of Governors approval, it’s a good time to see what 3-on-3 overtime actually looks like. Take a peek at this clip from a game between the Syracuse Crunch and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from last March.

First thing you’ll notice is that Derrick Pouliot goes end to end, more or less, to get a scoring chance that Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis makes a great save on.

As you can see, it’s a format that favors offensive defensemen who can skate and create. Kris Letang, for instance, should really thrive. Give a guy like Letang (or Pouliot in this clip) lots of open ice while being defended one-on-one by a forward, and scoring chances will almost always develop.

Later in the clip, Syracuse scores the game-winning goal. The play begins when Jayson Megna falls down briefly behind the net. Conor Sheary goes for a poke-check that doesn’t work. One mistake will usually lead to an odd-man rush in a 3-on-3 situation. Two mistakes and you can guarantee someone is going to have a great opportunity to score.

So is 3-on-3 overtime a good idea? Is it less gimmicky than a shootout? That’s a matter of personal preference. But one thing is for sure. Adopting 3-on-3 overtime will greatly diminish the number of games that go to the shootout.

AHL VP of communications Jason Chaimovitch tweeted the following stat about last season in the league: “One goal was scored for every 8:33 of play at 4-on-4. One goal was scored for every 3:41 of play at 3-on-3.”

Do the math. When teams go 3-on-3 for five minutes, someone is going to score.

Bye for now,

jb

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June 24, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Letang expects to be ready for camp

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Penguins defenseman Kris Letang hasn’t skated since suffering a season-ending concussion March 28, but he doesn’t foresee that being a problem. In fact, Letang, in speaking to reporters in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, said there’s “no doubt” he’ll be ready for the 2015-16 season.

“Without a doubt,” Letang said. “I think I’m going to be ready for training camp.”

After the hit from Arizona’s Shane Doan, Letang missed the final seven games of the regular season and the Penguins’ first-round postseason series against the Rangers.

The Penguins announced that Letang had been cleared on June 1, although photos on Instagram showed him working out several days prior to that.

Letang said there have been no restrictions in what he’s been able to do in the gym.

“Since I’ve been fully cleared, I’ve done everything I wanted,” Letang said. “I’m at the same level in training that I was a year ago.”

Letang is in Las Vegas because he’s a finalist for the Masterton Trophy. The award is given to NHL the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

Goaltenders Devan Dubnyk of the Wild and Andrew Hammond of the Senators are the other two finalists for the Masterton, which will be presented on Wednesday evening.

“It means a lot,” Letang said of the nomination, which came after suffering a stroke and contending for the Norris Trophy (best defensemen) before the concussion ended his season. “It’s not really a personal award on the ice. It’s more something you go through, but I’m really proud to be nominated.”

Letang, of course, was one of three Penguins defensemen to miss significant time. Olli Maatta (shoulder) and Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) were the others.

Brian Dumoulin and Taylor Chorney seized the opportunity, but there’s little doubt the Penguins missed Letang’s playmaking abilities. Ditto for Maatta and Ehrhoff.

“It would be fun to have a healthy lineup throughout, especially the playoffs,” Letang said. “Regular season doesn’t really matter, but in the playoffs it would have been fun to have all of our defensemen ready.”

Letang said he usually targets the end of July or beginning of August to skate again, and that remains 100 possible. He added that he has “no fear” of returning given a history of head injuries.

“Sure, it’s in the back of my head, whether I want to keep going,” Letang said, “but to be a part of the Penguins and play at the level I can play at, it’s because I don’t have any fear.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 23, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Who could the Penguins take?

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Making predictions for the 46th pick is a fool’s game, but that seems like a stupid reason not to try anyway.

I talked to a few draft analysts about what direction they see the Penguins going and compiled a list of names, which you can see below.

I would place a particular emphasis on Jimmy Bracco and Zach Senyshyn, for what it’s worth. We’ll take a look at some possible defensemen tomorrow:

Player: Jeremy Bracco
Position: RW
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 60
International Scouting Services ranking: 28
Shot: Right
Height/weight: 5.09.25, 173
Team/league: USA U-18/USHL
What they’re saying: From Dennis MacInnis, Director of Scouting for ISS:

“This kid is all about offense,” MacInnis said. “I’m sure the Penguins scouts have seen this guy for the last couple of years. He’s done nothing but lead every team’s he’s ever played on. He’s undersized, but he’s super-skilled. I guess the size-factor is one reason our friends at Central might have him so low. But this kid is first-round pick. If he was 5-11, you’re looking at a top 10 pick.”

Player: Jack Roslovic
Position: C
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 39
ISS ranking: 36
Shot: R
Height/weight: 6.02.5, 182
Team/league: USA U-18/USHL
What they’re saying: From Kyle Woodlief, Chief Scout & Owner of Red Line Report:

“He has really good offensive instincts. A nice scorer around the net from the circles in. I think Roslovic might be on the board at (No. 46). It would be a good opportunity to grab a good scorer.”

