martie: Why is Chuck Kobesew still on the roster?
Shelly Anderson: Chuck Kobasew, you might remember, was a training camp invitee whose preseason was good enough that he earned a contract and roster spot. He also came with an endorsement from Sidney Crosby -- the two share an agent and have been part of offseason workout camps together. With two goals as his only points in 29 games, he hasn't rewarded the Penguins' decision with production. The team certainly has given him opportunities, including recently when he's gotten some time on the top line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz. From the looks of the game-day skate, Kobasew could be scratched tonight, and Brian Gibbons – confirmed by Dan Bylsma to be back in the lineup after missing five games because of injury – will play on the top line. Barring further injuries, it might be difficult for Kobasew to crack the lineup again anytime soon.
Eric: What are the chances the Pens make any moves to address the bottom six before the trade deadline? The lack of any viable scoring threat on the third and fourth lines is disconcerting to say the least. Also, when will the revolving door on Sid's wing end? Would love to see a more permanent solution to the RW than the Kobasew/Gibbons/insert bottom six forward here.
Shelly Anderson: Fully agree – the Penguins are lacking in scoring depth. It could be missing chemistry with a revolving cast. Whether it's continuity or a change in personnel, there needs more scoring support from the bottom two lines. Wouldn't be surprising if that's something general manager Ray Shero addresses before the March 5 trade deadline. As for Crosby's RW, not sure without Dupuis what a permanent solution might be. Perhaps Brian Gibbons will settle in, or Beau Bennett when he comes back from his wrist injury.
Kirk: What do you think about the team's forward depth problems and how do you think they'll address it? Even before injuries it was bad, Dupuis wasn't a top 6 winger (no ability to create on his own, bad hands, etc.) and now he's injured; Crosby has spent a significant portion of the season with embarrassingly bad wingers.
Shelly Anderson: Certainly you can't call Chris Kunitz a bad winger, and certainly nothing embarrassing about his play. Sidney Crosby likes Pascal Dupuis on his right side, and you can't overlook Crosby's comfort level. But Dupuis isn't expected back this season because of a torn ACL. Replacing Dupuis isn't easy, simply because playing with Crosby isn't easy. The Penguins have brought in players – James Neal and Jarome Iginla among them – as possibilities for Crosby's line, but they didn't click. Let's see how Gibbons does, and what happens when Bennett returns from his wrist injury.
KirKles: You don't think they'll re-sign Jokinen do you? He's streaky, soft, slow and he drags Geno down. Why do they keep putting him with Geno? Geno needs a puck retriever, Jokinen doesn't do that. Jokinen and Neal want to do the same thing, shades of Iginla, Jussi would be more suited to the 3rd line.
Shelly Anderson: Agreed he's been streaky, but it hasn't been a bad fit. When Kunitz played with Evgeni Malkin during Crosby's extended absence, he provided the puck retrieval you mentioned, but Kunitz is a fixture on Crosby's line. Under the salary cap, you're probably not going to have six All-Stars on your top two lines and still have the needed depth of talent on the bottom two lines. It wouldn't surprise me if Jokinen got re-signed, although I reserve the right to rethink that if the Penguins make significant moves before the trade deadline.
Vic: What do you think about the decline of Orpik and what this means for his future with the Pens? He's been brutal this season, before he was attacked, and it's been a decline for a few seasons now with it becoming horrible this season. He's a physical player and it caught up with him, is it possible that the Pens keep him and in doing so compromise the number of defensive prospects they have and the cap space that could be spent on the forwards? If Fleury melts down again do you think they'll waste another season trying to stand by him again?
Shelly Anderson: On Brooks Orpik, I've seen some gaffes, but I would not say he's having a brutal season, and in fact have noticed that his skating is maybe better than ever. You raise a valid point about a guy on the other side of 30 who plays a physical game and has had lower abdominal surgery on both sides. Time could be catching up.
As for Marc-Andre Fleury, yes, the Penguins are all in with him, and, yes, how he plays in the postseason will be a huge barometer of where this club stands in terms of continuing to be an annual Cup contender. If he falters, the Penguins face some tough questions, including: Who would be available and reliably better in the playoffs?
Cameron: Will Kobasew finally be scratched tonight? And how long until he's waived? He brings nothing to the team.
Shelly Anderson: It looked at the game-day skate as if Kobasew and Andrew Ebbett were the odd forwards out, although that's not official. While, as mentioned earlier, it might be difficult to Kobasew to get back into the lineup, the Penguins might not be quick to jettison him or any other forwards given the tremendously bad luck they've had with injuries this season.
Carlos: Has there been any discussion of bringing Pyatt up to the second line and sending Jokinen to the third? Sutter and Jokinen have seemed to have great chemistry in the little action they've seen together this year.
Shelly Anderson: It's true that Jokinen and Brandon Sutter played together some with Carolina and seemed to have some chemistry, and it's just as true that Sutter has struggled to produce with a revolving door of wingers. But Taylor Pyatt doesn't seem to have the speed at this stage of his career to play regularly on Evegni Malkin's line.
Brian: We are seeing the same issues haunt the Pens again this year that have haunted them since their Cup in 09. Any sense from the players that they are seeing this too and if so, what do they need to do to correct it?
