Category Archives: Penguins

Penguins Organizational Depth Chart

FORWARDS
AHL contracted players are in itallics

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Jake Guentzel Sidney Crosby Phil Kessel
Conor Sheary Evgeni Malkin Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson Carter Rowney Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin Ryan Reaves
Tom Kuhnhackl Josh Archibald
Minor Leagues
Zach
Aston-Reese
Greg McKegg Daniel Sprong
Dominik Simon Teddy Bluegers Tom Kostopoulos
Thomas DiPauli JS Dea (RFA) Garret Wilson
Frederik Tieffels Colin Smith Patrick McGrath
Tom Sestito Troy Joseph  Reid Gardnier
Adam Johnson Jarrett Burton Ryan Haggerty
Cody Wydo Riley Bourbannis 
Gage Quinney 

DEFENSE AND GOALIES
AHL contracted players are in italics

LD RD G
Brian Dumoulin Kris Letang Matt Murray
Olli Maatta Justin Schultz Antti Niemi
Ian Cole Matt Hunwick
Derrick Pouliot  Chad Ruhwedel
Minor Leagues
Chris Summers Frank Corrado Tristan Jarry
Jarred Tinordi Zach Trotman Casey DeSmith
Jeff Taylor Lukas Bengtsson Sean Maguire
Kevin Czuczman Ethan Prow
Dlyan Zink

WBS Penguins Finalize Coaching Staff

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have hired Tim Army as an assistant coach for the 2017-2018 season, finalizing their coaching staff for the season.

The 54 year old coach brings a wealth of experience, with 15 years as an NHL assistant. Most recently serving an assistant coach for the past 6 seasons at the Colorado Avalanche, Army has been coaching since 1987, serving as an assistant and head coach at Providence College as well as spending 3 years as the head coach of the Portland Pirates from 2002 to 2005.

Some WBS fans may recognize the surname Army for other reasons, as Tim’s son, Derek appeared in 13 games for the Baby Penguins in 2015-16 on loan from the Wheeling Nailers, where he was contracted for the last 3 years before earning an AHL contract with Milwaukee.

The hiring of Tim Army completes the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coaching staff with Clark Donatelli returning as head coach fresh off an AHL best 51-20-5 record last year in his first full year coaching the team. This success led to Donatelli being selected to coach the USA U18 National Team in the Ivan Hlinka tournament for the second consecutive year this August.

This year, he got to bring along his WBS assistant JD Forrest, who also returns as an assistant for the 2017-2018 season. Plucked out of the relative obscurity of head coaching an Austrian based junior all-star team funded by Red Bull, Forrest took the lead on the development of some of the younger guys in WBS and was one of the coaches relied upon for development instruction at the Penguins Development Camp that took place in late June/early July.

The vacancy Army filled was created by Chris Taylor returning to head coach the Rochester Americans after spending one year in WBS as an assistant. Replacing Taylor’s experience as an assistant AHL coach with Army’s great breadth of experiences as an NHL, NCAA and AHL coach will only stand to create a stronger AHL coach staff.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roster Preview: Right Wing

It’s the third installment of this series and we start to see somewhat of a hole in the Penguins system, with only one of the players on an NHL contract being a right handed right winger. JS Dea may see some time on RW as we covered in the previous preview, but for now, we’ll consider him a C. I’m also going to include Cody Wydo who signed on the day of my writing this article, even though he’s a LW. WBS seems to conspire against me.

Daniel Sprong, AHL Experience : Rookie

Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

As I mentioned in a previous article, Daniel Sprong has been covered from pretty much every angle by any media associated with the Penguins and there isn’t much left to say about him. While I expect him to start in the AHL, if he translates as well to the pro game as is expected, he’ll be up with the Penguins by the turn of 2018. Expect him to produce at a 40 goal pace while he is in the AHL.

Tom Kostopolous, AHL Experience : 11 Years

Kostopoulos

A consummate professional entering his 5th year in his current stint with the Baby Penguins and his 5th year as captain, Tom Kostopolous has had an offensive resurgence. Since signing with the WBS Penguins in 2013-2014, Kostopolous has consistently scored at over 0.5 PPG and has seen his offensive production increase over the last two seasons. Expect more of Kostopolous being a versatile piece for WBS this year bouncing between top 6 and bottom 6 depending on the call up situation. 20 goals and 30 assists is a solid estimate for what is to be expected from Kostopolous.