Player: Zach Senyshyn
Position: RW
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 38
ISS ranking: 39
Shot: R
Height/weight: 6.01, 192
Team/league: Sault St. Marie, OHL
What they’re saying: From Woodlief:

“You might get lucky with a guy like Senyshyn, who might still be there. But I think there are teams in the low first, early second that are kind of targeting him. He’s a kid who was under the radar for a lot of the season, then came on really strong in the last 20-25 games or so. If they see Senyshyn on the board, I think they’ll snap him up pretty quickly.”

From MacInnis:

“He’s one of the top five skaters in this draft. He’s got some real good upside to his game. He’s going to need some seasoning obviously, but at that late of a pick, you have to be thinking these guys are going to need some development time.”

Player: Austin Wagner
Position: LW
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 35
ISS ranking: 43
Shot: L
Height/weight: 6.01, 178
Team/league: Regina, WHL
What they’re saying: From MacInnis:

“He’s a sleeper. He wasn’t even on the radar at the beginning of the year for us, and now he’s at 43.”

Others: MacInnis likes Nicolas Roy a lot, a 6-4, 195-pound center who was with Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. Roy is ranked No. 47 by ISS and No. 45 by NHL Scouting Central, which would theoretically be prime position for the Penguins.

If the Penguins decide to go the power forward route, A.J. Greer from Boston University will almost assuredly be available. He’s a 6-3, 204 left wing that MacInnis said “already has pro size.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 23, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Men and their trends

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“I just saw pie charts,” was what new beat guy Jonathan Bombulie kept saying as we talked over Tuesday’s draft page, a special one put together by designer Matt Rosenberg.

So pie charts you got. Lots of them. Blame him.

Basically Bombulie and I did a boatload of research and math, and Rosenberg made this all readable. Somehow.

Hope you enjoy our look back at the Penguins’ past three GMs and some of their trends drafting players.

Tuesday page

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June 22, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Q&A Pens GM Jim Rutherford

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Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has been a busy man. After a week in Carolina, Rutherford is in Las Vegas for various meetings and the NHL Awards.

He’s also been fielding phone calls from local media. A lot of them, actually. I chatted with Rutherford about a few things, as you’ll see below.

Jonathan Bombulie and I teamed up on a researched-oriented story for tomorrow’s Trib. In the meantime, here’s Rutherford on a few current issues:

Q: Any UFA you can say you’ve crossed off?

A: Not right now. I really don’t get into talking about status of contracts. Probably better just to leave it at this.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve made any traction on getting a first-round pick?

A: No. This is more about, as the draft goes along, if players fall to a certain area, then possibly we’d make a move at that time. I don’t believe we’ll make one prior to that.

Q: What are you looking for style-wise of any forward you draft?

A: The draft isn’t going to fix it immediately. It depends on what players come available. It’s hard to tell. We have guys within the organization, on our team, that with some work in the offseason can change that a little bit, too. We just have to see where this all goes.

Q: Is trading the rights to a free agent something you would entertain?

A: It depends on who the player is and what the deal is. That doesn’t happen very often anymore. You have the right to talk to the players here within the next few days. Prior to the new rule, that happened a little bit more. But it doesn’t seem to happen much anymore.

Q: How has Olli Maatta been progressing?

A: All reports we’ve gotten have said that everything is really good. He’s tracking in the right direction. There has not been any issues.

Q: How have negotiations with RFAs Beau Bennett and Ian Cole gone?

A: There have been negotiations going on with lots of our players. It’s not just them. They’re RFAs, so it’s pretty standard.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 22, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Pre-Draft Penguins Prospect Rankings

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First of all, please scroll down a bit to Jason Mackey’s post right below this one. You don’t want to miss it. It has some excellent analysis on whether it makes sense for the Penguins to trade Brandon Sutter.

In the meantime, though, I had some prospect-related things I wanted to blog about, and draft week is probably a good time to do so.

I did an organizational depth chart over the last two Sunday papers — forwards here / defenseman and goalies here – and I wanted to post an abridged version on the blog and maybe invite some questions or comments if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you are, follow along after the jump.

Continue Reading →

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June 22, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Is Sutter too expensive of a luxury?

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Whatever the Penguins do to acquire a top-six winger, the move is likely to center around their third-line center, Brandon Sutter, who’s entering the final year of a two-year, $6.6 million extension he signed last summer.

Sutter is likely the Penguins’ best asset. He’s only 26 and coming off a 21-goal season that tied his career-high. But is he a luxury the Penguins can’t – or shouldn’t – afford? Very possibly.

I thought it would be interesting to see how the six Stanley Cup winners since 2008-09 spent their money on centers. Sutter carried the third-highest cap hit, and I think it’s interesting the company he keeps; not sure many are lauding the Kings for the two contracts highlighted here.

Sutter with past six Cup-winning third centers (as determined by points produced):

Player Team Year Cap Hit
Mike Richards Kings 2013-14 $5.75 million
Jarret Stoll Kings 2011-12 $3.6 million
Brandon Sutter Penguins 2014-15 $3.3 million
Marcus Kruger Blackhawks 2014-15 $1.325 million
Gregory Campbell Bruins 2010-11 $1.1 million
Marcus Kruger Blackhawks 2012-13 $900,000
Colin Fraser Blackhawks 2009-10 $700,000

There are definitely some questions here.

