Why is Rob Rossi still writing about Ryan Kesler? He can’t help the Penguins this season, probably ever. Maybe it’s because all this talk about Ryan Kesler and bringing back the "Three Center Model" makes Penguins fans think of Jordan Staal.
Penguins fans, and presumably the Penguins, want Ryan Kesler because he’s the next Jordan Staal. There’s only one problem: he’s not as good.
Sure, Kesler has won a Selke. But Staal has a Cup. Kesler has scored 40 goals, but over his career he and Staal have near-identical 0.6 ppg averages. Staal is bigger and more durable. His Corsi numbers are better.
Most importantly, Kesler is five years older and has a history of worrisome injuries. The only clear-cut advantage Kesler has over Staal is contract amount and term. But I don’t think that’s what makes him attractive to the Penguins.
Kesler is not a Penguin, and probably never will be. But Jordan Staal used to be a Penguin. Remember?
This is a make or break year for the Penguins. The bloom is off Dan Bylsma’s coaching rose, thanks to the U.S. Olympic Team’s Pens-esque meltdown. Geno Malkin and James Neal’s maturity levels are coming under closer scrutiny; Brooks Orpik is playing like he is tired of hockey. Kris Letang is already broken.
But above it all is Ray Shero. He sure did fleece Dallas, right? But what has he done since then?
- Murray / Morrow / Iginla / two second rounders, three prospects, and a 1st rounder with nothing to show for it
- Rob Scuderi is a $13.5 million nostalgia signing. Does Shero realize that the whole "The Piece" thing was a joke?
- There’s $11.25 million riding on a 34 year old Pascal Dupuis fully recovering from an ACL tear and rediscovering a scoring touch that he only discovered two years ago.
- Kris Letang is signed for another 8 years and $58 million, and no one is happy about that.
- Over the past seven years, only one Dman drafted by Shero has become a regular in the Penguins lineup. He jumped straight from Juniors to the NHL, thankfully avoiding that Dman development black hole that is Wilkes Barre.
- Whatever his share of the blame for the US Olympic Hockey fiasco should be.
But since we are talking about Kesler and Three Centers, we have to talk about Staal. Which means we have to talk about Ray Shero. Which means that we have to wonder if it’s not just Dan Bylsma that is stubborn and set in his ways. Shero's patented "Extension or Out Before Contract Year Negotiation Method" works with superstars, but with mid-tier stars, it's not so easy.In fact, with Staal and Letang it's produced disasters.
Maybe Staal had to go, eventually, but he had another year on his contract. That’s one more year of the "Three Center Model" during a lockout shortened season with a lax salary cap. Maybe Staal wanted out, but he had another year on his contract. Staal isn't the kind of player who sulks. He would have brought it last season, and "it" could have proved decisive, against both the Bruins and the Blackhawks.
Sure, hindsight is 20/20. But letting a major contributor go, then two seasons later scrambling to offer a bunch of valuable assets (including the same assets acquired for Staal) to bring in a lesser player does not sound like good management. It sounds like desperation, as if the Scuderi signing wasn’t evidence enough.
Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma inherited an embarrassment of riches. They added to it, and achieved the ultimate. But right now it seems like they are messing it up. If the Penguins, with all their stars, don’t win another Cup, it will be just that: an embarrassment. You can bet Rob Rossi will have a lot to say about that.