Garrett Wilson, AHL Experience: 6 Years

Garrett Wilson

Fresh off signing a 2 year extension with the Penguins, Garrett Wilson is usually more of a left winger, but given his experience and WBS’ lack of right wingers, I expect him to play on his off wing. Not a particularly dynamic offensive player, scoring just 31 points in 59 games last year, Wilson works extremely hard and has significant leadership abilities serving as an alternate captain last year. I expect Wilson to retain his alternate captaincy this year as he is the only one of the four 2016-2017 alternates to return this year. As for scoring, Wilson will be in a bottom 6 role for much of the year depending on call ups, and I expect 15 goals, 20 assists from him if he plays a full schedule.

Patrick McGrath, AHL Experience : 3 Years

McGrath

Patrick McGrath is best known for his ability to get punched in the face and generally being an irritating presence. A fan favorite and Wilkes-Barre local, McGrath is all heart, with noted fighters Tyler Randall of Providence, Tanner Glass of Hartford and Eric Selleck formerly of Syracuse all on his card and all of whom are significantly taller than McGrath. Despite his height disadvantage against most AHL tough guys at 5’10, McGrath will fight anyone at any time for basically any reason. Questionable effectiveness as a hockey player, incredibly entertaining none the less. He will split time between WBS and Wheeling pretty consistently. As for a prediction on points, I expect 2-3 goals and 4-5 assists depending on how much time he plays with WBS.

Reid Gardiner, AHL Experience: 1 Year

Kamloops Blazers v Kelowna Rockets

I had honestly expected the Penguins to roll the dice on Reid Gardiner on an ELC given the promise he showed in the half season he played in WBS before returning to junior for an avearge year with Kelowna. While playing in the WHL, he scored an impressive 15 goals in 17 playoff games to finish 2nd  in playoff goals, one goal behind the leader who had played 5 more games. While in WBS last year, Gardiner played a lot of his time on the 4th line, but expect him to be used a little higher up the lineup as injuries and call ups occur. Gardiner falls in line with Penguins development as he was a goal scorer in junior that the Penguins are attempting to develop into more of a bottom-6 player, much along the lines of what they have done with JS Dea. Expect Gardiner to score 10-15 goals with 20 assists this year, gaining ice-time as the season progresses and potentially gaining an ELC before the end of the season.

Ryan Haggerty, AHL Experience: 3 Years

Haggerty.jpg

Another later signing, Ryan Haggerty signed for another year with the Baby Penguins on Thursday morning. A solid bottom 6 player in the AHL, potting 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 games last year, expect a lot more of the same from Haggerty. There is a lot of forwards in WBS right now, so Haggerty may find himself rotated out of the lineup more than the previous year, but as has been mentioned many times over, his time and deployment will depend hugely on the injuries that occur with the NHL Penguins. I expect him to pot a similar amount to last year, 10 goals and 15 assists over a full season.

Cody Wydo, AHL Experience: 1 Year

Wydo

Special bonus preview time! Cody Wydo signed Wednesday morning for Wilkes-Barre after scoring 30 goals and 30 assists in 70 games for Wheeling last year. A graduate of Robert Morris University, Wydo gets rewarded with an AHL contract after 2 good years in the ECHL for Wheeling. While I expect Wydo to remain down there for most of the year, he’ll see some time in WBS when injuries and call ups happen. If that happens, I’d be interested to see what he can produce as admittedly, I haven’t see much of Wydo as Wheeling doesn’t get great coverage!

COLUMN: The Man Sidney Crosby Has Become

On his 30th birthday, Sidney Crosby can reflect on his NHL career and probably be pretty proud of it. He’s accomplished things in his career that few other players have ever, or may ever, accomplish. 

As someone who just celebrated (and I use that term losely) this milestone birthday five days ago, it feels like the end of an era of your life. You could easily take a second  or two to reflect on what you’ve done with the first 30 years of your life. 

