Q: Should the Penguins trade Sidney Crosby while they can still get top value for him? It is obvious that his skills are diminishing and his turnovers have cost us many games. This team needs a leader with some grit!
Donny Roy, McKeesport
MOLINARI: Absolutely. Even though Crosby has been pretty ordinary for most of the first half -- no doubt leading teams to conclude that, at age 21, his best years are far, far behind him -- you have to believe Ray Shero still might be able to steal a late-round draft choice for him from some club. Well, a conditional one, anyway. If he acts quickly, that is.
Q: Would I be considered a Negative Nelly if I suggested that the Penguins simply aren't that good of a club? That their expectations are a bit lofty? Their injuries have been substantial, yes. Their recent schedule tough, agreed. But this Penguins team is, quite simply, really easy to play against. Of late, more has been made of the departure of grit last offseason than was made at the time. That's because it's startlingly clear that this team is extremely soft. The only two guys who hit regularly are Brooks Orpik and Matt Cooke. The club, as a whole, can't win board battles and does nothing to dissuade opponents from skating directly to the crease and getting quality scoring chances. The Penguins are just butter-soft. A lack of preparation has nothing to do with their continued failures. Jettisoning some of the cupcakes on the club will go a lot further to improving results than team-only meetings.
Keith Justus, Las Vegas
MOLINARI: That the Penguins aren't as tough to play against as they were last season isn't a revelation; it's been apparent that would be the case since they lost the likes of Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu and Adam Hall and replaced them with players such as Miroslav Satan, whose forte is supposed to be goal-scoring, not physical play. While guys in the former group have grit as a core component in their games; most of the ones brought in during the offseason -- Cooke is a striking exception -- would sooner avoid contact than initiate it.
While throwing big hits the way Orpik and Cooke do is a good way to get attention -- especially from opponents -- it isn't necessary to be an effective player. A simple willingness to compete along the boards and in high-traffic areas, and to absorb a check if it's necessary to make a play, would go a long way.
Q: Is it possible that Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko brought some of their losing habits from the Islanders to the Penguins?
MOLINARI: Only if they also covertly brought about 15 teammates from Long Island along with them last summer.