The Penguins have finished yet another season. In what was one of the most whirlwind in Penguins’ history, The Penguins were able to hoist Lord Stanley on Sunday night. Through what was a shaky start, but unbelievable finish, Let’s Talk Pens is taking some time to review the season as a whole by reviewing players, our head coach, and general manager. The rankings will be in alpahbetical order. It will be separated by position. Playoff stats are not included.
- FRONT OFFICE
General Manager Jim Rutherford (A+)
Good old GMJR had conducted a pretty nice base roster coming into the season. I was happy with his offseason acquisitions like Eric Fehr, Matt Cullen, and Nick Bonino just to name a few. He had a ton of pressure coming into this season from the fans to build a roster that could be deep enough to move out of the first round of the playoffs and it remains to be seen. After getting out of the gates slowly, Rutherford patched up the holes quickly. He fired former head coach Mike Johnston on December 13th and acquired defenseman Trevor Daley as well as forward Carl Hagelin. It is apparent that none of these moves hurt the Penguins in any way as they finally won the Cup again.
Head Coach Mike Sullivan (A+)
Is it even feasible to give Sullivan anything less than an A+? Let’s be honest. This team has been unreal under Sullivan. He allowed everyone to play their style of game instead of being trapped in a “defense-first” mentality by Johnston. He was able to give his input to Rutherford about which guys to bring up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He changed the identity of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He helped guide them to a Stanley Cup. He did it. Sullivan did it. Now we’ve got our coach going forward for hopefully the next couple of years.
Winger Beau Bennett (33 GP, 6 G, 6 A, 12 PTS) (C+)
Bennett wasn’t terrible this season. He got to play with Sidney Crosby towards the beginning of the season until his was injured in two different instances, one celebrating and the other a bit from Washington Capitals TJ Oshie. He looked capable when he played but as usual, he stayed out most of this season with injuries.
Center Nick Bonino (63 GP, 9 G, 20 A, 29 PTS) (C+)
It’s tough to rate “Bones” season too high. Despite his tremendous postseason play, he really struggled to get going this season. He started out miserably posting only 10 points in his first 40 games. He then suffered a wrist injury which sidelined him for a month. Once the Penguins made a trade for Carl Hagelin, the Pens tried a Hagelin-Bonino-Phil Kessel line. From there, it’s been pretty much easy sledding for Bonino.
Center Sidney Crosby (80 GP, 36 G, 49 A, 85 PTS) (A-)
In the worst season of his career, Crosby still finished third in the league in scoring. He was a vital part in the turnaround after Sullivan went behind the bench. Despite his early season struggles he took initiative to help lead his team to a great season. P.S. He made it a little bit further than Toews did.
Center Matt Cullen (82 GP, 16 G, 16 A, 32 PTS) (A+)
The 39-year old is easily worthy of an A+ rating for this season. Not many fourth line centers, let alone 39-year olds, put up 16 goals and helped his team win some critical games. He mentored all the young guys and managed to do very well in the role he was given. Not many free agents signings this offseason trumped what he did this season.
Winger Eric Fehr (55 GP, 8 G, 6 A, 14 PTS) (C-)
Fehr had an average season. He signed a three year deal so the Penguins will hope for more offensive versatility next season. He’s shown he’s capable of scoring 20 goals but he also played a pivotal role in the team’s penalty kill. He blocked a lot of shots and was an instrumental part in the team’s defensive play.
Winger Carl Hagelin (80 GP, 14 G, 25 A, 39 PTS) (A-)
The stat line for the overall season doesn’t show it, but Hagelin had a tremendous season for the Penguins in the 54 games he’s played with the Penguins, counting the playoffs. He’s had success with Kessel and Bonino on the HBK line and is a quick presence the Penguins lacked to begin the year before trading him for David Perron. Hagelin deserves every bit of praise and playing time he’s given by Mike Sullivan.
Winger Patric Hornqvist (82 GP, 22 G, 29 A, 59 PTS) (B+)
The theme here is that everyone started slow under Mike Johnston, especially Hornqvist. But there was no hiding the fact that Hornqvist was a vital part of the team’s success and playoff run this season. He and Crosby heated up at the same time which proved deadly for teams down the stretch and ‘Horny’ helped power the #PartyHard movement.