Who will be your third-line center, especially in what is perceived to be a weak free-agent class?

Is Oskar Sundqvist, who suffered an injury about five minutes after getting to North America, ready to assume Sutter’s spot on the third line? What if all goes wrong and your third line is atrocious?

You can go through enough advanced stats and find that Sutter stinks in some or a large portion of them. Ryan Wilson at HockeyBuzz.com did a fantastic piece on Sutter here, where you can see Sutter’s four-on-five Fenwick Against per 60 is … well, um, not good.

This argument would say Sutter is overvalued. There’s also the traditional view pointed out above, where the Penguins got 21 goals for $3.3 million – not a bad return on investment.

But they paid a premium for the 33 points they got from Sutter, at least compared to the third centers on the past six Stanley Cup winners. It should be noted, too, that his seven specialty goals ranked No. 1, his .41 points per game second behind Richards (.50).

Player Team Year $/Point
Jarret Stoll Kings 2011-12 $171,428
Mike Richards Kings 2013-14 $140,244
Brandon Sutter Penguins 2014-15 $100,000
Marcus Kruger Blackhawks 2014-15 $77,941
Marcus Kruger Blackhawks 2012-13 $69,230
Gregory Campbell Bruins 2010-11 $37,931
Colin Fraser Blackhawks 2009-10 $36,842

I do think a trade involving Sutter is imminent likely. Teams will pay for a young center, coming off a statistically strong season, with that last name.

But I don’t think the Penguins will be all that bent out of shape, especially not when you consider that they wouldn’t be paying even more of a premium to resign Sutter for 2016-17 and beyond.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 19, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Friday Fun and Games

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In recent years, the Penguins have really stepped up to the Mike. In Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre, both head coaches (Johnston and Sullivan), goalie coaches (Bales and Buckley) and radio play-by-play men (Lange and O’Brien) are named Mike.

With that in mind, there have been 23 players named Mike (or some variation thereof, i.e. Michel, Michal, etc.) in Penguins history. How many can you name in five minutes?

I’ve got to warn you. Some of these Mikes are not household names. If you get more than half of them, I’d consider that an impressive achievement.


Bye for now,

jb

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June 18, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Sully from Marshfield, Mass.

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Two days ago, the Penguins reassigned Jacques Martin to the position of special assistant to the head coach. Today, Mike Sullivan was named head coach of the WBS Penguins.

To my knowledge, the Penguins have never publicly expressed even a hint of dissatisfaction with the job Mike Johnston did in his first season behind the bench last year. Therefore, I don’t think the Martin and Sullivan moves were part of a grand plan to make sure the organization has mid-season options should something go awry.

But let’s face facts. After the last three days, the Penguins have a couple of viable mid-season options should something go awry.

After speaking to Sullivan this afternoon, I came away impressed.

He retired as a player in 2002 and within a year, he had won 40 games as a head coach in the AHL and been promoted to an NHL assistant coaching job with Boston when Robbie Ftorek was fired in March of 2003. The way Penguins assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald explained it, Bruins GM Mike O’Connell named himself interim coach at the time, but Sullivan was actually doing almost all of the head coaching duties. He wasn’t even 40 years old yet.

Since then, he’s coached internationally with USA Hockey, but primarily, he’s been John Tortorella’s right-hand man in Tampa, New York and Vancouver. This past season with Chicago, he worked with the team’s forward prospects, gave input to the pro scouting department and pre-scouted  in the playoffs.

It’s a pretty good resume. He also talks a good game. Here are some examples.

On working with Tortorella:

“I learned a ton from Torts as far as his preparation, his attention to detail, his organizational skills, how he goes about his business on a day to day basis. It’s been a great learning experience, but it’s amazing how one season rolls into the next. Here I am and it’s six or seven seasons later and I’m his assistant coach. I knew this was an important next step for me.”

On why he wanted the WBS job:

“Wilkes-Barre is one of the most sought-after American League locations, for a coach or a player or a manager. They have great fan support. It’s a great place to live. The most exciting thing for me is the importance Pittsburgh places on what goes on down there. They really value the importance of the development process and their team at the American League level. They put their resources behind it. They understand the importance of creating a winning environment. So they make sure their team there is competitive. They try to bring in the right combination of veteran players who provide good leadership and surround them with their young, bright prospects. That’s exciting for me. What takes place in Wilkes-Barre really matters to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. That’s a win-win for everyone associated with the organization.”

On his coaching philosophy:

“Not only do you have to have an understanding of how the game is played, how the game is being played and how the game is evolving, you also have to have the ability to teach. You have to have the ability to communicate so players have the ability to learn. … You haven’t taught until they’ve learned. The onus is always on the coach. I have gone to great lengths to try to study that process and try to learn about that process.”

Bye for now,

jb

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June 18, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Podcast: TribLive Radio appearance

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Earlier today I joined Ken Laird and Guy Junker to talk some Pens on TribLive Radio.

We wound up discussing exactly what general manager Jim Rutherford meant when he told Trib Total Media columnist Rob Rossi to “go sell ice cream.”

You’ll want to check this out. Listen here.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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