Q: Do you think Ray Shero is hitting the panic button, but won't admit to it to the public? He knows what he has in terms of talent and what the team can do and will do for several years. But being that he has not been in a GM's position before, do you think there's a chance Shero might make some costly moves?
Shawn Marocco, Aliquippa
MOLINARI: No one should be overly concerned about Shero making an impulse move, since absolutely nothing he's said -- or, more important, done -- at any point during his tenure as general manager suggests he's inclined to operate that way. Fact is, if Shero is panicking, he should named hockey's Executive of the Year -- and possibly receive an Emmy -- for the brilliant way he's concealed it.
While this is Shero's first job as an NHL GM, he doesn't exactly qualify as a managerial novice. He not only grew up in a hockey family, but worked in the front offices of Ottawa and Nashville before joining the Penguins, so it's not as if the Penguins' lackluster performance through the first quarter of the season is his first exposure to adversity.
What's more, patience has been the cornerstone of his style during his year-and-a-half on the job. That he is not given to rash actions became evident a year ago, when the Penguins sputtered through the first two months of the season and more than a few people outside the organization were demanding that coach Michel Therrien be replaced. Shero flatly ruled out any possibility of doing that (much as he did again a couple of weeks ago) and was rewarded with a 105-point season.
Given that precedent, along with the restraint Shero has shown with making personnel changes, it seems unlikely that he will start to execute moves born of desperation. That doesn't mean there won't be trades or demotions or whatever in the weeks and months to come; just that they probably aren't going to stem from a knee-jerk reaction.
Q: Why didn't the Pens try to pick up Ilya Bryzgalov off waivers last week ? I think he would have been a big help to the goaltending situation.
Rick Koval, Lilly, Pa.
MOLINARI: Whether the Penguins put in a claim on Bryzgalov isn't known -- team officials do not, as a matter of course, divulge any moves they might make in such situations -- but it wouldn't have mattered if they did. After Brzygalov was waived by Anaheim, Phoenix put in a claim and eventually got him, per the league's collective bargaining agreement, because the Coyotes had the worst record of any club that did so.
While there's no question that Bryzgalov is a capable NHL goaltender, a point he reinforced by getting a shutout in his first start for Phoenix, the Penguins already have two goalies on one-way contracts, and don't seem to be aggressively looking to add a third. (If they really wanted Bryzgalov, they would have offered Anaheim something -- anything -- for him before he went on waivers. Assuming the proposal was worth more than the waiver fee, the Ducks would have been foolish to not accept.) That doesn't mean the Penguins wouldn't grab another goalie if the circumstances were right, but it clearly isn't a front-burner priority.
Part of the reason for that might be that the front office wants to get a good look at Marc-Andre Fleury over the balance of this season, so that a decision can be made on whether he is a goaltender with whom they can contend for a championship in coming seasons. This isn't necessarily a make-or-break season for Fleury in that regard, but if he is able to play the bulk of their games the rest of the way, management should begin to get a real handle on where he fits into its long-range plans.
There's also a factor that many tend to overlook when discussing any personnel move the Penguins might have a chance to make: Shero is given a budget by his bosses, and is expected to operate within its parameters. Bryzgalov's salary, for example, is about $1.3 million, and while that might not seem particularly large, taking on a seven-figure salary for a third guy at a position where teams only dress two might be hard to justify, from a business perspective.
The good thing about Bryzgalov's contract, from the perspective of a team looking for short-term help in goal, is that it expires after this season, which meant the club didn't have to make a long-range commitment to him. (That's something that will have to be a consideration in any deals the Penguins make, because it's imperative that they preserve salary-cap space in coming seasons so that they don't run into a problem when trying to re-sign the young talent that makes up the core of their team.)