Thursday, February 6, 2014

Podcast: Adam Gretz of SB Nation joins us to take stock of the Penguins at the Olympic break

Adam Gretz from SB Nation (@AGretz) joins us to talk Pens. We discuss the bottom 6 vs. top 6, how the Pens can upgrade at the deadline, what's going on with Orpik and Scuderi, and whether the Pens are the favorites in the East. And we even save time at the end to talk about the Capitals.  It's the GTOG Podcast.

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  1. Wow - y'all are kinda depressing. I agree this team is flawed (not the least because Pouliot and Morrow should have been forward picks. Imagine.), and I don't think it's a cup-winner, particularly when Sid, Geno, and Kunie come back exhausted from Sochi.

    That said, it isn't as bad as you make it out - nor as unresolvable. My thoughts:
    1) The Pens have two contracts that I think are actually problematic because of age: Duper's and Scuderi's. The defense is going to get younger quickly, because Orpik and Nisky (and Engelland) will almost certainly be gone after this year and Martin the year after. And under $4 million for a 3rd liner and a 3rd pairing guy won't be that outrageous when the cap goes and stays over $70 million. Not good - but hardly crippling. It's nothing compared to the bad Toronto, NYR, Philly-type contracts that are setting the FA bar.

    2) What's more - I don't know that the young guys are question marks anymore. Despres, Dumoulin, Maatta, and even Samuelsson have proven they can play at this level, at least as 5-7 guys. Harrington is developing in WBS - 16 pts. and +5. The only question mark is Pouliot. They are on track to take over the defense at the right time - over the next two years. They are either trade bait - or free up money with entry contracts to pay FA forwards.

    3) It's excessive to say we need 3 forwards at the deadline. The bottom lines, eye-test-wise, have been better lately, now that there has been more consistency - at least in my opinion. I agree the depth is problematic - but I think it's more about adding the right guy. I have no problem with Vitale, Glass, and Harry Z as a bottom line. They're what you want out of a fourth line - some speed in Vitale, size and physicality in Glass, and some hands and puck-hounding skills in Harry Z. They just need to have the balls to scratch Craig Adams.

    That leaves the 3rd line - which isn't acceptable. Sutter will center - right or wrong. And I'd be fine with Gibbons or Megna (or Beau) at wing, given how they've played. But in order for the line to work, you absolutely need some size and a puck hound that can keep the puck in the zone. That's the deadline target. Right now, that line doesn't have enough size or forechecking ability. If you get some, then those other two guys become a genuine threat to score with more regularity.

    I doubt they can get a right wing for Sid (losing Duper was huge). If a James Neal-type deal arises that takes a top defensive prospect - by all means. I doubt he'll ever play beside Sid again after tearing his knee to shreds at 34. But I think you have to hope Beau can do it. A rental just isn't going to be worth it long-term.

    Do I think that's a Cup team? Probably not - the Pens weren't build for our current clutch-and-grab era like some of the West teams (though neither was Chicago). Do I think that gets us past Boston? Possibly - and certainly no one else in the East is at all frightening. The Pens will play first line against first, fourth against fourth, etc. And those lines would match up fine. Beyond that - it's chemistry, momentum, and composure, not a slight upgrade in skill, that will make the difference.

    1. Thanks as always for listening, and thanks for the comment.

      I don't think we were that depressing ... we all agreed the Pens as constituted, probably don't beat Boston, but are the leader of the next group. I think even the most bullish Pens fan would have a hard time saying that the Pens are anything better than a toss-up, at best, against Boston.

      You're exactly right about the type of player we need on the 3rd line, but I think we need at least two of them. Only 6 of the 12 forwards spots are set in stone: Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, Jokinen, and Sutter (and obviously I don't love Sutter). That leaves 6 spots, and I can't say I'm confident that any single one of those other 6 is better than his counterpart on any other playoff team in the East.

      Gibbons -- playing well, but can he do it in the playoffs? Will he slow down 87 and 14?
      Megna -- Decent enough, but totally unproven
      Vitale -- Was actually encouraged by him earlier this year, but he contributes no offense at all. He's Craig Adams-in waiting, but you just know HCDB will play both him and Adams
      Adams -- good on PK, but regressing otherwise. Basically an older and even more-unscratchable Joe Vitale
      Bennett -- wrists of glass
      Glass -- if he is anything other than your 12th forward, that's bad
      Kobasew -- gag me
      Pyatt -- gag me harder
      Harry Z -- tolerable in very small doses

      For me, it all comes back to this point -- can the bottom 6 take any of the burden off the top 6? In my opinion, there is no combination of 6 from that group (7 if you include Sutter) that can reliably relieve any pressure from 87 and 71. At best, they play the other team's 3rd and 4th lines to a draw, but can you really even count on that? We saw it last year against Boston (and in the 2 Detroit series) -- if a good team wants to frustrate our top 2 lines, they probably can. And what we're left with if/when that happens is a mess. Throw in an occasionally soft defense and a question mark in goal, and you're left with Crosby and Malkin both having to be completely healthy and playing at the absolute top of their game against the absolute toughest possible matchups. Possible, yes. Desirable, no.

      And if Neal, or Jokinen, or Kunitz get banged up in the playoffs? All of a sudden we're trotting out Crosby-Kobasew-Gibbons against Bergeron-Marchand-Ericksson? Yikes.

      It may seem greedy, but teams that win the Cup are stacked. Look at Chicago's roster from last year. That's a ridiculous team.

      My ideal scenario (based on what's semi-realistic)

      Top 6: Some combination of Malkin, Neal, Crosby, Kunitz, Bennett, and a new acquisition. The new guy doesn't have to be an expensive UFA like Vanek. Just a capable body who is capable of playing up and down the lineup (like Dupuis or Jokinen).

      Bottom 6: Sutter, Jokinen, Megna, Vitale, new guy, Adams/Gibbons/Glass

      Rationale is this: Jokinen on the 2nd line is fine; Jokinen on the 3rd line is a real asset. Maybe you keep Jokinen on the top 6 and move the new guy down. Doesn't really matter. Crosby's line doesn't need an expensive RW because it would do nothing to fix the weakness in the bottom 6. As long as Bennett doesn't slow them down, he should get a shot there.

      The risk is that scratching Adams and/or Glass would hurt the PK, and that's a real concern. But they are liabilities at 5-on-5.

    2. For whatever reason, Sutter has been excellent the last 2 games. If he could play that way most of the time, then I think we got a legit 3rd line center on our hands.

      I would be against dropping JJ down to the third line. I think you are underestimating the chemistry that is developing between 18-71-36. I think the new acquisition should be a 3rd line winger that adds grit and can actually score (Steve Ott type).

      Due to the ridiculous asking prices, I don't think the Pens make a blockbuster move like they have done in the past. Consequently, I think the Pens' success hinges on whether BoBo can come back healthy and contribute on the 1st line (highly unlikely).

      On another note, how bad have Martin, Scuderi, and Orpik been? Those guys look slower than michel ouellet. I wish they would give Depres a shot ahead of Orps or Scuds. He has played well in almost all of his NHL stints. For some reason, Bylsma hates him (maybe he Delonte West'ed Byslma's mother). Far be it from me to challenge a guy that has been an absolute coaching wizard in the playoffs...

      By the way, I enjoyed your comments about Tinder. It kind of reminded me of my friend that used to get Playboy "for the articles."