The Penguins Are In a Holding Pattern

Bruce Bennett

The Penguins are at a point and time that is quite uneasy for many fans. That point and time is "unsure." Unsure of who the new GM will be. Unsure of what happens this offseason. Unsure of who is safe and who isn't. Questions will be answered soon enough.

Asking hockey fans to express patience can be quite the daunting task, but if there ever is a time to ask it of Penguins fans, it seems like the time is right now. Coming off of the series loss to the Rangers and the subsequent firing of Ray Shero, people want answers, and they want them now. Whoever the new GM is will be the 3rd in the last 25 years for the Penguins (Craig Patrick and Ray Shero). We want the Penguins to go through their due diligence in finding the right GM to lead this team and direct it's future, and get this one right.

Looking at how many questions are left to be answered and potential changes that are going to take place in both the near and distant future with the organization, things are very much in a holding pattern right now.

All these questions are things that people want answers to now, not later. But until a permanent GM is in place, everything is up in the air. With Jason Botteril at the helm at the moment, he may have the ideology of re-signing certain players or making deals, but ownership cannot allow an Interim GM to make those kind of deals if he is not going to be the permanent replacement.

The brilliance and pedigree of Maatta stepping in and playing almost 80 games at 19 years old perhaps warped the general consensus of the level of readiness that defensemen should have at a young age.

One example of how many different ways this organization could go: many people seem to feel that with the shoulder surgeries to Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, the Penguins are at a position where they need to sign Matt Niskanen.  A wrench that could be thrown into that argument can happen quickly if the new GM wants to trade Kris Letang. If that happens, retaining Niskanen is a no-brainer (I think that would be remarkably stupid, but it's just an example).

I do not feel that the Penguins should be forced into giving Matt Niskanen a "bad" contract because of the injuries to Pouliot and Maatta. They drafted defensive depth for a reason. Now is a time to use it. If it means using a platoon 3rd pairing or 6th and 7th defenseman of Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin, and Philip Samuelsson (all who have shown the ability to play at the NHL level), then that's what you do. If you were signed off on giving Niskanen the extension before the surgeries, then that's fine. But I can't see letting a panic-type moment of injuries to two young prospects forcing your hand into taking on that kind of extension.

Another example of how quickly a situation can change under a new management regime is Simon Despres. His times he was called up to play in the NHL reeked of inconsistency. He would have flashes of brilliance, quickly followed by shadows of terrible play and bad penalties. I for one, seem to think that new management and a new coach could inspire Despres to play with a fire lit under him and have a tremendous bounce back season, should he be given a long term chance to play through a couple rough patches. He is still a young player, and as we know, defensemen take a long time to fully develop. The brilliance and pedigree of Maatta stepping in and playing almost 80 games at 19 years old perhaps warped the general consensus of the level of readiness that defensemen should have at a young age.

There are so many other different positions you can take when looking at the Penguins roster, cap space, and future. Cap Geek has a tremendous Armchair GM feature if you are into that sort of thing.

While there are tons and tons of questions to be answered, the one that we should get soon will shortly help sort out the rest of them. The draft and free agency will be here before we know it, and by that point, you have to imagine that most of the Penguins questions will be somewhat sorted out and we'll have a good idea of the direction this team is headed in.

For now, buckle up (baby?) into that holding pattern and enjoy the ride.

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