When Ray Shero was the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was able to draft D Derrick Pouliot with a pick that he acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina.
The Shero regime was high on Derrick Pouliot but kept him in the minor leagues for some much needed seasoning. He finally got called to the NHL and scored on his first career shot against the Florida Panthers. He’d had a rocky road and never became a consistent starter.
It finally looked as though Pouliot’s chance to be an everyday player had arrived when Ben Lovejoy and Justin Schultz hit free agency. Then just like that, Justin Schultz was a Penguin again.
It’s clear that this regime with Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan is clearly not part of the believers who think Derrick Pouliot can be a legitimate NHL top-4 defenseman. They have made that clear by making him a healthy scratch on a regular basis.
Many of us can see that Pouliot might have some serious offensive skill. That’s his problem. He’s too reliant on himself to make offensive plays. He does too much skating and turns the puck over. His defensive game needs some fixing as well. If he puts it together, he can be an incredible defenseman.
Will the Penguins allow Pouliot to be part of the mix in Pittsburgh it will he be showcased and eventually shipped off to another team?
It’s likely that the fans wouldn’t be happy about the return for Pouliot after the potential he has to be a top defenseman. But the NHL market doesn’t play for potential, it plays for results and Pouliot hasn’t put up enough results.
The Penguins are almost certainly going to face some type of injury along the grueling 82-game schedule. That would pave the way for Pouliot to see time. I’d also imagine they’d be willing to let Pouliot play over someone who is struggling throughout the year and make him available.
He won’t have a starting job out of camp because the Penguins lines will likely consist of Kris Letang playing with Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley with Brian Dumoulin, and Ian Cole alongside Justin Schultz.
The Penguins will have a choice to make with Daley next offseason, though. As he will play his final season on his current contract, Daley’s success with the Pens last year is going to be tough to match for someone who wasn’t expected to do as he did. If the Penguins are willing to wait one more season to get Pouliot consistent top six minutes, they may hold on to 51.
They may even trade Trevor Daley at deadline time to give Pouliot the chance, but he’d still have to wait until March for that opportunity.
Ian Cole seems like the one who would be scratched first if the Penguins want to see some action from their former first round selection in Pouliot.
As we began to se least year, it seemed like Pouliot had finally gained some confidence skating with the puck, something he struggled mildly with previously. His defensive game was his true Achilles heal. He has always been one to be lazier on the back check and not finish his checks.
I still don’t think Derrick Pouliot has hit the roof. In fact, I know he hasn’t. He hasn’t had enough NHL ice time to show whether he was worth the pick. But he’s not getting any younger and the Penguins still don’t seem to have a plan for him as far as he pertains to their organization.
Their eventual move will probably be to trade him. They’re going to end up getting back fair market value for a guy with minimal results in minimal NHL time. If he shines somewhere else, which could very well happen, the Penguins will look dumb for trading him. That’s the game you play as a general manager. Jim Rutherford has done it well.