So thus far the Penguins look pretty decent, going 3-1 in their first four games, seemingly picking up where they left off last year. The defense hasn't shown any huge breakdowns yet, and the penalty killing simply needs to mesh better. Crosby and Malkin's relatively slow starts surely are aberrations and it won't be long until they start challenging Ovechkin for league lead in points again. Yet there is something wrong, something obvious, something that everybody knows but nobody wants to address. The answer after the jump.
After it became clear that the Penguins were not going to resign Petr Sykora (likely a mistake, given that his decreased performance at the end of last season was due to an admitted shoulder injury rather than a perceived inability to fit into Bylsma's system), management was forced to determine how it would go about finding a scoring winger for Geno's line, especially once Talbot went down for the first few months of the season. The initial word was that perhaps this would give the club's prospects a chance to establish themselves and get some experience in the NHL, à la Letang, Kennedy, and Goligoski. Then, the more sober projections emerged, in which Pascal Dupuis would be the candidate to plug the line in Talbot's absence. Then, at the beginning of training camp, we began to hear how wonderfully Kennedy fit with Geno and Feds, but it soon became apparent that Bylsma was unwilling to break up a good thing with the extremely reliable third line. So we've been forced to make excuses for Dupuis looking bewildered on the second line, while Bylsma attempts to throw other wingers on the line whenever he can, even adapting Jordan Staal for the line and sacrificing one of the major elements which has made the Penguins one of the best teams in the league over the past couple years: their strength down the middle.
At every turn, everyone has made excuses and tried to fit a square peg into a round hole by breaking up one of the league's best third lines and trying to force offense by shuffling around the team's resources. This leaves us with Adams centering the third line, and Godard getting ice time. Not to mention, even when Talbot comes back, is he likely to score at the same pace he did in the playoffs?
What nobody seems prepared to acknowledge is that something must be done for Malkin's right wing. When the Penguins failed to resign Sykora (and the Wild picked him up for an extremely affordable price which the Pens could have managed if they had wanted to do so) I figured they had a backup plan. But after no free agents were signed, after it was decided that Kennedy would not stick on that wing, after all the prospects were sent to the minors, and now after Dupuis has proven to be overextending himself in the role he was given, it is becoming increasingly obvious that one cannot simply lose a 25+ goal scorer on Geno's wing and replace him with someone who has never broken 20 goals or who is inexperienced. Fedotenko is a good player but he won't be potting 25 anytime soon, so who does Geno have to work with? What of the days of Malone and Sykora? Does Shero have a plan? Because the roster right now is quite clearly missing a component. The forwards are spread too thin and the line combos keep having to be tweaked.
What do you think Shero should do?