Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Confounding Case of Alex Goligoski

By Artistry

[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.


Then he was injured (Goligoski, not Vigoda, who still appears to be in remarkably good health despite reports to the contrary).  Knocked out for about a month with "a lower body," as the Penguins' have come to describe these things.  Since then, we've seen the tantalizing flashes of talent, like the one on Monday in New Jersey, when Gogo swooped through the neutral zone to collect a loose puck jarred loose by Eric Tangradi's check on Ilya Kovalchuk, and in the next instant blasted the puck past Marty's Brodeur's outstretched glove.  But more frequently, it looks like Goligoski is swimming out there, sometimes quite literally.  The defenseman who ended up flat on his stomach in some sort of a bizarre attempt to thwart Travis Zajac's late-third period rush toward the Penguins' net?  That was Goligoski, doing the breast stroke.  He basically just threw his body on the ice and hoped Zajac stumbled into him.  Actually, it was probably a better showing than this one:

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.


  1. These are great points. He makes 3-4 great plays every game, but he also makes a similar number of frustrating/bad plays. He's still developing, but lack of experience is no longer an excuse given that he has 120 career games under his belt (excluding playoffs).

    I think he's a valuable guy to have on our team, but if he is slotted as anything higher than our 5th best defenceman, that's an issue.

  2. His trade value may never be higher. Get rid of him, Shero.