The season’s getting close when Elliotte Friedman drops a written version of 32 Thoughts. And here we are to breakdown the Penguin-related notes on a full bag of tea getting dished out that goes heavy on the topic du jour around the NHL about Mike Babcock’s exit from Columbus (and OK, apologies to Japers Rink and a retroactive bump up for their coach from the prior ranking earlier this month).
4. Other RFAs: Calen Addison didn’t have the leverage, taking a one-year, $825,000 offer. Minnesota is extremely tight to the cap. Addison is still working to establish himself, so the Wild drew a hard line. He will have arbitration rights next summer, so things start to swing his way with a strong season. One agent laughed that he was surprised Filip Gustavsson’s case didn’t end up in arbitration, “because Bill Guerin loves to argue.”
Not exactly directly Penguins related, but close enough given the principles here. Addison’s contract and situation (no arbitration rights, dealing with a team with limited cap space) sounds a lot like where Marcus Pettersson was in 2019-20, when he also had to take a low-end one-year salary and eventually got paid afterwards. Addison might be following that same path with a good season. Also, what could have been in a parallel world where somehow Jim Rutherford makes an earlier and more graceful exit, Billy G takes over in Pittsburgh and Ron Hextall never happens. Alas.
13. The trade also solved a Montreal problem. DeSmith joined Jake Allen, Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau as Canadiens’ goalies ready to play and needing waivers. Ever since the trade with Pittsburgh, the Canadiens were working to move DeSmith.
It was out there that Casey DeSmith was a big Canadiens fan as a kid, so in that regard it’s a bit of a bummer his tenure in Montreal wasn’t really a tenure at all and lasted only a few off-season months. DeSmith will still need to keep that passport handy because instead of Montreal he’s is still off to Canada, by way of Vancouver in a trade that sees another former Penguin Tanner Pearson involved going east. The Habs also collected a third round pick as they continue to stockpile assets for free (or perhaps more accurately for cap space they don’t need at this time) in their rebuild. Win/win I guess, sucks for DeSmith but it was well-known to him and the public that Montreal was looking to instantly flip him.
Sidney Crosby, asked who will play wing on a line with Connor McDavid, said, “I’ll go there.” When told he was supposed to say McDavid will move, Crosby replied, “I’ve skated with him, I’ve played both. I think I’m good either way. He can carry the mail.” Two years ago, Crosby skated on a line with McDavid at the BioSteel camp so the two could get to know each other prior to the aborted 2022 Olympic participation.
Patrice Bergeron’s retirement (and Brad Marchand possibly aging out from Team Canada consideration by 2024) means Sidney Crosby will need new international linemates for the first time in long, long time. Given age, and the fact Canada has a ton of center candidates, it makes sense that Sid might be going to the wing, but man, it doesn’t register to think of him not playing center. (Kinda like seeing the captain with some salt mixing into his hair more this week). Time marches on.
On the positive side, it would be extremely exciting to watch McDavid and Crosby work on the same line. The talent level and amount of chances they should be able to create for one another would surely lead to some entertaining play, and it looks like at least informally the two stars are already planning and thinking that they will play together one day in the future. Will be a great day for hockey if it happens.
18. One Penguin said he’d never seen Crosby as pissed off as he was at the end of last season. “It was such a struggle for us to find consistency,” the captain said, when asked about it. “I’ve been in a situation where we’ve been first all year and you just ride that into the playoffs. (When) we won in 2016, we were out of the playoffs and went on a great run, had momentum going in, just caught fire. This was a new situation for us. We were chasing it from early on, but we had put ourselves in a spot to get in. It wasn’t a miracle we needed. We needed to win our last two games. To go through all that, all the ups and downs, and to be in a position to get in and not be able to find a way — that’s something we had done in the past, and we didn’t do it this time.” Pittsburgh suffered a pair of stunning losses in their 81st and 82nd games, 5-2 at home to Chicago and 3-2 in Columbus.
Now we get to the good stuff. It’s pretty obvious that Crosby would be as frustrated and pissed off professionally last April as he has ever been. The team around him was substandard. Crosby scored 93 points at age 35 and played in every single game. Yet the Pens failed to make the playoffs — an almost unthinkable ending for the league’s most successful team during Crosby’s time in the league.
Sid is still stewing on it too, you can tell from some of the quotes in the Penguins’ webpage about the season ticket deliveries. There’s the omnipresent Crosby media polish and innocuous bent, but especially seeing the above, they might take on a new meaning.
“But to know we were as close as we were, I mean – it’s one point, basically, that’s the difference,” Crosby continued. “You know that going in how tight it is, but it’s just not fun watching. That’s why we play, to be in that position. So, I think motivation comes from that.”
“I think you want to bounce back, when it doesn’t go your way. I think you want to respond the right way and use it as a learning experience,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, that’s everyone’s mindset. I think with a lot of new faces, everyone’s really excited and has a lot of energy and wants to get going, want to prove themselves.
“So, I think we’re all in the same boat there – that the guys who were there last year want to bounce back, and new guys coming in, they want to prove themselves. I think that’s a good mentality to have. There’s something to prove, I think, for everybody. Regardless of the situation, that’s usually how it works. And I think we all feel that right off the bat here.”
Anytime Crosby mentions “something to prove” that ought to raise an eyebrow and add excitement. In fact, a keen observer will note he said the word “prove” three times in rapid succession. That was a common theme earlier in his career when it came to scoring more goals or working on his faceoffs or whatever element of his game he was trying to focus on. Now we wait to see what he has in store for the coming year.
Back to Friedman:
22. At the media tour, Colby Armstrong put Bedard against Crosby in two on-ice competitions. I won’t spoil it. “The competition he thought I’d win, he won and the one I thought he’d win, I won,” Bedard said. Looking forward to seeing it.
Colby on the ice with Crosby and Bedard is going to be high entertainment. I hope they made Armstrong do some of the competitions just for fun.
It looks like Bedard, born in 2005 we’ll remind, got to spend a lot of time with his hockey hero at the league’s media events last week.
It all just goes to make the anticipated home opener (and Bedard’s first NHL game) in Pittsburgh on October 10th stand out that much more.