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Thoughts on Thoughts: Pens looking for defense, Crosby tinkering with stick pattern

Crosby looking at McCann’s stick and more thoughts on 32 Thoughts

NHL: DEC 18 Wild at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins played in Toronto last week, which usually means that they will get a few juicy nuggets out of the Canadian-based Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts. The Christmas wish didn’t go ungranted!

Some more thoughts on Friedman’s thoughts...

9. Remember: Rod Brind’Amour’s never given any indication he would want to leave Tobacco Road. But some looking for bench bosses will want to see how it plays out in Carolina.

Brind’Amour is in a contract year in Carolina, and from coaches to managers the Hurricanes’ organization has often taken some...interesting approaches in how they choose to handle and prioritize their business off the ice. At this point, the most likely outcome that makes sense for all parties is that Brind’Amour would stay in Raleigh. But replace the team/person with “Toronto/Dubas” 12 months ago and the same could be said..

FSG has invested heavily in the Penguins (including most notably the rumored $40 million price tag for Dubas), if perhaps the best coach actually does become available, does Pittsburgh look at that? Dozens of teams would be at least a little intrigued. Back burner situation for now, but an interesting situation to monitor..

20. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh’s asked around about defence.

That matches other reports from last week that the Pens have been shopping for defenders. Probably doesn’t say much for the long-term future in Pittsburgh for P.O Joseph at this point, who can’t find a spot in the lineup these days. The team has picked up John Ludvig and continues to hope he grows into something, but is far from a steady contributor at this point. Chad Ruhwedel likely has a key stretch in the coming days and weeks too in order to demonstrate that he can play to the standard he did in prior years.

Beyond that, Marcus Pettersson has been stellar but the top-four in general has been unsettled with an uneven start for Ryan Graves seeing the top pairs get shuffled recently. There are likely limited options available and even more limited cap space ramifications to deal with, but watching Dubas answer the issue of a defensive boost or add this season is a key off-ice question to monitor.

21. The Penguins’ 7-0 loss in Toronto ruined Kyle Bukauskas’s opportunity to tell a good Sidney Crosby story. After the practice last Friday, the two were discussing equipment, with Crosby revealing that he’s experimenting with a new curve in practice. He’s modified things a bit over the years, but never anything too drastic. The team’s equipment staff was very loyal to its captain, not giving away much, but this would be a significant change, should he go through with it. Apparently, it’s Jared McCann’s curve, as Crosby wants to be an even more dangerous shooter. He’s on-pace for 49 goals — proof the greats are never, ever satisfied.

Crosby even messing around with Jared McCann’s curve, what a world! One of the main aspects of McCann’s shooting is how much can score from distance, with his go-to short-side shot from the left circle going onto make him millions of dollars and piling up tons of goals out in Seattle. Crosby is now working on the left side of the power play, near where McCann unleashes his signature shot, could make for an interesting “power play stick” if Sid ever switches up or adds a different looking stick to his arsenal.

It’s always interesting to watch Crosby tinker with elements of his game as he constantly seeks improvement. His vaunted curve pattern of being very open/straight has been the stuff of legends. Here’s what Hockey Stickman has for the pattern of McCann’s Jetspeed CCM:

Crosby’s stick has a very slight heel curve that makes the above image look like a banana blade by comparison with that toe curve. Crosby would likely be giving up a lot of power in his signature backhand passes if he went with the curve of the McCann pattern, which is probably why he’s just trying it in practices for now and weighing just how much he needs or want to use a different stick.

It’s more about the craftsman than the tools, but an interesting tidbit anytime the notoriously resistant-to-change Crosby even dabbles around with any sort of different equipment. He might not even need it, now we’re seeing Crosby pop off for a very impressive age-36 season. Sid scored 33 goals last season and 31 (in 69 games) in 2021-22, quality production for his game as a playmaker and at his age. But this year with 19 goals in 31 games, the goal scoring is dramatically up at an age where it tends to ramp down for most.

The goals are going in for him just about as much as they’ve ever been, yet Sid is still looking for an edge and way to score more (probably from that suffering power play). It is a lesson in greatness to never be satisfied.

22. Crosby’s got his patented “slap” face-off move, a forehand whack at the puck that’s very difficult to beat. Columbus’s Adam Fantilli had one draw against Crosby and said, “I thought I was ready for it.” How did it go? “I lost,” he laughed. Fantilli added that Vincent Trocheck really impressed him. He’s second in the league at 63.6 per cent.

Welcome to the show, kid! He’s learning what the rest of the league knows about Crosby’s faceoff prowess. The Pens’ captain leads the NHL in total faceoffs and is fifth in percentage (min. 300). Crosby has won more even strength and power play faceoffs than anyone in the league. That could be another area to think about if he does go with that McCann curve pattern for how it might alter the faceoff strategy.