Q: Maybe it's just not the Pens' year. Of course, the season isn't over and things can turn around and the Pens can get back to the Stanley Cup final, but maybe with all the lineup changes, injuries and free agents gained and lost, it's just the Pens' time to be dealt some bad luck and a sub-par season. You see this cycle all the time in sports. Hopefully, the young guns of the Pens learn from this season and take these down times and grow from them.
Dave Lapic, Washington, D.C.
MOLINARI: The resignation in your tone is a striking change from most of the feedback about the Penguins' performance during the past five weeks or so. Generally, most such submissions to the Q&A are more along the lines of fire-and-trade-everybody-and-publicly-execute-anyone-who's-left.
Still, writing this off as "just one of those seasons" would be premature and, far more important, would be giving the Penguins an out to which they are not entitled. It was widely, and properly, accepted that their performance and record would suffer when compared to the final months of last season, given all of their personnel changes over the summer. Frankly, most good teams can expect to experience such setbacks in the salary-cap era.
However, despite the player additions and subtractions and the high-impact injuries with which the Penguins have had to deal, there is no good reason for them to be bobbing along barely over .500 and to be on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff field. Very few people associated with the franchise have met, let alone exceeded, reasonable expectations for them this season.
That these Penguins aren't as good as they were during the stretch drive and playoffs in 2008 is perfectly understandable. That they're as bad as they've been lately simply is not acceptable.
Q: Could the Penguins sign Jaromir Jagr this year, or would they have to wait until his contract expires at the end of next season? I would love to see Jagr play alongside Sidney Crosby. Heck, even Mario Lemieux would even come back to play with these two.
Scott, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
MOLINARI: Jagr has a binding, two-year contract with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, and there's no reason to believe that either he or the team will try to terminate it.
And even though Jagr told an interviewer a few days ago that he'd be interested in finishing his career with the Penguins, that doesn't mean the team would -- or should be interested in bringing him back for a curtain call. The Penguins didn't have any interest when he was available as an unrestricted free agent last summer, and it's hard to understand why that would change when he will be two years older.
Of course, if Jagr does come back here, perhaps Lemieux really will come out of retirement. And why stop there? Maybe the Penguins could re-sign Ken Wregget to give them some of that clutch goaltending he always seemed to produce, and Dave Burrows and Bob Paradise could be brought back to reinforce their defense corps.
Seriously, Jagr was one of the greatest talents in franchise history and, his penchant for keeping casinos profitable aside, should be inducted to the Hall of Fame the moment he becomes eligible. But just because he is an important part of their past doesn't mean he should get a chance to be even a minor one in their future.