Winger Phil Kessel (82 GP, 26 G, 33 A, 59 PTS) (A-)
“The Thrill” had himself a nice beginning season in Pittsburgh. After being acquired on July 1, the stud saw himself play with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and then man his own line with Bonino and Hagelin. He had a solid 26 goals after really turning it on when Hagelin was acquired. He was also a vital part of Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup Playoff run. Up yours, Toronto.
Winger Tom Kuhnhackl (42 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 PTS) (B-)
He did a lot for the Penguins on the penalty killing side of the puck and was one of those vital WBS call ups that received a brand new contract early on in the year. I had originally thought he was a terrible presence to the team, but he did all the little things that didn’t show up on the score sheet and was tremendously overlooked. His first ever goal was pretty sweet, too.
Winger Chris Kunitz (80 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 PTS) (D-)
It’s obvious that you would expect a little more than 40 points of a guy playing with Sidney Crosby. I don’t care that Kunitz is 36 years old, he’s not the same player he was. His style of hockey has worn his body down and made him a shell of his former self. Kunitz is no longer a piece that fits the Penguins’ identity heading into next season.
Center Evgeni Malkin (57 GP, 27 G, 31 A, 58 PTS) (B+)
Geno ended up being a point per game regular season player but decided to disappear in the playoffs. He really lacked in every series but the Rangers series and wasn’t the same Malkin we know and love. Was he still injured? Maybe. But Malkin better perform on a higher level going forward. After battling through injuries and being a trooper, I’ll give him the B+.
Center Kevin Porter (41 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS) (D-)
Well, when I researched Porter’s stats I was surprised to find he had played 41 games. He really never amounted much steam in Pittsburgh’s offense this year and I never heard his name except for when Pierre McGuire decided to give us all the information he knows about Kevin Porter’s hockey career before the NHL. Porter’s season ended early when he broke his ankle.
Winger Bryan Rust (41 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 PTS) (C+)
It’s hard to give this guy such a low grade, but it’s hard not to admit that he had stone hands in his umpteen breakaways this season. He is a very quick skater though and scored throughout the playoffs. If he finds a way to score on a few more opportunities, you’re looking at a potential winger for Sidney Crosby in a few years time.
Winger Conor Sheary (44 GP, 7 G, 3 A, 10 PTS) (C-)
Sheary seemed to be a spark for the Pens at times and lost during others. His 7 goals fit in quite nicely with the club and his ability to create space for his liberate Sidney Crosby made him a dynamic player. If he can find a way to fight off being a very undersized NHL player, he could have a lucrative career ahead of him.
Winger Daniel Sprong (18 GP, 2 G, 0 A, 2 PTS) (C-)
Sprong’s Pittsburgh tenure was short. He played 18 games and never received much ice time at all, along with being scratched for a multitude of games as well. Maybe the Penguins had him on the team too early, maybe not. But it’s obvious that the coaching staff never trusted him. He really tore it up for WBS this season and was an end of season call up for the Pens’ Cup run. He received this grade because I didn’t get to see a lot of him, but he wasn’t terrible in his time in Pittsburgh.
Center Oskar Sundqvist (18 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS) (C+)
Sundqvist was around what the Pens had expected. He played a very good defensive game and didn’t score as much as the team wanted him to. He was solid and will be a nice 13th forward for the Pens next season.
Winger Scott Wilson (24 GP, 5 G, 1 A, 6 PTS) (B-)
Scott Wilson was my favorite WBS call-up at first to be quite honest. Th game he brings was pretty electric. He knew how to score and was able to dish some nice passes that allowed his linemates to be some pretty top notch talent on the ice. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after suffering a leg injury. I really hope the Pens go back to using Wilson next season as I feel he brings the speed and talent neccesary to play on this team.
D-Man Ian Cole (70 GP, 0 G, 12 A, 12 PTS) (C+)
I do realize that Ian Cole was part of the Pens’ shut down pair in the postseason and he played the role very well. Let’s not forget though that he was awful to begin the year. And I mean plain awful. Anytime the Pens were scored on, it was Cole who was out on the ice. He never scored this year but once February hit, it’s almost like Cole never even missed a beat. He was great after a series of healthy scratches and it was huge for the Pens regrouping defense heading towards the playoffs.
