As Artistry pointed out in our Pens-Sens recap, we are 10.4% of the way through the shortened season, which is the equivalent of being in the second period of the 9th game of an 82 game season. In other words, Fleury is peaking. Given the accelerated season and the fact that everything else has pretty much gone according to script so far this year, there's no better time than now to make ABSOLUTELY DEFINITIVE CONCLUSIONS about the blockbuster trade sending Jordan Staal to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the pick that became Derrick Pouliot.
And that ABSOLUTELY DEFINITIVE CONCLUSION is this: When Ray Shero made the decision to trade Jordan Staal, he probably didn't expect Mike Zigomanis in return.
The real truth after the jump...
The truth is that Sutter (0 goals, 1 assist) has, to this point, been a little too Zigomanissy for our liking. We're certainly willing to give him more than five games to get comfortable with a new team, particularly when the failure to find a second winger for Malkin has led to Tyler Kennedy (a good 3rd liner, not a good top-6 forward) bouncing up and down the lineup and preventing development of chemistry on a Sutter-Cooke-Kennedy line. It's too early to worry, we know.
The risk when you deal away a thoroughbred like Jordan Staal is that even though you get nice pieces in return, the whole will be less than the sum of the parts. Sutter himself will almost certainly never be the player that Jordan Staal was (or will become), but he has to make himself a much more forceful presence not only on the PK and in a shutdown role, but also in exploiting the inevitable match-up he gets against 3rd pairing defensemen. So far, we haven't seen much.
But the immediate return from the Staal trade has to be more than Brandon Sutter, even in a scenario where Sutter plays up to his potential (which we've written is very high). This trade has to bring more to the current roster than a 3rd line presence and two young defensemen who may or may not ever be good. And that's why Ray Shero absolutely has to move some of the organization's much-hyped defensive prospects, and soon.
The Pens are reaping the same PR benefits as the Yankees do in baseball by being the highest profile team in the league -- namely, that every one of their prospects seems to get a slight uptick in their perception solely based on the fact that people know their names. (Every trade the Pirates have made in the past 15 years to the Yankees or Red Sox has brought back a prospect we think is better than he is merely because we heard Karl Ravech say his name on Baseball Tonight that one time we accidentally watched Baseball Tonight). As just one example, consider Simon Despres, who is often perceived as something resembling a "can't-miss prospect" because he got great press on draft day and he plays for the Penguins so people know his name. Maybe he will one day be as good as advertised, but he had only 15 points in 44 games with the Baby Pens last year (and was a -5) and his current coaches and GM don't think he's ready to consistently see ice time over Ben Lovejoy. We know it's early in his development, but as with almost all young players, he's far from a sure thing. A defenseman in the NHL is worth at least two in the AHL.
Right now, there are two windows that are only open for a limited time -- the window for the Pens to win the Cup, and the window where young prospects can return value in a trade. Shero moved Staal for a very solid NHL player and two defensive prospects (Brian Dumoulin and Derrick Pouliout) whose windows of marketability are currently open. If the immediate payoff from trading Staal isn't enhanced beyond Sutter by moving Dumoulin, Pouliot, or any of the other young defensemen that the Staal trade helped make expendable, then we just traded a 50-point guy with a track-record for a 30-point guy who has never played a playoff game.
|The ones that got away?|