Big Lead Sports Bar



It's time for a guest column from our old friend Koz, who reflects in the afterglow of the trade deadline from the Penguin point of view. And now, in the words of Koz...

It's not been long since the Pens looked dead in the water. The coaching change rekindled a smoldering team and its playoff chances, but a Stanley Cup seems unlikely. As we reflect in the hangover of the trade deadline, this years Penguins are built to make a run, but no move was made to go “all in.”

As of today, the Penguins need to go 10-7 to make the playoffs. James Mirtle has put together the “playoff push” at Seeing that no team makes the playoffs in the shootout era with less than 90 points in the standings, this is a good gauge. Given the competition this season, it looks as though it will take closer to 92 points. The Pens have what I would call six “swing games” left – games against opponents also competing for the same playoff spot. Losing a swing game will have a big impact on the playoff push figure.

Is it more Dan Bylsma or is it that its NOT Michel Therrien? Too early to say, but I'm leaning toward the latter. The players were professional by not burying their old coach in the media, but they sure play like they are glad he's gone.

I've been for trading Jordan Staal, but I'm glad he's still around. Considering the players who moved and where the team stands, the value wasn't there and there's no need to be hasty.

Bye-bye Ryan Whitney. Should have seen this coming when my Penguins season schedule Windows wallpaper featured Orpik and Gonchar but no Whitney. Who knows what's going on with his foot problems, but inconsistent play (a career “minus” player) and other young puck moving defensemen waiting in the wings make this a good move. You have to “give to get” and Shero got out early on what might be end up an unfortunate contract for Whitney's future employer – he is inked for $4.5, $5, and $5.5 million in the last three years of his deal. That's Gonchar money and clearly Whitney isn't that.

The Pens didn't trade Sidney Crosby. Sorry to disappoint the growing numbers in the mainstream media who have been talking about this. While I don't think anyone was suggesting it as a deadline option, this is an “only in fantasy hockey” option. Trading Crosby in real life is a no-win situation and anyone who seriously suggests it is a loser. There is no way to get significant value for a once-in-a-generation talent and marketable figure. Evgeni Malkin is the Penguins best player, but that doesn't make Crosby a tradable commodity. Until Crosby can score more goals and dominate the play by himself, Malkin will be the team MVP.

Chris Kunitz has certainly had impact early. Amazing how a powerplay changes with a suitable quarterback (Gonchar) and someone to bang home rebounds and cause traffic in front. He's cheaper than Ryan Malone, signed through '11/'12, and has a higher points per game (.62 to .58).

The Pens got a lot this deadline without giving much away. Come to think of it, did they really give that much away last year? Christensen is still mediocre on good days and now been traded again, who knows what will become of that draft pick, and Esposito is far away from being a contributor. Yeah, I miss Colby Armstrong, but I really liked the Stanley Cup Finals.

Speaking of Hossa, do you think he's reconsidered his decision to pass on seven years with Pittsburgh to go for a one year deal? Now our world's economy is in the crapper – affecting contract negotiations in all pro sports, the salary cap might shrink, and he had a near career-ending experience. I hope he's fine and bounces back, but these are exactly the reasons why you don't pass up long term deals.

Bill Guerin > Gary Roberts. I don't know if WWBGD wristbands will be the fashion rage this spring, but Guerin has found his way to the Penguins after being rumored in a few past season's deadline deals. He'll have more real impact (read: scoring) that the mythical impact of Roberts, but still adds plenty of grit. Add in that the Pens basically got him for zamboni tires and this can only be a good thing.

Anyone else hear about the rumors of Tampa trying to trade Ryan Malone back to Pittsburgh? Are these true? Did Ray Shero even take that phone call or did his assistant screen them? All future deals with Tampa might have to include a “no tradebacks” clause to help keep the phone lines clear during deadline time.

I was stunned the Florida Panthers held on to Jay Bouwmeester. They are definitely “all in” for a run this year. That's unfortunate for the Pens because they have three more games against the Panthers. In addition to being in direct competition for a playoff spot, it would have been much easier to play against them with their best player and heart ripped out by a trade made to rebuild for the future again . In some ways it's a nice move for Panthers fans (all 59 of them) that I'm sure any of you who still root for Pittsburgh's baseball club can appreciate, because they should have an exciting spring. I expect them to make the playoffs and maybe win one round, but Bouwmeester is 99.99% certain to sign anywhere but Florida this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

The Philadelphia Flyers traded for Daniel Carcillo. As the Post Gazette's Empty Netters would point out, I think Carcillo actually has a PhD in puppy drowning. The Flyers will never win anything until they realize the NHL is not Mutant League Hockey for Sega Genesis.

Mark Recchi is a cougar. He's “experienced” (read: old) but can still get it done and he just lurks around the team for a fresh young team to pounce on. It won him a Cup in Carolina, got him back with the Pens last season (though they dumped him), sent him to Tampa (oops) who was spending money like a college grad with a signing bonus, and now has him leeching in Boston. I think New Jersey's defense, newfound scoring punch, and a fresh Brodeur makes the Devils the East favorite, but Boston has been tough all year.

Sean Avery is back with the Rangers. Perfect. I hate them both and will enjoy seeing them on the outside looking in in April. I like John Tortorella, but I don't see how he salvages that mess.

The Washington Capitals did nothing at the deadline, but I don't think they need much. They are the “new Penguins” with hot young talent like Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Mike Green. Mike Green is an absolute beast with the puck – he excels in every way that Ryan Whitney underwhelms. Their biggest question is goaltending. If Theodore gets hot in the playoffs, which I find unlikely, the Caps would be really tough to beat. Airbrush artists are disappointed today because we didn't see many goalies swapping colors.

Montreal also stayed pat at the deadline. The pressure is mounting and this team has been floundering – good news for the Pens. I can only think of one way to explain the Canadiens falling out of the playoffs in their centennial season:

Thoughts? You can reach Koz at


Anonymous said...

Thank you sincerely for the MLH flashback.

Unknown said...

I love you. Big "swing game" win last night. If you watch the highlights on SC today, whoever does the commentary trashes the Islanders and praises Crosby and Guerin all in one sentence, which, in retrospect was probably pretty easy to do.

One note about Bylsma vs. Therrien: Hal Gill noted to an undisclosed source that Bylsma has been asking his veterans for a lot of input, something that Therrien never did. It has been inferred that there is a lot less tension in the locker room and a lot more focus on the team. The odd thing is that you can tell something has energized these guys. They are playing at twice the speed they did last month.