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2018-19 Penguins’ Season in Review: Matt Cullen

Today we review what may have been the final NHL season for “Dad.”

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports


Player: Matt Cullen

Born: November 2, 1976 (42-years-old)

Birthplace: Virginia, Minnesota

Shoots: Left

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 202 pounds

Contract: Signed a 1-year contract for 2018-19 season with cap hit of $650,000; Currently a UFA

Regular Season History

via: hockeydb

Coming into the 2018-19 season, it was a reunion for Matt Cullen and the Penguins after Cullen spent the 2017-18 season with the Minnesota Wild. During his time in Pittsburgh, Cullen has become favorite, both with the fans and his fellow teammates. His experience, veteran leadership, and solid contributions on the score sheet as a depth player checked all of Jim Rutherford’s boxes.

However, I think it’s fair to say that Cullen looked his age more often than not during this campaign. Bringing Cullen back for another run, while being a great locker room guy, seemed off from the start. It was akin to a long-running TV show staying on for one season too long and the show losing its luster.

20 points as a fourth-line player in 71 games, on paper, is decent production. However, Cullen’s advanced metrics tell a completely different story. Even looking back at his 2017-18 data for reference, Cullen’s possession numbers had fallen off a cliff. A 40.5 CF% and 40.9 FF% is not good. At all. Moving forward to last year, Cullen only saw a slight bump in his possession numbers with a 42.3 CF% and 43.3 FF%. Anything below the 50% mark shows the player’s team not maintaining possession with that specific player on the ice. Last year’s showing was a far cry from the two Stanley Cup-winning seasons.


Cullen’s brief playoff performance in 2019 amounted to a goose egg on the score sheet. 4 games, 0 points, a minus-1 rating.

Game of the Season

Cullen’s best game of the season came in a 4-3 OT win against the Los Angeles Kings on December 15, 2018. He scored a short-handed goal with a plus-1 rating while logging 14:27 of ice time.

Chart from Charting Hockey

Sean Tierney - Charting Hockey

Here’s more visual proof of Cullen’s possession stats and the impact he had on team shot rates. Not great!

Data from hockeyviz:

No real surprises here. Cullen was always going to be deployed as a fourth-liner in a defensive role.


For being assigned primarily defensive zone starts, these heat maps tell quite a story. The Penguins were simply a better team without Cullen on the ice.

More of the same in the offensive zone. There is a decent-sized difference between sample sizes in terms of minutes played with and without Cullen, but these results aren’t pretty.


Ideal 2019-20

If Cullen wants to return to the NHL, it should not be with the Penguins. It’s time for both parties to move on. Thanks for the memories, but the youth movement needs to take over again, with the likes of Teddy Blueger and Adam Johnson competing for 4th-line roles.

Realistic 2019-20

Will Cullen really lace ‘em up again? I would lean towards no, but what do I know?

Worst Case 2019-20

Jim Rutherford’s loyalties to his former players continue to plague the roster and Cullen is given a contract with the Penguins. Is that being a bit too harsh? Nope. Let’s move on, get younger bodies in the lineup to help the aging core.


Will Matt Cullen continue to defy Father Time? If so, does he do it again with the Penguins? Or will Cullen finally hang up the skates on his 20-year career? Sound off in the comments below.



What grade would you give Matt Cullen for the 2018-19 season?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    (16 votes)
  • 15%
    (100 votes)
  • 50%
    (333 votes)
  • 28%
    (184 votes)
  • 3%
    (20 votes)
653 votes total Vote Now