If Ray Shero and the Pittsburgh Penguins have learned anything, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed. Even when you have 2 MVP caliber centers, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be in the lineup every game or playoff run. Without your best players, you’re not going to go anywhere. When you think they might be around, you’d better try to surround them with enough to go deep in the playoffs.
And that’s exactly what Shero did in the past 48 hours, when he acquired Dallas captain Brenden Morrow and rough San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray. Both players have their flaws, and neither are at their peaks. But when a team has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang, you don’t need more all-stars, you need more fits. More toughness. More leaders.
Forget about what the Penguins gave up to secure these two veterans, both of whom can walk to free agency this summer, if they so choose. Joe Morrow, though just 20 years old and still very promising, also had a tough introduction to the professional game in the minors. And he was on the 2nd PP. This isn’t a guy who was going to help Pittsburgh try to win a Stanley Cup in 2013 or probably 2014.
The same with draft picks. Given the Penguins current overall drafting philosophy of trying to grab as many collegiate and usually unpolished players, anyone drafted in the second round 2013 or 2014 isn’t going to be NHL ready until 2018-19, probably if they ever make it. In 2018 Sidney Crosby is going to be 31 years old. That’s not to say the Penguins still can’t be a contender down the road, but down the road isn’t now.
There’s no better time than now. Pittsburgh is rolling on a 12 game winning streak, despite Malkin and Letang missing significant stretches with believed minor injuries. They’ll be back sooner than later, luckily. Crosby’s head issue appears to be fully in the past. No one can predict the future, but there’s no better time than right now to load up for a Cup run.
In the salary cup era, windows open and close quickly. No need to mention that to Ray Shero, who had to navigate the waters with Crosby and Jordan Staal for contract extensions last summer. This coming summer, he’ll have to try and fit Malkin and Letang into the mix, while dealing with what’s been core team players like Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke and Craig Adams, three players who’ve formed the back-bone of the team in recent years.
The only constant is change. Players come and go. Contracts end and tough decisions have to be made. Injuries put talent on the shelf. This happens to every team, it’s the nature of the beast in the NHL. But when you think you have a chance to win, at expense of the future, you’d better go for it. In acquiring Morrow and Murray, the Penguins are trying to do just that.