D-Man Trevor Daley (82 GP, 6 G, 22 A, 28 PTS) (A+)
Man, the best trade Jim Rutherford has made in his career to date: Trevor Daley for Rob Scuderi. This man was absolutely incredible. He was injured in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning and unfortunately never got to play in the Stanley Cup Final but was an outstanding presence when he did play. He contributed to just about every part of the Pens’ game and it was a gracious deal from the Blackhawks. Jim Rutherford knows when someone is a little tipsy, I think Stan Bowman was the night that deal was made.
D-Man Brian Dumoulin (79 GP, 0 G, 16 A , 16 PTS) (A+)
Under the radar because of his style of play, Brian Dumoulin had a season that exceeded expectations. He never scored in the regular season but had two very clutch playoff goals. He was matched up against the top stars of every team, including Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals during that playoff series. He scored one goal. That type of defensive nightmare who was considered the least known defenseman heading into the season was Dumoulin.
D-Man Kris Letang (71 GP, 16 G, 51 A, 67 PTS) (B+)
See, Letang’s numbers would usually cause me to give him an A overall grade. I absolutely hated his play before December 31. I refuse to forget how bad he was. Him and Cole were paired together and just playing awful. Letang’s strong play powered the Pens to the playoffs though along with help from Crosby and Malkin and the team’s stars.
D-Man Ben Lovejoy (66 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 PTS) (C+)
Lovejoy is in the same boat as Ian Cole. He was kind of just meh in the regular season. He was a huge factor in the Pens postseason run playing valuable minutes on the team’s shutdown defense pair. He scored a few goals too, which isn’t something Lovejoy is known for. His veteran presence helped ‘The Reverend’ keep peace.
D-Man Olli Maatta (67 GP, 6 G, 13 A, 19 PTS) (B-)
You know what? I’ll give the kid a break. After all he’s been through, Maatta deserves one. The cancer, the surgery, the meltdowns against the team’s playoff opponents until late in the Eastern Conferencd Finals on forward, this kid was huge when the time mattered. He really stepped up his game and helped drive the Pens toward a Stanley Cup championship. Now time to serve his mandatory Finnish army service.
D-Man Derrick Pouliot (22 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 PTS) (D-)
This one is a head scratcher. The Pens used a first round pick on Pouliot and he was supposed to be an offensive force for the Pens. Instead, he’s developed a lot slower than he was supposed to and really never became anything the Pens want so far. He was playing well and then played himself out of a lineup spot for good down the stretch. We’ll see if he’s a Penguin next season or not.
D-Man Justin Schultz (63 GP, 4 G, 14 A, 18 PTS) (A-)
Justin Schultz was a trade deadline acquisition. He filled his role nicely and I think the Pens will look to bring him back next season if the money is right. Schultz, a former Edmonton first round pick, was an afterthought on that team and constantly under the microscope. Not too many Edmonton defenseman are good, but Pens defenseman are, and he fit in nicely.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (58 GS, 35-17-6, .921 SV%, 2.29 GAA) (A+)
People outside of Pittsburgh know Fleury for his constant playoff meltdowns and don’t realize that without him, the Pens don’t stay afloat in the Mike Johnston era and quite possibly don’t even make the playoffs. People inside of Pittsburgh forget that Fleury is still a goalie for the Pens. Fleury was the absolute rock of the team until he went down with a concussion. He played one playoff game and was then pulled in favor of rookie Matt Murray. I’ll always remember you Flower. You’re the man.
Goalie Matt Murray (13 GS, 9-2-1, .930 SV%, 2.00 GAA) (B+)
I have wanted to see Matt Murray since the Pens drafted him day one. He became a star quickly after setting AHL records. But his performance in the playoffs was overhyped in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, he was great at times. But no matter what you say, I can argue that 65% of the goals he gave up were very weak and could’ve been saves. Yes, he’s a rookie and nerves could’ve been a factor. In my opinion, he doesn’t tie the rookie record for playoff wins as a goaltender without the bailing out of his teammates.
Goalie Jeff Zatkoff (11 GS, 4-7-1, .917 SV%, 2.79 GAA) (B-)
Zatkoff was up and down. He really didn’t play terribly for a back up goalie and people forget that. But, who can overlook him getting a split against the Rangers in round one. That really helped the Pens going forward. Zatkoff becomes a free agent now that the season is over.
So after an unbelievable season, the Pens win the Cup and I graded players based on my interpretations of how they played. Holler at me with your agreements, criticisms, etc. @LetsTalkPens.