With the hopes of a hockey organization and an entire city weighing on his 18 year-old shoulders, Crosby had to live up to the hype to be the second savior this franchise needed. 

And if there’s any indication of who Sid is, he’s probably not spending much time reflecting on the past 12 years of his hockey career, rather, he’s probably focusing on the upcoming season and making sure the Stanley Cup stays in Pittsburgh for at least another year. So, we’ll reflect for you, Sid.

Crosby is a polarizing figure in hockey. Few can argue that he’s not the best player in the world. As a matter of fact, the hype has been there since he was dubbed “The Next One,” in tribute to Wayne Gretzky as “The Great One.” When you’re looked at as the next Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, that’s a standard that is about as improbable as it can get. For most, it is impossible. You’re talking about the player who’s set records that will never be broken, especially in the era of the NHL we are in now.

For Sid, he wanted to establish his own legacy, and that’s a difficult thing when you start your career with the Penguins, a team in which Lemieux played for, owns, and oh yeah, you’re now living in his house. He could’ve easily been tucked away in Lemieux’s shadow, but that didn’t happen. 

After Sid had been in the league for a few years, there was a big divide among fans. You either loved him or you hated him. Funny how that happens with the greatest players. I think that is the measuring stick for whether a player is great or not; if there’s a general consensus of either love or hate with the guy and no in between. People who loved him praised him for his talent, his abilities, and his on-ice highlight reels. People who hated him wanted to say he’s a crybaby or a diver; that he’s always whining to the refs and through that, he always gets the calls from officials because he’s the league’s poster boy.

So instead of people giving the man a chance to create his own legacy and watch him grow and mature on and off the ice, people have stuck with the stereotype that people gave him when he was essentially still a teenager. They didn’t watch him be a central piece in getting the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, or get them back there the following year and win it all. They didn’t bother empathizing with him when David Steckl took more than a season away from Crosby with one blow to the head in the Winter Classic; at a time when Sid was finding the best form of his career up until that point. They didn’t watch him battle back from lingering concussion-like symptoms and nerve damage to get back to playing this violent sport at an elite level again. And then, they did watch, talk, and tweeted when Crosby seemed to lose his game under Mike Johnston‘s coaching regime.

And now under Mike Sullivan, Crosby has not only found elite form again, he’s at the best he’s ever been. It’s the reason why the Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cups. It’s not an accident that Crosby won the Conn Smythe in both Cup runs. You see, for the most part, the hockey world doesn’t look at Crosby like the average hockey fan does, with this stereotype that he’s a crybaby and a whiner. They know that version of Sid is long gone. That’s when he was Sid the Kid. Now, he’s jut Sidney Crosby: the best player in the world. At what he’s accomplished by age 30, it’s hard to find a sound argument against that. There’s few players that are hyped up so much and live up to it. He is in that select few. And he’s not done yet.

Debating The Sheary Deal: Was It Worth It?

Last week, the Penguins extended forward Conor Sheary by signing him to a 3-year, $9 million ($3 million AAV) contract. After having an unprecedented regular season for an undrafted rookie, Sheary struggled to put up points in the playoffs and was scratched for a string of games.

Our Connor Andrews and Cody Flavell debate whether or not the Sheary deal was worth it.

“Conor Sheary was totally worth it.” -Connor Andrews

Recently one of the most influential Penguins’ players during the regular season signed a three year contract with a $3 million AAV. That player is the young Conor Sheary.  This signing has gotten a lot of mixed opinions in the same way the Brian Dumoulin deal did.  Some people agree with it and some do not, I am one that agrees with the signing and will try to shed more light upon why I do.

