Where Have You Gone, Darius Kasparaitis?

Penguins missing a key component of an NHL roster.

Sorry, I just had to borrow that phrase from Pat Lackey at the excellent Pirates blog Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?

Darius Kasparaitis. Matthew Barnaby. Jarkko Ruutu. Matt Cooke. Hell, even throw Max Talbot in there for good measure.

Shit-Stirrer. Pain in the ass. Agitator. Pest. Call it what you want. Like it or not, but most teams employ at least one agitator on their roster with the sole purpose to antagonize and goad opponents into committing penalties.

Chris Neil for Ottawa, Shawn Thornton for Boston, Derek Dorsett and Daniel Carcillo for the Rangers. Scott Hartnell, Zsc Rinaldo and Steve Downie for Philly.

Um, what happened to that position for the Penguins?

And no, Tanner Glass is not that guy. Maybe he is by default, but his game is physical play along the boards, not as an agitator.

You know who would be the agitator on this team, if he were still with the main squad? Zach Sill. If you watched the video of him recently when he was mike'd up, he's the closest thing the Penguins have as resident shit-stirrer.

Is having an agitator essential? I guess not. But in the Penguins point of view, when you have a power play that dangerous (when healthy), getting as many power play opportunities as you can should be the goal, should it not?

Let's be clear: This isn't about hitting. Although the hits statistic is wildly inconsistent because its subjective nature with off-ice officials at NHL arenas, the Penguins are currently 8th in the league in hits. Do I think they're effective hits? No, I do not. Most of the time, I think they're "drive-by" hits. But I digress, 'cause that's not I'm talking about.

And I'm also not talking about fighting. The best agitators do their best shit-stirring without dropping the gloves, although they will if need be.

As Chuck Noll used to say about the Steelers, the Penguins "have problems and they are many", at least right now. Without Paul Martin and Kris Letang, they've regressed defensively. Without Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, and now James Neal and Chris Kunitz, shots on goal are at a premium. So is the fact that the Penguins are agitator-less the worst of their problems? Not by a long shot.

But it sure wouldn't hurt.

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