First of all, let's just start off by acknowledging what shouldn't even have to be said: it's one game in an 82 game season. There's no need to hit the panic button. It would be premature to even think of reaching for it.
However, we're just fans and this is just a fun place to bounce ideas around.
So here's one on my head - how much patience will the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jim Rutherford have in their defense as it is presently built?
Again, this isn't just based in the season opening 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars. It's a culmination of the direction this is pointing, and the fact that it's not likely to change on its own.
It started with Derrick Pouliot - the organization's prized prospect - playing himself out of an NHL job in training camp. Many had counted on the 21-year old former #8 overall pick to be a big part of the Penguins defense. Instead, Pouliot had lackluster preseason games (culminating in being a league worst +/- of -8) and was left with a quote of: " I didn’t have a very good camp up there. I thought maybe I squandered a little bit of an opportunity."
The troubles continued with the team's flirtation with 41-year old defenseman Sergei Gonchar on a tryout contract. Gonchar had been a very poor defenseman in recent years, but Pittsburgh still brought him in and devoted time and resources to seeing if he could help the team. He couldn't and was released from his tryout at the end of training camp. It was ultimately a low-risk move for the team but still one that, unsurprisingly, didn't pay dividends.
Brian Dumoulin, now in his 4th professional season, finally broke training camp with the NHL team. This was mainly as a result of his waiver status. He weakly played Ales Hemsky last night and the puck ended up in the net, and Dumoulin got his ice-time cut from 6 minutes in the 1st period down to 3 minutes in the 3rd. Minor bump in the road or a sign that Dumoulin (who didn't have an inspiring preseason himself) isn't NHL material?
Then add in "steady veteran presence" Rob Scuderi on the ice for all three goals against last night - two directly his responsibility on the PK - and there's one more shaky piece of the puzzle. Scuderi's worst play wasn't even one that ended up in his net, his night was summed up by pathetically in the last minute of the 1st period, falling in his own zone and handing the puck right over to Jamie Benn (you know, last year's leading point scorer). Benn was in free and pushed his shot just wide.
All of this is troubling. Between Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Ian Cole the Penguins have three very good defenseman. Even Ben Lovejoy can be serviceable in his own right, so it's really just finding those 2 more guys to round the unit out. As of now, it doesn't look like the answers are on the horizon.
It also brings up a quote Pens general manager Jim Rutherford had in early August:
"I’m comfortable with (our defense) going into the season, but it is certainly the area we will watch the closest. Hopefully the younger guys can fall into place and do a consistent job. If not, part of having more depth up front, is that it can help us in the long run because if we have to go get a defenseman we have those extra pieces. I’m fully aware that at some point in time we may have to address that position."
It's not like us knee-jerk fans know something that management doesn't. They knew they were going to have to watch the defense closely.
So far, I can't imagine they are liking what they are seeing from the beginning of training camp.
Now the only question becomes - how much more patience will they have, and what can they even do to address the problem? Good defensemen don't grow on trees and teams don't often give them away on a trade during the season.