“He is nothing without Sidney Crosby”- That is the line that has been blurted out countless times by fans everywhere that do not agree with this signing.  These fans will also point out that players such as Colby Armstrong, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis were all PPG players with Crosby, but what they won’t mention is all the players that did not mesh with Crosby as well as Sheary did.  Lee Stempniak, Jarome Iginla, Scott Wilson, David Winnik, Steve Sullivan, Beau Bennett, and countless others did not mesh with Crosby’s line.  Heck, even Phil Kessel did not work on Crosby’s line.  I personally have not seen a line mesh this well since 2012 when Kunitz and Dupuis were on Sidney Crosby’s line.  Both that line and the current line with Crosby were virtually unstoppable together when they clicked.  Playing on Crosby’s line isn’t an easy task, and Sheary has proven that he can keep up for sure.  His game is still developing and getting better as time goes on, and as time goes on he should become more of a perfect mold for Crosby’s line.

Another argument that fans opposed to this deal will say is that his playoff slump makes him unworthy of this contract.  The somewhat amusing and ironic thing is that most of the fans saying this are also the ones who wanted to pay Nick Bonino $4 million dollars despite him having just as many point as Conor Sheary during the playoffs.  Most of these fans are also the ones saying that Carl Hagelin just was in a “slump” this season and during the playoffs, and that he will have a bounceback year. Yes, Conor Sheary’s early playoff slump was not ideal, but when he broke out of it at the start of the Nashville series Crosby’s line was basically unmatched.  Another point to make is that yes, playoffs do matter a lot, but without regular season contributors are a key part.  And without big regular season contributors there may not even be a playoffs appearance for said team.

The last point to touch on is the contract itself, which in my opinion is a very good contract.  Sheary is well worth the $3 million dollar price tag, and compared to other deals around the league it isn’t a bad deal at all.  Keep in mind that fourth line players like Cal Clutterbuck are making $3.5 million per year.  The Penguins also have other cap issues to worry about, such as Hagelin’s $4 million price tag that may be moved if he doesn’t perform this year.  This deal was also a bridge deal, and with the salary cap looking like a steady $2 million increase per year this contract could end up being a steal in the last year of his contract.

All in all, I believe the Sheary contract was a smart signing by GMJR.  He locks up a key player on Sidney Crosby’s line and a key contributor to both cups during the past two seasons.  If Sheary keeps up his play we could easily see another 50+ point season for only $3 million dollars which is a steak itself.  If he doesn’t workout as planned then the Penguins are paying a third liner $3 million dollars which is not even a bad deal with today’s cap hit.  I think with the steady rise of the cap ceiling and thus inflation of contracts this three year deal is nowhere as near catastrophic as people are making it seem.

“Sheary’s signing kind of puzzles me.” -Cody Flavell

Admittedly, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Sheary. When he’s playing well, I like him. When he’s struggling, obviously those feelings are the opposite.

I will say that Sheary was very impressive last regular season and that his line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel was the most dominant in the entire league for a stretch of time. As Connor eluded to, the line was incredible at the beginning of the Cup Finals.

In my opinion, $3 million is a hefty price to pay for a streaky player. Not that Sheary was expected to score 20+ goals and be the left winger on the league’s best line, but he still goes through spurts.

This is being considered a bridge deal which I completely understand. Matt Murray received a bridge deal before last season, and deservedly so. Sheary, to me, didn’t.

If you watch Sheary during his slumps, which every player does go through, he seems to take them a bit harder. He second guesses himself. He grips the stick a bit harder. But it seems to be very frequent.

I’ve seen comparisons to Martin St. Louis for Sheary and I think those come in a bit far fetched.

I will say that seeing Sheary on the top line for $3 million is something I can get used to.

I think that the three years is a positive for when some of these new wingers, such as Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese, get to the NHL. It will make him an expendable piece. Having term will entice a team to potentially pay a bit more for his services.

Why Tyler Bozak Is Not The Answer

The Pittsburgh Penguins search for a third line center continues, with an article on trade options written by fellow LetsTalkPenguins contributor Connor Andrews giving a realistic take on who the Penguins might target for that spot.

However, those on the Pittsburgh beat, specifically Jason Mackey, and other more national media figures like Elliotte Friedman have floated the idea that the Penguins have interest in Tyler Bozak, the current third line center for the Toronto Maple Leafs. While I suspect this is mostly speculation, this idea has been taken by some Penguins fans to mean this is the Penguins target. I do not believe that to be the case and below, I will outline a number of reasons why.

