To say I’m heated, fuming, livid, sad, devastated, rip-roaring mad, crushed, and/or pissed off just would not cover my feelings towards what’s going on with the Penguins these days.
Fine. Fire Shero and Bylsma. That needed to happen. Fine. Hire Jim Rutherford. Promote Bill Guerin, Jason Botterill, and Tom Fitzgerald. These are all things I can handle.
Then, it’s time to hire a coach. Okay, so we don’t get Willie Desjardins, there are plenty of other qualified coaches available. Right?
So we hire Mike Johnston. This is where I get a little woozy. Now the former head coach and general manager of the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks. Granted they’ve been an excellent team the past few years. Just two years ago they were in the Memorial Cup Final against the Halifax Mooseheads (which then boasted both Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin on their roster). They have some solid players, like Pens prospect Derrick Pouliot. And we have one new assistant coach in Rick Tocchet because Tony Granato and Todd Reirden were also let go. One spot remains open for assistant coach.
*Slight* worry began to set in earlier this week. Then, the rumor mill begins again.
Matt Niskanen and Jussi Jokinen: being allowed to go to free agency
Paul Martin and Marc Andre Fleury: contract extensions are unlikely
Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland: expected to leave via free agency
Tanner Glass: not returning
Don’t worry though, the Penguins plan to be aggressive during free agency.
But talk is cheap. At least that’s the impression I was under.
Enter the NHL Draft. A night that we’re supposed to be happy for the kids realizing their life-long dreams. Then, in the heat of it all, talk is no longer cheap. James Neal, gone. Acquired: Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. And I’m left sitting on my couch misty-eyed with steam pouring out of my ears.
Neal was not necessarily every Pens fan’s favorite player with his less-than-flawless track record. But, aside from Sid, he was mine. Hell, he still is my favorite! I don’t care that he now plays for the Nashville Predators! I cannot wait to purchase the new t-shirt with ‘Neal’ printed on the back. I will show up to their game @ Boston on December 23rd proudly sporting it. (I also am seriously looking forward to seeing what shenanigans Neal and Michael Del Zotto will be pulling together.)
Back to the whole “less-than-flawless track record” for Neal, it’s without a doubt the reason he is no longer a member of the Penguins, though Rutherford claims it to be a cap space move.
Believe what you will, but I’m calling shenanigans. If he really wanted to make a move to free up cap space, then ditch Kris Letang (but the GM has already said he’s off limits). Not to give Rutherford any rash ideas, but he seems a little hell bent on completely dismantling the Pens this summer, so I wouldn’t put it passed him.
So assuming that Niskanen and Jokinen are gone by September, where is the depth on this team that so desperately needs it? Sure, Hornqvist is a good player, but I know nothing about his game to comment on it. As for Spaling, I had never even heard of him until the trade.
The way it looks, at this moment, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a one-line team. Geno literally has ZERO wingers for the time being. Sure Beau Bennett is a decent player, but on the third line with Brandon Sutter (assuming we still have him in September).
And who’s to say that Rutherford isn’t going to make another trade that’s going to drive me up a wall?! More or less, I can’t handle the mess that the Pens appear to be right now. Call me when the regular season starts and the roster is pretty much set until the trade deadline.
Here are some articles that I either find particularly troubling, agreeable, or maddening:
http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/jim-rutherford-on-why-the-penguins-traded-james-neal–video-030257327.html (<— FYI: this video gets me really worked up and if you love James Neal as much as I do (if not more) than it’ll definitely make you want to throw your computer out the window)