As we continue to digest this distasteful end to a season of high expectations, we keep thinking of things we want to say. We have no idea how many thoughts will trickle out over the next few days, but here's the first batch. For full emotion and analysis, be sure to listen to our podcast recapping Pens-Flyers.
- Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each had 8 points in 6 games (110 point pace over 82 games). That's far from being "shut down", but unfortunately when you are so bad defensively that you require at least 5 goals to win every game, it looks like you're being "shut down" if you don't have 2 points per game. This is not an excuse for those guys not producing yesterday -- it's the Pens fault that they became a team that not only couldn't win a low scoring game, but couldn't even play one. But it does illustrate how rightfully high our expectations became for these guys...and how they didn't live up to them.
Why we shouldn't crown Claude Giroux, and much more, after the jump...
- Claude Giroux was easily the best player in this series and may prove to be the best player in the league by the end of the playoffs. But let's slow down on the coronation for just a moment. He just took advantage of a team with a porous defense and a goaltender -- much credit to him for doing it, but it's not like he was torching the '95 Devils out there. If we were masochists and wanted to go back and watch the highlights, there's a decent chance we'd find that several of Giroux's points were the direct result of the Wilting Flower. And while we're being bitter nitpickers, let's also not make his first shift yesterday out to be heroic. He made a great hit on Crosby and a perfect shot past Fleury, but the shift is barely noteworthy without an all-time terrible unforced turnover by Steve Sullivan.
- After sleeping on it, we still believe what we told you on the post-game Raw Emotion Podcast: Martin, Michalek, Kunitz, and Sullivan are the most likely candidates to be out the door by August. Let's take a quick look at how and why it makes sense to clear some $14 million in salary.
Martin and Michalek
There seems to be a total consensus on Martin, and probably the majority of observers agree on Michalek. There is just no way Simon Despres and $3-$4 million veteran replacement don't represent an upgrade over what those two gave the Penguins this year. If you can clear them out, you need to do it. The only question becomes what you can get in return, but based on the potential cap savings (probably more than $5 million over the next three years), we're not particular. Draft picks, prospects, and/or a big young defensive forward with an angry disposition would be delightful. The Penguins don't have anything resembling a Sean Couturier or even 2010 model Matt Cooke - someone who makes life miserable for the opposition's top forwards. That needs to be a priority.
|Far from alone in sucking.|
From being a key component of hockey's "untouchable" trio to representing maybe the Penguins' best off-season trade chip? Yep. He's 32-years-old and under contract through 2013-14 at $3.725 million per. That's plenty manageable for any team looking for grit, leadership, experience, and 25 goals a year. If that sounds like something the Penguins shouldn't give up, take a closer look. He's right at the tail end of his prime, his offensive zone penalties have become his trademark, and he's one expendable piece that other teams will genuinely prize. Combine his salary with that of Michalek, Martin, and the next guy on this list, and the team has some serious room to balance out a what is still hockey's best core of young veterans with some youthful energy and speed. Hands is like the mascot of this site, so don't think for a minute this is easy for us. We're just telling it like it is.
|Not Handsy anymore?|
We appreciate what the impending UFA brought to the power play, but at even strength, particularly in the playoffs, Sullivan was too often a liability. We still don't understand why Dan Bylsma couldn't see what we thought was obvious: the Flyers were happy to match up their top line against Crosby-Dupuis-Sullivan. That line's quickness was too often overshadowed by an inability to defend against rangier lines like Giroux-Hartnell-Jagr. We're pretty sure the last time Steve Sullivan put a body on somebody it didn't happen during a hockey game. Find another point guy. Or groom Despres or Niskanen for the role. Clear Sully's $1.5 million from the books, and add someone who will get in Giroux's face next season.