Hello good friends, and welcome back to another year of Penguins hockey. Fitting for the way their season ended last year the Penguins open training camp today on Friday the 13th. Back your bags, make sure you bring enough changes of underwear and some sandals so your feet never have to hit the shower floor and let’s go camping.
For a brief summer recap, the Penguins enter this year’s camp after the longest offseason in quite some time. Sidney Crosby hasn’t had an offseason this long since his first year in the league when the team failed to make the playoffs. This was the longest offseason of Evgeni Malkin’s career (if we ignore the strike year). These statements both tell you that the ending to last season was abrupt and shocking and that we have had the privilege of watching some pretty good hockey teams for the last 12 years. As most of you know I took a hiatus last season, and spent most of this offseason out of the Penguins news, so to help me help you let’s recap some moves that happened over the summer:
- Phil Kessel was shipped to Arizona for an immediate replacement in Galchenyuk as well as a stout defensive prospect in Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Swapping the forwards isn’t as big of a deal in retrospect, but the addition of POJ makes this deal lean in the Pens favor.
- Olli Maatta was sent to Chicago for Dominik Kahun, no word on if Maatta has made it to Chicago yet. Kahun is a young forward with a good amount of upside, known for finding open areas of the ice. He will either fit in nicely on the second line, or more reasonably tighten up the bottom six which is never a bad thing. The day Maatta was traded Jack Johnson claimed the #3, the quickest we’ve ever seen him cover a jersey.
- Bill Guerin is no longer in the front office after taking the gig up in Minnesota as the new GM. It’s tough to judge what assistant GMs bring to a team and I’m not going to be like most of the media and pretend like I know. Guerin’s first signing was for a depth forward for 2 years, so he has already proven to me that he was smart and learned what not to do from GMJR.
- Marcus Pettersson is finally a Penguin. The RFA signed a sub $1 million dollar one year deal yesterday. Hell of a signing by Rutherford, but also tells you that Petterrsson is a good freaking dude. He could’ve held out for his worth (Marner), or headed to arbitration where he would’ve gotten at least a million, but took a deal well below what he was worth to help the team. I’m entirely convinced that GMJR attempted to move Johnson all summer, but surprise nobody wanted him, and this deal was signed with a gentleman’s agreement that next summer Petteerrsson gets Johnson’s salary.
- Brandon Tanev signed a deal that make him and Crosby the only two active players signed until 2025. One of these players belongs on a long term deal, the other doesn’t.
- Rob Rossi wrote a great article about the struggles within the mind and personal life of Evgeni Malkin, but then he had to Rob Rossi it and make up a slew of fake quotes because that’s what he does. Rossi even admitted in the comments of his own article that he made up the Malkin wanting a trade if Kessel remained bit. I stand by my decision for canceling my Athletic Subscription the day they hired him.
Welcome to Camp
It’s finally here! The Pirates were eliminated the same time the Penguins were, the Steelers were destroyed by the Patriots for the 200th year in a row, and the weather is getting that crispiness to it that tells you hockey is back. It is entirely too early to make roster predictions, but I am going to break down each of the training camp “teams” to see what Sullivan may be thinking within each group.
On the Run with Team Number One
Forwards: No surprise to see Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the same team even this early. Mike Sullivan loves his forward pairs, and 87-59 are the top line pair without any debate. The other forwards in the group with NHL experience are Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Kahun, both likely to fight for the 3rd spot up top. Young players to watch from this group include Jordy Bellerive who missed camp last year after a freak campfire explosion, Sam Lafferty and Sam Miletic. The Penguins 2019 first-round draft pick Sam Poulin is also in this group. That is a lot of Sam’s.
Defense: The news of the day was Jack Johnson and Kris Letang being together, which means nothing but some people think it’s something. I like that Sullivan added POJ to this group, a former first-round pick, to get reps alongside Letang. Other notable defenders are career 7th men but better than Johnson Chad Ruhwedel and David Warsofsky, who has returned for another stint with the Pens after spending last season in like Colorado or something.
Goalies: Matthew Barnaby Murray and Alex D’Orio. Murray needs no introduction. D’Orio, the undrafted 20-year-old Canadian was impressive during the prospects tournament and really turned some heads along with another goalie to be named later.
Hey Team 2 What is New?
Forwards: Keeping with the pairs you knew team 2 would start with Evgeni Malkin, and it makes sense that Galchenyuk would fill in there as well. Other NHL notables on the team trying to make that second line are Bryan Rust and Brandon Tanev. The team also conveniently has Teddy Blueger on it, who will most likely be the 4th line center with Matt Cullen finally retiring. This is a smart move because Rust and Tanev could just as easily play on the 4th as the 2nd. Young guys to note in this group are Joseph Blandisi and Adam Johnson. Many in the organization think Johnson is the most NHL ready and will be the first call-up if he doesn’t make the full roster out of the gate.
