Penguins do not need to act desperate
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Is it just me or do the Penguins seem desperate to add a winger? First, they tried hard for Zach Parise, but lost out on him to the Minnesota Wild. They have made an offer to Shane Doan, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson reported Monday. Coach Dan Bylsma has said they are interested in Alexander Semin.
Aren't the Penguins just fine as they are?
Won't they have a good chance to compete for the Stanley Cup again next season, if there is a next season?
That doesn't mean the pursuit of Parise didn't make sense. He's a dynamic player who would have looked wonderful on Sidney Crosby's wing. The Wild didn't give Parise a 13-year, $98 million contract for no reason. There was no way the Penguins could match those numbers.
But going after Doan, who really wants to stay with the Phoenix Coyotes but has concerns about their ownership situation?
And especially going after Semin, whose desire to get away from the Washington Capitals is matched only by the team's eagerness to see him leave?
Give me the status quo, thank you very much.
I'd rather see the Penguins start the season as is, then re-evaluate at the trade deadline. The money they would save by not signing Doan or Semin could be used to make a move -- even a major move -- to replace an injured player or fill a hole before the playoffs. The regular season hardly matters. The playoffs are all that counts. That was clear again last season when the Los Angeles Kings struggled for months before getting hot and winning the Stanley Cup. Certainly, it was clear here when the Penguins went into the playoffs as the overwhelming favorite to win the Cup and went out in six games in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Doan has scored 318 NHL goals, including 22 last season for the Coyotes. He's big, tough and gritty, but he's also older and slower. It's fair to wonder if he still has the speed to play with Crosby.
There's no doubt Doan would be good in the room. He has been the captain in Phoenix. But leadership isn't a problem with the Penguins. Crosby has been a terrific captain and will be even better if he stays healthy and plays in most of the games. It's hard to be a great leader if you can't perform. Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz could wear an "A" for me anytime.
If the Penguins insist on a new forward, it's better they bring in Doan than the underachieving Semin, who, despite superb skills, always seemed to leave the Capitals wanting so much more. Maybe a change would mature him. Maybe he would benefit being around Crosby a lot more than he did playing with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Maybe fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin could school him a little on what it means to be a professional.
Or maybe not.
Semin, 28, made $6.7 million last season and, presumably, isn't interested in taking a big pay cut despite the fact his goals dropped to 21 last season from 28 the year before and 40 the year before that. He is not worth the risk.
Which brings us back to the status quo.
At this moment, the Penguins are a worse team than the one that finished last season. One reason is the loss of free agent Steve Sullivan, who played well on their power play. A bigger reason is the trade involving Jordan Staal. The Penguins had to do the deal with the Carolina Hurricanes because Staal wanted a bigger role and wanted to play with his brother, Eric. It might turn out to be a better trade for the Penguins in the long haul because they added defensive prospects Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin in addition to center Brandon Sutter. But, for the short term, Sutter isn't as good as Staal.
Don't be discouraged.
The Penguins have a chance to quickly become better than last season. By all accounts, Crosby is free of concussion-like symptoms and training again, as he typically does, like a madman. He will go into the season with a full training camp. It won't take him long to take his place again as the best player in the world.
Malkin is coming off a season in which he scored 50 goals and was the NHL's Most Valuable Player. James Neal scored 40 goals last season. Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis had strong seasons and played well with Crosby two years ago before the first of Crosby's concussions. Matt Cooke scored 19 goals last season and earned the chance to play a bigger role. Tyler Kennedy could help more than he did last season. He proved that the year before.
Goals shouldn't be a problem.
The Penguins aren't panicking about their defense because they know it was pretty good all season before collapsing down the stretch and in the playoffs. Kris Letang is on his way to stardom. The team isn't as down on Paul Martin as you are; it expects him to have a big bounce-back season. It's time to look at some of the young defensemen, not just Simon Despres, who is a lock to make the team, but Robert Bortuzzo and Joe Morrow. Remember, you don't judge those kids based on what they do in October and November. You judge them in February and March.
The goaltending is better now that Tomas Vokoun has been signed to ease the work load on Marc-Andre Fleury and perhaps push him to perform better. Fleury was awful against the Flyers after having an outstanding regular season.
Obviously, the right players have to stay healthy. That would be Malkin, Neal, Letang, Fleury and, especially, Crosby. But good health is a must for any Cup contender. You have to go into the season expecting your stars to shine from start to finish.
With that assumption, I like the Penguins' chances just as they are. They don't have to be desperate to add any player.
First Published July 18, 2012 12:00 am