1) The Salary Cap Exists

Tyler Bozak carries a cap hit of $4.2M that expires at the end of the coming season. The Penguins current cap space is at an estimated $2.48M, including Chad Ruhwedel, Josh Archibald and Derrick Pouliot as the extra skaters for the time being. This would make it impossible for the Penguins to acquire Bozak and maintain their 1 million dollar buffer that they like to have without moving significant salary out from the team. I will get more into the idea of moving people from the team later, in a separate point.

2) Tyler Bozak does not fit the need


The Penguins need at third line center is not as simple as finding a center that plays the third most ice time on his team for centers. As the Penguins roster currently stands, and that’s without Matt Cullen, there is only one center that plays on the penalty kill and that is Carter Rowney. While the Penguins are flush with potential penalty kill forwards (Archibald, Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Rowney), only Rowney has any experience at center. Acquiring Bozak does not help this matter as Bozak has not been a consistent penalty killer for the last 3 years playing in Toronto. Bozak is also an average at best defensive player if we use Fenwick as an authority.

Fenwick, which differs from Corsi in that Fenwick considers shot blocks to be a skilled play, is my preferred advanced statistic for use with the Penguins and their tendency to block a lot of shots. Throughout his career, Bozak has had a negative relative Fenwick to his team outside of the 2015-2016 season, meaning that his team suffers more unblocked shots against than average when he is on the ice. (Shout out to Puckalytics for the assist on this one).

For his lack of defensive play, and his lack of PK ability, this makes the fit for Bozak at third line center to be a bad one for the Penguins, no matter his offensive abilities.

3) The trade value


Sadly, teams are not in the interest of doing discounts for the back to back cup winners and in such, acquiring Bozak would require a significant payment. Bozak is a 2nd line center at his true value, and for the Leafs to split with him would require the Penguins sending back an equitable amount of value. The floated name by Mackey is that of Olli Maatta. It is here where I disagree with Mackey, and fellow LetsTalkPenguins contributor Brendan Labra, about the value of Olli Maatta.

Olli Maatta is a young top 4 puck moving defenseman with a long term contract at a reasonable cap hit for his level of play. Some will point to the flaws in his game, such as his foot speed, but it is worth noting that Maatta’s level of play is recognized by the coaching staff, who had Maatta skating an average of 20:36 minutes per game in the playoffs. This is higher than Ian Cole, who only skated 18:50 on average.

The issue with moving Maatta, and the reason I highlighted Cole, is that people believe that Cole would be able to move up to play top 4 minutes if Maatta was moved. This is clearly not an opinion held by the Penguins coaching staff and neither by me, as Cole skated the least amount of average TOI of the 6 full time NHL D that played in the playoffs.

If Maatta is not the piece moved, the Penguins would have to gamble a significant amount of futures on one year of Bozak. This may not even work as the Leafs have transitioned from a rebuiliding team into a playoff team within the last year.

For these reasons, I do not see Bozak as an adequate fit for the Penguins.

Offseason Player Grades: Justin Schultz

2016-17 Regular Season

78 GP, 12 G, 39 A, 51 PTS, +27, 34 PIM

2016-17 Playoffs

21 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 PTS, +3, 4 PIM

Player Grade (A+)

Justin Schultz was the hero we needed this season in the absence of Kris Letang. The team needed someone to step up and he was the one to do it. Every game Schultz played smart and hard to keep our zone clear. On top of being a good defender, Schultz also wasn’t afraid to take opportunities up top to create plays and score goals. He is ranked 10th in goals, 4th in assists, and 5th in points for the Penguins’ regular season. He showed up every game and never ceased to amaze everyone.

Season Review/Preview

Schultz continued to step his game up this season and improved greatly from the last. This season was an all time high for games played, goals, assists, points, +/-, and shots. One of Schultz’s biggest highlights was the game tying goal, with a few minutes left, in the third period of game three in the Washington series. Although the game was lost in OT the goal caused a huge decrease in Washington’s morale as the Penguins already had a 2 game lead in the series. Next season, I expect Schultz to be treated with the respect he deserves and see him continuing to average 20 minutes or more of ice time, even with Letang’s return.