For about as long as I can remember, aside from about 2016-18, every time I see my dad one of the first things he will ask me like clockwork is “what’s wrong with the Penguins”? It’s a good conversation starter, I guess, designed mostly to needle me, but always a fun ritual to go through.
With the way things are going now, a lot is wrong with the Pens — who are just 8-11-5 in the last two months. So why not throw it out to Twitter to get a pulse on the good, bad and ugly? And then of course chime in on the logic (or not) behind the takes.
Hextall does nothing like he has all year— J (@jstr67) February 22, 2023
The inactivity of Ron Hextall to find solutions is growing to a boiling point. And understandably so, with the team sliding and stumbling and no changes being made. Hextall struck from left field in 2021 to get Jeff Carter, and almost no one had connected Rickard Rakell to Pittsburgh in 2022. So I don’t buy that Hextall will continue to do nothing ahead of next Friday’s trade deadline. Will it be enough, and was it done in a timely enough fashion? Very good follow-up questions.
Sit Carter, send down Kapanen and McGinn, play O’Connell, Puustinen and Nylander— Matt B (@talisker66) February 22, 2023
Kapanen and McGinn are arguably the two worst and most disappointing players on the team right now, both are currently at the bottom of the 5v5 expected goal ledger for the team. McGinn hasn’t recorded as much as a point in now over a quarter of the season. This is good places to start to make changes. I love a good hot take that mis-spells or mis-names a player (O’Connell instead of O’Connor) but it’s a point taken.
If the Pens can’t trade players due to their contracts, waiving them is a bold step. Probably impractical, but I like the mention behind it. Alex Nylander though is something of a poor man’s Kapanen — extremely questionable away from the puck — I’d quibble and lean towards Filip Hallander instead.
A bottom-six without McGinn and Kapanen and with some youth would be fun. There’s no signs the Pens are that desperate to waive established NHLers with years left, but at this point it’s not that crazy to hypothetically consider.
The Pens PP should be getting more criticism than it is.— Henry Williams (@HW06) February 22, 2023
The Pittsburgh power play is sitting 16th in the NHL at 21.5%. They’ve also given up six goals, which is second highest in the league.
Then again, it’s also a matter of perspective. In the nine games since Kris Letang returned from injury/bereavement leave on January 24th, the Pens’ power play is clicking at 24.1% (8-for-33), which is ninth in the NHL. It’s true that the first line key players only have six of those goals (three for Evgeni Malkin, two for Sidney Crosby, one for Letang) and the second group as picked up two goals. They’ve also conceded two goals against, leaving the top guys only a +4 in PPG in the last nine games, which suddenly doesn’t look as rosy.
Is the Pens’ power play under-scrutinized? Not sure on that, it seems like they take their share of slings and arrows when times get tough — and they’re up and down enough to where they get colder than one would expect.
I will say though that almost every time the top group scores a PPG, either Malkin or Crosby is right at the net. Too often in key situations during games, neither player goes down to the high-scoring area, and the team doesn’t end up scoring. That’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
My hot take: Upper Management is absentee upper management.— Steve (@muskegonsteve) February 22, 2023
Scared this may be the year the playoff streak ends.
If it is, I hope it’s Boston a few years back.
Miss one year but go hard the next.
Boston is a very great parallel to bring up. They’ve got an older core, and like Pittsburgh have been one of the elite teams in the 2010-23 stretch that consistently have held up well. Can the Pens learn from that “rebuild on the fly”? The Bruins did miss the playoffs two years in a row, in 2015 and 2016, which might serve as a reminder that it’s tough to turn teams around as quickly as it might seem.
This gives a great idea to track, especially if it’s a long off-season in Pittsburgh and the Bruins make a deep playoff run, there’s a great topic to dig into about where to fix what’s gone off the tracks.
My current (maybe) hot take is, that even though people say the penguins have a bunch of problems, if you just fix and replace the third line/ bottom 6, all of the other problems will fix themselves (goaltending, defense, just overall play)— That Guy Will (@Will_I27) February 22, 2023
As feared, this is much too rational to be a hot take! However, I do think there’s a lot to be said about a healthy Tristan Jarry helping to reverse some of the swoon the team has been in lately. And yeah, Jarry fell apart as the game went on last night, but he should get sharper as he gets into game shape. Let’s hope anyways.
Is this defense going to straighten out on its own? Would have some serious doubts about that, given that the team still has one legit left handed defender and the key vets on the right side have fluctuated in performance.
Replace Hextall with Ray Shero. Already all in with the Malkin and Letang extensions, might as well go full run back.— J.P. Logan (@sidgeny_malsby) February 22, 2023
Now we’re cookin’. It’s a talking point that tends to get lost to history, but Shero’s drafting from 2010-13 was about as key to set the stage for the 2016 and 2017 Cup victories as the emergence of Mike Sullivan and the flashy trades Jim Rutherford made. Shero did a good job of toeing the line between keeping the cupboard stocked and also making immediate moves.