Defense: The man, the myth, the legend Brian Dumoulin leads the defense along with Gudbranson. 2018 2nd round pick (and a steal at #53 overall) Calen Addison is in the group and is someone you should get to know. The 19-year-old Addison is the youngest player on the team roster at camp and has been a stud in juniors.
Goalies: Casey DeSmith is set to be the Pens back-up after stealing the job from Tristan Jarry. Jarry, who falls lower and lower in the Pens depth chart is not the second goalie on team 2 either. That position is held by the undrafted 22-year-old Finnish born Emil Larmi. Larmi has won over the Pens with an infectious personality and some really solid play in net both overseas and during the prospects tournament.
Team Three What About Thee?
Team 3 has the most players on it, but that makes sense if it is supposed to be an attempt to find players who gel for a bottom-six that the Pens haven’t had in a few years.
Forwards: New 3rd line center Nick Bjugstad and energy ball Jared McCann are the central focus of this group. They are surrounded by fancy stat darling Dominik Simon and Patric Hornqvist. The Rust-Bjugstad-Hornqvist third line used down the stretch last season was something I bet we see reincarnated sooner rather than later. NHL hopeful Kasper Bjorkqvist is in this group, you probably already know him from his ridiculous gym sessions. The Pens are high on the 2016 61st pick, and if the 22-year-old Finn can translate is gym strength into hockey strength he will be nearly impossible to remove from the puck down low.
Defense: Justin Schultz looks to erase a forgettable year last year as he suits up for the final year of his 5.5 million dollar deal. His NHL partner in the group is Marcus Pettersson. Jusso Riikola is also in this group as he tries to show the team that a year of adjusting to North American ice is all he needed to be a full-time NHLer.
Goalies: The once touted Tristan Jarry leads this group. The Pens traded up in 2013 to get Jarry at 44 overall, but he hasn’t developed as well as hoped. Jarry is currently on the brink of losing his AHL starting job to the likes of Larmi and D’Orio. With this being the last year of his RFA contract, the Tom and Jarry show may be discontinued on your local network.
Personal Update: I want to thank everyone who reached out last year when I was going through some struggles, and I also want to thank everyone who took over and helped keep this place running during that time. I took the time to figure things out and have since graduated medical school and passed all licensing exams so you can officially call me “Doc.” I also got married over the summer to my rock of ten years and wanted to thank all of you for the happy wishes with that and a special thanks to Ungaba who flew all the way to Savannah to take in the celebration, as well as his share of free bourbon. With med school graduation comes a new chapter, and with my application for residency going out this Sunday and interviews starting between October and January I am afraid the end is near for this guy. I won’t know where I am going until March, and I don’t start until July which allows me to cover the blog with all of you for the rest of this year. After that, it will be 80 hour weeks on the wards and there simply will not be enough time for me to carry on with this site.
I have done a little personal digging during my time away. I am excited to write again for this season, and I am hoping to bring a fresh mindset. I’ve mentioned before that writing every day started to feel like a job, and I started taking the team too seriously, I started taking my role too seriously. This is just a sport. I intend to bring back that childish passion I have for this sport through my writings this year. I’m talking about getting excited over the sound of steel against ice, excited. I’m not going to complain as much, it’s silly really. If you have a 3.2% chance of winning the lottery you won’t be devastated to hear you didn’t win, so why do we get so upset over not winning the Stanley Cup with those same odds? That’s my approach this season. I’m not saying the Pens won’t win, because I’m actually pretty stoked for this season and think this team has a shot at something special. What I am saying is I’m not going to dive into fancy stats as much, others are way better at that stuff anyway. I am simply going to do what makes me happy, and that is writing about the Pittsburgh Penguins without any censors, and with a true love for the team, and more importantly the sport, regardless of the outcome. That is what built this site, and that’s what I am going to do. It might not always be pretty and with John Joseph Louis “Jack” Johnson the III on the roster that’s a guarantee, but I vow to bring you fun coverage of the Penguins. The media is choking itself over getting the first take out, over what they know and why they know it better, over what their sources say. This view that because it is your job to write about a team means you know what is best for the team drives me crazy, and I started to act that way over the last season. I no longer have an idea of what is best for the team, because I just took a DNA test and it turns out I am not the two time Stanley Cup Champion coach that is behind the bench. Instead, I have an idea of what good hockey looks like and what bad hockey looks like, and that’s what I am going to discuss. For this season, I’m just going to describe my views and try to make you laugh, because if I make even one of you laugh that day it makes me happy. This season is all about fun. Thanks for reading, this was a little long-winded, but let’s go boys!