[UPDATE: Check out our January 2011 "reassessment" here]
For a time, it seemed he was ready to take his place among the finest young nucleus in the league, joining Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins' "core" players. In those early weeks of the 2009-2010 season, Alex Goligoski appeared to be a bona fide emerging star. The surge in his play culminated with a performance in Columbus where he scored a late, game-tying goal and looked like our best all-around defenseman. He also looked like Abe Vigoda.
Also troubling is that Goligoski has been having a hard time gaining the zone on the power play. He doesn't have the patience of Sergei Gonchar or Paul Martin, who Finesse rightly suggests should take over on the point. Time after time against New Jersey, Goligoski was hurried into making a bad pass. He's effective once the power play sets up shop, but he needs to be the guy that gets us to that point, and he's not showing he can do it.
What happened to the kid who showed so much promise and poise last fall? I'm hoping he's available, because when we receive news about the injuries to Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek, I don't expect it to be good. That means an even higher profile for Goligoski, and he simply can't be such a defensive liability in a top 4 role if the Penguins expect to stay afloat for the next few months. I'll take it a step further: Goligoski's ability to elevate his level of play may be the key to the first half of this Penguins' season.