Then again, Pittsburgh’s biggest problem is a lack of depth and supporting players. Rounding out the lower lines, to put it kindly, was not a strong point of most Ray Shero built teams.
This team was never gonna be good this year. Essentially the same team that bowed out of the playoffs in the first round 2 years in a row. Both seasons management talked themselves into bringing the same guys back for one reason or another expecting different results.— Brandon Ratay (@ChatRat_UCF) February 22, 2023
“The same team” take is a hot one. Guess the blue-line didn’t send John Marino and Mike Matheson out for Jeff Petry, Jan Rutta and P.O Joseph over the summer. That “same team” also had 103 points last year and won the division on a 112-point pace in 2021. Throw it all the way for goalie related small sample playoff results? Scorching!
Jeff Carter isn’t the problem, it’s his line mates. Get a legitimate middle 6 winger to play with him and watch his line start clicking— Pens Sphere (@PITPensSphere) February 22, 2023
“Zigging when literally everyone else is zagging” is a classic tenet of a good hot take, and I’m here for it. Maybe Jeff Carter isn’t the problem, everyone else is! (Well, given how McGinn and Kapanen have fared, perhaps it’s not that far-fetched). Still, say the Pens brought over Ivan Barbashev from St. Louis and/or Adam Henrique from Anaheim and put them with Carter. Or put them in the top-six and bumped Bryan Rust down with Carter. Is that going to work?
Carter’s issue is the speed of the game and hitting an age-related wall. He’s gotta be more of the problem than the solution. Then again, with his no movement clause, Carter doesn’t have to be going anywhere. Maybe there’s no actual way around that for at least this season. In that case, might as well go with the idea to build around him. From where I started with this, I can’t believe I’ve almost talked myself into seeing some logic in it. That said, the chances of such a gambit working, well it’s leaves a lot to be desired..
Give Lebron full control of ownership.— Habay (@AechBay) February 22, 2023
Let’s just be glad Sidney Crosby doesn’t subscribe to load management! Not a huge basketball guy, but isn’t Lebron the de facto GM of the Lakers? And they’re in 13th place, no? I could go for a Lebron pep talk for the players, but that would be about it.
I say we put Friedman on the 4th line as a winger…he may actually bring some energy and physicality to that group— Yinzersaurus (@jbfrompgh) February 22, 2023
The old “put a player in a position he doesn’t play” is a tremendous hockey fan staple. It’s fun, but what is Friedman going to do on the fourth line wing that Josh Archibald doesn’t already do in a better fashion? While not a long-term answer, this would have had more a chance when Archibald was injured.
FSG is going to fire the entire front office for being a bunch of buffoons (and that's being nice)— Michael (@BigMikeSky1) February 22, 2023
Pending worst case scenario that seems to be unfolding before our eyes, this looks like more of an accurate prediction rather than hot take.
Hextall is going to make a big trade at the deadline. Jarry is going to get good. Pens are going on a run— J ey Bag f D nuts (@joeybagovdonuts) February 22, 2023
At a time like this, I actually appreciate a ridiculously positive spin on the situation. You don’t often see that on the big, bad internet. Pending Jarry’s health and ability to stay in one piece, something like this could well happen.
Does everyone blasting GMRH about his inability to make a trade suddenly expect him to make a competent trade closer to the deadline with more pressure on him? I don’t. He’s already cost the team this season and an ill advised panic trade could potentially set them back another.— Jeffrey A. McRae (@Jeffymcrae66) February 22, 2023
Possibly very valid, but also assumes Hextall will feel the pressure and act on it with an uncharacteristic move. That was more the style of the last GM, but this one (for better or worse) looks fine with staying true to who he is and whatever that vision in his head is.
With that said, let’s lean into just the sort of panicked hypothetical!
Hot take: Patrick Kane signs with the Pens for spite because he wasn’t traded to New York or Toronto.— Spontaneous Theorist (@The1Theorist) February 22, 2023
For as crazy as it sounds, get Chicago to take 50% retainage, and broker a third team to take 25% and Kane could be added for a $2.625 million cap hit. The money portion is actually feasible, Pittsburgh could trim that if they wanted to (bye Blueger and Heinen). That said, one key player with a possibly bum hip is more than enough for now! Kane also doesn’t play defense, but then again maybe that just makes him fit into this team even more.
But just imagine:
That would be a great NHL23 team, at least.
Reportedly Kane hasn’t even made up his mind if he wants to get traded, and there’s no real reason to think Pittsburgh would be on his radar. But you gotta start a dream somewhere in hot take land.
Pens should trade for Korpisalo and Henrique.— Cambria (@cammiebuckeye29) February 22, 2023
Korpisalo, I’m lukewarm on. Henrique would be tailor-made to help what ails the Pens at this point, especially if he has gas in the tank to be a full time center.
Ron’s hand is twisted. 1st gets traded, decent additions at the deadline. Pens go on a run in March— 412 (@pghyinzerr) February 22, 2023
Instead of viewing this as a hot take, could it please just be the actual future?