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2022-23 Season in Review: The Departed (Blueger, Kapanen, McGinn)

Kicking off the off-season series by checking out three players that didn’t last the year in Pittsburgh

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Typically, we don’t usually profile seasons of players that end up departing the Penguins during the year. But you can’t tell the story of the 2022-23 Pittsburgh Penguins without looking at these three players who all failed to live up to pre-season hopes and dreams this year.

Teddy Blueger

In last year’s season review, for Blueger’s ideal 2022-23 I wrote:

It’s probably a lot like 2021-22, minus taking a headshot and breaking his jaw. Blueger should flirt again with breaking that elusive 10+ goal barrier, and end up in the 30ish point range if he get a full year in and plays well, which again can make him quite a valuable 10th forward on the team-type.

Touching on the broken jaw was prescient, Blueger has unfortunately never returned to form after that injury in January 2022. Blueger’s shots and location became lesser and helped contribute to only scoring two goals in 45 games with Pittsburgh this season, a far cry from the offense that he once pitched in from a supporting lower-line role in past seasons.


2021-22 Pensburgh Season in Review (69 percent B grade; 16 percent C)
2020-21 Pensburgh Season in Review (55 percent B grade; 41 percent A)
2019-20 Pensburgh Season In Review (57 percent B grade; 27 percent C grade)
2018-19 Pensburgh Season In Review (66 percent B grade; 24 percent A grade)

Long a “B” player, Blueger found out what happened in a bad year for a lower line player: they get moved.

Regular season 5v5 advanced stats

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 100 minutes.

Corsi For%: 48.9 (12th)
Goals For%: 34.4 (16th)
xGF%: 49.5 (12th)
Scoring Chance %: 45.6 (14th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 50.3 (12th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 5.07 (16th)
On-ice save%: .904 (15th)
Goals/60: 0.14 (16th)
Assists/60: 0.95 (t-6th)
Points/60: 1.09 (12th)

—In a heavily defensive role, it’s no shame or indicator that Blueger’s numbers tilt towards his own end. However, having an advanced statistical profile to that of Jeff Carter is no bueno. Blueger’s offensive dried up, but the even bigger shock and disappointment had to be Bluger’s defensive impact evaporating away this year.

The Pens conceded 2.85 goals against/60 with Blueger on the ice at 5v5, one of the worst performing players on the team in that area In 2021-22, it was only 1.73 GA/60 with Blueger on the ice. While there could be some teammate and goaltending factors in play to compound issues, the results to go from one of the best performing defensive players to one of the worst are rotten and damming to reduce Blueger’s strengths into weaknesses.

Add in only one 5v5 goal this year, and the player that many had high hopes for as a third line player ended up jettisoned for a mid-round pick and now serving mostly as a healthy scratch in Vegas’s playoff run. It’s been a swift and sad fall for Blueger lately.

A chart

It’s sad that Blueger turned into a player that held pretty much everyone back this season and that the team performed so much better with him off the ice. Given that Blueger built his career and reputation with the Penguins for a decade with solid two-way play and being the opposite from that, it’s a tough ending to that chapter for his career and for the team.

Brock McGinn

In a seven game stretch from November 9th -20th, McGinn scored a goal in five games to pop in some offense. That wouldn’t last and in a two month stretch from December 27th - February 27th, McGinn went 26 games without recording even a single point. He was put on waivers and played his last game in Pittsburgh on Feb 28th (admirably blocking out the noise and recording a nice assist) but by then his fate was sealed. McGinn would be moved via trade to end an unfulfilling two seasons in Pittsburgh.

2021-22 Pensburgh Season in Review: 55% C Grade, 36% B
2020-21 Canes Country Performance Review: 57% B Grade, 31% C
2019-20 Canes Country Performance Review: 43% B Grade, 43% C

Regular season 5v5 advanced stats

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 100 minutes.

Corsi For%: 45.6 (16th)
Goals For%: 40.0 (t-14th)
xGF%: 46.0 (15th)
Scoring Chance %: 45.3 (15th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 43.9 (15th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 5.92 (14th)
On-ice save%: .913 (10th)
Goals/60: 0.67 (8th)
Assists/60: 0.38 (16th)
Points/60: 1.05 (15th)

—Very disappointing metrics here, with McGinn typically showing as one of the worst performing forwards on the team in almost every category (save the hot goal scoring streak that buoyed his numbers on a rate basis despite insanely long periods of producing nothing). McGinn was milquetoast and vanilla as the come on the ice, providing very little of what was envisioned when he signed as a free agent.

A Chart

As a rule, almost everyone on the team (outside of sheltered defensemen in Joseph and Ruhwedel) performed far better when they didn’t have to play with McGinn. It’s easy to cast aspersions in hindsight, but it is clear that the Pens should not have given McGinn 60 games this season to figure it out and continue to weigh them down. Management finally came to their senses late in the season, but by then it was too late for all parties to salvage anything.

Kasperi Kapanen

Almost everything that has needed to be written or said about Kapanen has been done, so let’s keep it short and sweet like Paulie at Christopher’s intervention. It was a major gamble to qualify a player coming off a bad season and the move backfired tremendously on the Penguins and was a big piece of why they’re searching for new leadership.

2021-22 Pensburgh Season in Review: 58% D Grade, 21% C

Regular season 5v5 advanced stats

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 100 minutes.

Corsi For%: 48.4 (14th)
Goals For%: 40.0 (t-14th)
xGF%: 43.7 (16th)
Scoring Chance %: 45.0 (16th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 36.7 (16th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 6.9 (10th)
On-ice save%: .906 (12th)
Goals/60: 0.54 (12th)
Assists/60: 1.36 (3rd)
Points/60: 1.9 (4th)

—Kapanen’s rate stats look good, but are also an indictment in and of itself- they’re high because his minutes were low (averaging just over 12 minutes a game in Pittsburgh in 2022-23, down from 14:32 and 15:32 per game in previous seasons). Kapanen wasn’t trusted to play much due to the other awful scoring chance numbers. This paints a picture well known to watching, he’s a talented player when on his game but too often has shifts, periods, games, stretches of games of being invisible and does very little to help the team away from the puck.

A Chart

Few charts are this clear of literally being an anchor holding every single other player down.

In the end, these three of these players were lumped together because they all have commonalities: they were expected to be solid bottom-six options for the Pens, and all failed to live up to that. Over the years, they were given contracts totaling $8.15 million for this year and in one way or another all were prioritized over other options like Brandon Tanev, Evan Rodrigues, Jared McCann and Frederick Gaudreau. All three of Blueger, McGinn and Kapanen were purged from the roster in a one-week flurry from Feb 25-Mar 3 on the ill-fated dad’s road trip, but the actions ended up being painfully overdue and came too little/too late to freshen up the Pens.