We asked for some twitter questions (cheap plug, follow us at @Pensburgh) and you didn't let us down, so let's jump right into it.
The problem, to me, isn't so much the lack of scoring, but the lack of penalties being called that is bogging down the game. Which probably is a root of why the scoring is down.
Tomato, toe-mat-oh, the only thing that matters to the league is making money, which they continue to do. Hockey fans aren't chased away by lockouts and constantly rising prices, what's a worse product going to do to the bottom line?
@Pensburgh What would you do with Sundqvist and Kapanen next season?— Flurin Helmrich (@Shinysmogon) March 25, 2015
Depends on what they're ready for. If either are ready to make an NHL impact, then by all means let them. I find it far-fetched that some think Kapanen can help this season when he's very young and has really struggled the past few months (first at the WJC's and then this second half of his season in Finland), but I guess desperation of someone saving the Pens is worth holding out hope for.
Sundqvist could be interesting to watch. The Pens have a ton of UFA's to be in their bottom-6 forwards, and young players are cheap and Sundqvist could add some size and ability to the team. Which comes with the big caveat that he has to be ready and prove it. But, between Sundqvist, Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson the Pens should have real options to make the NHL team out of camp, for the first time in a long time for home-grown (and good) young forward talent.
Tyler Wright is a good random former Penguin, who is pretty well-liked in that regard, despite a Zach Sill-esque 61 game point-less streak back in 1998-99 for Pittsburgh. I guess I would choose the goal Wright scored in Game 5 vs Washington in the 2000 playoffs, the game the Pens clinched in, but I don't really have a huge moment that sticks out. Good energy and effort guy, but not a hugely memorable one.
Guess I was just more of a Rene Corbet guy.
@Pensburgh Torrid start, mediocre season from Dec. Has Johnston's "system" been found out? Or what else could account for lousy season?— G. (@TheGuimauve) March 25, 2015
Injuries, if you want to go that route. The Pens were looking pretty good up until December when the injuries/mumps struck, and they still haven't seemed to get on track since then. But, the injuries haven't let up with Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist out and Christian Ehrhoff looking like he's going to join them.
Which says nothing of Pascal Dupuis and Olli Maatta missing almost all of the season. Both of those guys were "Top 10 most important players on the team", losing them is significant.
But, all teams suffer injuries and Johnston's tactics and strategies aren't without their criticisms. I said I wouldn't judge Johnston until we saw what happens in the playoffs, so I'll stick to that.
If anything, the Pens this season are slightly better at Goals Allowed (2.40 compared to 2.49) and allowing almost 2 shots less per game (from 28.8 per game down to 27.1). And their 5v5 play has been improved (1.16 goal ratio, compared to 1.05 last year). Throw in impressive Corsi and Fenwick numbers and the underlying stats show a strong team. I don't believe that he has been "found out", so much as the team just isn't going to go 98-0-0. It's a long year with natural ups and downs. The Pens have had their share of each.
Hopefully they're able to get healthy enough to see how they will fare in the playoffs.
I would think the team would have interest in a veteran defenseman. Looking at only who is under contract for next season, the roster seems to look like:
? - Kris Letang
Derrick Pouliot - ?
Rob Scuderi - Ben Lovejoy
RFA: Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin
Coming off surgery: Olli Maatta
Cole and Dumoulin don't have a lot of leverage, both could and will be back for relatively cheap if the team wants. Hopefully the team can make Scuderi disappear since he carries a high salary and doesn't contribute a lot, but we'll see if that thought process enters into action. We won't give Maatta a spot yet, but if he's healthy he'll claim one of those top 4 spots.
Which means the team probably needs another Top 4 defenseman to join Letang, Maatta and Pouliot. Those guys are usually expensive and in short supply, it remains to be seen if they can get one, however given that the team will have a lot of younger defenseman, bringing in a veteran makes a lot of sense.
If the Pens can keep Paul Martin or Christian Ehrhoff on the right contract (ideally no more than 2-3 years), that would be a positive. But both of those players are approaching their mid 30's and have had less than ideal injury pasts. Both are also unrestricted and may seek employment in another city, if they so choose, which matters too.
Other UFA options, potentially available could be Francois Beauchemin or Johnny Oduya. If either of them are willing to take a shorter contract to come to Pittsburgh like Ehrhoff did, they would be nice fits on the Pens second pair. No one expected Ehrhoff to be a Penguin, perhaps another out-of-the-blue option will be where the Penguins go to round out their team, either by free agency or trade.
But, if they can keep Martin for a reasonable rate and term, that probably would be the best course of action. Whether or not the player is willing to make that happen remains to be seen.
@Pensburgh How many drinks am I going to need to consume to get through watching a Pens playoff game this year?— Jacob Denne (@jdenne79) March 25, 2015
As always, my advice to you is to start drinking heavily. Sports Club Stats is up to 80.5% for Pens/Islanders round one, by the way. For the last run at Nassau Coliseum and a rematch of the 2013 first round. Could be one for the ages.