Shelly Anderson: You weren't specific, so guessing you're talking about defensive lapses and games -- particularly against teams much lower in the standings -- where the Penguins just aren't on top of things. Yes, they are well aware of it. Correcting it would seem to be a matter of getting their heads together and remembering what it felt and looked like when they were on top of their game.
Randy Butternubs: Hi Shelly. The penalty kill has seen great improvement this season compared to last. Is this because of coaching (Jacques Martin) or because of new personnel (Sill, Bortuzzo, Scuderi)?
Shelly Anderson: It probably isn't Jacques Martin, considering assistant Tony Granato has handled the penalty-killing before and after Martin's arrival. There have been some changes, including the loss of Matt Cooke. Mostly, though, it seems to be a matter of quick thinking and old-fashioned sweat equity.
yinzer in va: Shelly, How do you see the Olympic hockey tournament? Who wins gold, silver, bronze? And how about the Pens in the tournament will do?
Shelly Anderson: Was asked this previously. Still haven't had a chance to really analyze the rosters, and I don't know much about a lot of the KHL players who will play for Russia. Plus, news today is that Steven Stamkos is hardly a lock to be ready to play for Canada. So, I'm going to cop out on this one for now.
Donny K: The Penguins 3rd&4th line haven't potted a goal besides a EN sine Dec 19th. Come playoffs when teams linematch and slow down Crosby/Malkin what is the plan? Is Shero actively perusing bottom 6 solutions?
Shelly Anderson: Don't know of the details of Ray Shero's discussions with other GMs, but the Penguins just recently held their amateur and pro scouting meetings, so Shero is as up to date on things as possible -- how the team's prospects are doing, and who's out there who might help the Penguins. You would think Shero is at least pondering help for the third and fourth lines.
Winger: Shelly, granted there's been injuries, but we've seen a lot of Kobasew on Sid's wing, Glass and Adams showing up on the 3rd line and late game situations and Despres in the minors. In your opinion, do you believe the roster and lineups have been used to their fullest potential this year?
Shelly Anderson: Many of the scenarios you mention have come about because of injuries. Dan Bylsma has given at least a cursory look at all sorts of combinations, some seemingly more plausible than others, but with more than 300 man-games lost, it's not a simple or easy task. As for Simon Despres, while it would seem he could benefit from playing in the NHL at this stage, not sure who you would sit to do that, given Bylsma's desire to have Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin form a shutdown pair, and Rob Scuderi play with Kris Letang (pairings that were disrupted for stretches because of injuries and might still be rounding into form), the really strong play of Matt Niskanen and the impressive rookie season by Olli Maatta.
Mark: Would you want Jagr back? and do you see it actually happening?
Shelly Anderson: Jaromir Jagr is impressive at nearly 42, no doubt, but, no, don't see that happening,. Probably too much baggage on both sides for that. If you remember Jagr Watch when he was ready to come back to the NHL after a few seasons in the NHL, he had the chance to play here. He chose more money, and he voiced concern about playing time, particularly on the power play.
The Chief: Shelly, the Penguins are 7-2-1 in their last ten games but have lost to the Oilers (OT), Panthers and Stars. Cause for concern or is it merely the Pens playing to their competitions level?
Shelly Anderson: Playing to their competition level would be, in itself, cause for concern, and there seems to be at least some of that going on. Good thing they're playing Buffalo tonight, eh?
The Chief: Obviously if Shero is going to make a trade it will be one of our D for a top six winger. With that in mind look into your crystal ball and tell us, barring injuries, who will be the Penguins top 6 Defensemen for the beginning of the 2014/15 season!
Shelly Anderson: Not at all sure that's obvious. It's true the Penguins have assets on defense, but the price for a top-six winger will be steep, particularly if it's one who is signed beyond this summer. You would have to think that Ray Shero, after last season, would be more inclined to chase "hockey trades" than pursue rental players. Plus, it's possible he sees help among the bottom-six fowards as a bigger need.
HFBOARDS: My main question is should Fleury take his job a bit more serious than he does? He fulls around too much in practise when his technic is in serious question. Like; he's in the butterfly when the pucks behind the net sliding from side to side. He's constantly going into or.. already in the butterfly when shots are coming in from 20/30 feet out. So many shots get tipped and he's now stuck and they'll go high glove on him. Does he not need to stay on his skates more and actually make a save look easy because that's what it should be. He just makes the saves look much harder than they truly are. If he's on his angle and on his skates there is no where for the puck to go if it's tipped or not.
Shelly Anderson: It would be too bad if Marc-Andre Fleury stifled his wonderful personality. That said, it seems as if he is more businesslike in his approach, particularly on game days. As for his technique, don't want to say I'm an expert there, but over the years he has cut down on those scrambly saves saves that rely heavily on athleticism and seems to be more prepared and sound. As mentioned earlier, though, he will be measured on what he does in the playoffs.
Jack: Any news on injured players Bennett and Vitale? When can we look forward to seeing Bennett light the league on fire with Sid and Vitale back to dominating the faceoff dot?
Shelly Anderson: Looking like they won't be back until after the Olympic break, most likely.
Shelly Anderson: OK, thanks for the questions. Had a boatload of them today and wish I had time to get to all of them. Please come back next Monday and we'll chat again.