Tag Archives: Conor Sheary

COLUMN: You Can’t Stop The Force, You Can Only Contain It

We’ve been blessed to shift from the Mario Lemieux era right into the Sidney Crosby era. Ever since Crosby joined the league, he’s been one of the most dominant players in the game even in an era where it is considerably harder to score.

Despite an 11-game goal-less drought, Crosby looked as determined Tuesday night as he had in weeks. The drive to change his hard luck was evident beyond belief. He ended that slump in a big way.

“I just found the open area, hung out backdoor and he found me.”

That was linemate Conor Sheary after his goal 16 seconds into overtime in Tuesday night’s contest. We watched as Crosby dominated below the goal line in a way only Crosby seems to be able to do. He was followed down low by Sabres forward Evander Kane and, despite Kane’s attempt to pin Crosby to the boards, Crosby squirmed out, cut to his right and did exactly what Sheary expected Crosby would do. If you don’t believe me or want to see it again, here you go:

 

In any other year, that wouldn’t be too significant. Of course, it was an incredible “Vintage Crosby” move we have seen a million times over that we marvel over again and again. This year, it almost seemed like it was destined.

When a tornado comes through a town, you can’t stop it. It’s simple Mother Nature. You can contain the damage, though, by taking necessary precautions. Teams have found a way to keep him contained. Even Crosby himself just hadn’t really been that tornado we’ve seen for his years in Pittsburgh. Last night, he proved you can’t completely stop it.

Early in the game, Phil Kessel threw a nice cross-crease pass that Crosby has buried standing right next to the goalie for years. He whiffed on one last night that he undoubtedly wants back.

“That was a tough one,” Crosby said. You’re trying to pick it up through the guys feet. Most times, you find a way to get your stick on it but sometimes you miss it and it goes off your foot…Yeah it’s tough when they’re not going in but there has been some really good chances the last few games and hopefully now they’ll start to go in.”

Crosby isn’t a dumb hockey player. He knows that when slumps are busted and you’re a star of the magnitude of his, they usually breakout in a huge way. We’ve seen it before and we will surely see it again this season and maybe as soon as Thursday.

Surely enough, it went in later in the game when they needed it the most. Down 3-2 in the second, Crosby found a rebound from a Kessel shot and roofed it with every intention of making sure that puck found the twine:

“You’re happy to see it go in the net,” Crosby said. “There were a few more I probably could have had tonight. As long as they’re there, hopefully they’ll go in a little bit more now.”

Translation: They’re going to go in because I’m Sidney freakin’ Crosby but I’m too humble to admit it.

Hockey is so much more fun when Sidney Crosby is playing like the NHL’s best player. He hasn’t been that so far to this point in the season. Last night, Vintage Crosby came back and so did the Penguins.

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Penguins Fantasy Hockey Predictions

Around this time of year, most people are focused on their upcoming fantasy football drafts and not too much so with hockey. I am here to help.

Instead of previewing the entire league, I will be noting some Penguins who I believe should be on your roster regardless of your league size. I will also be noting a few players who could deserve a look in bigger and more deep leagues.

The Inevitable…

Sidney Crosby, C

Whether he is the top pick or the second pick, behind Connor McDavid of course, Crosby will be owned in every single (competitive) fantasy league because he just is the best.

After winning the Rocket Richard last year as the league’s leading scorer, it’s reasonable to believe he can do it again as he is playing at the level we have always known Crosby to be. Maybe even better. It’s reasonable to think that he doesn’t put up 44 goals again but with Crosby, anything is possible.

Couple about 40 goals with 60+ assists and Crosby will help pitch in to win your fantasy league.

Projected Stats: 38 G, 65 A, 103 PTS, +21 +/-, 25 PIMs

Evgeni Malkin, C

In a league where Malkin is very underrated, it’s likely he will be on your draft board, too. A top 5 talent in the league, Malkin could be a second round pick depending on the size of your league.

Malkin was a huge reason the Penguins won the Cup last season and nothing drives him more than winning championships. Malkin, along with a few other teammates, have a chance to three-peat. If that isn’t enough to keep him motivated, I don’t know what is.

The only problem will be his durability.

He has missed some games over the past few seasons for some nagging injuries. This shouldn’t hinder your choice to take him. If he is available, even as high as pick number three, and you have an inclination to take him, don’t hesitate. Malkin is going to have a big year. I’ll say even enough to compete for the scoring title.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 68 A, 99 PTS, +14 +/-, 49 PIMs

Kris Letang, D

Yet another underrated player in the league, Letang will be returning from a major neck operation. And, yet again, if you need a cornerstone defenseman in the first four or five rounds, Letang should be available.

Letang’s neck injury could scare some away. I’d even say he may struggle to really find his game in the first month after being off the ice for over half a year. But, fantasy league’s aren’t won in month number one. They are won with long term investments.

In Mike Johnston‘s final tenure as the head coach of the team, Letang wasn’t being used properly and ultimately was almost useless in any fantasy format. Even with the worst of start of his career, it didn’t stop Letang from almost winning the scoring race amongst defensemen. He also scored the game winning game in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals that season.

Letang’s injury last season may slow him early. But he’ll be very much worth the long term investment come fantasy playoff time.

Projected Stats: 10 G, 55 A, 60 PTS, +20 +/-, 68 PIMs

Matt Murray, G

This is the one that may surprise some fans but this is the NEW face of the “Core Four”.

With Marc-Andre Fleury gone to Vegas, the Penguins have their undoubted goalie of the future and the now.

Murray has won two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons. He will hunt a third. The only problem with Murray? His durability.

Murray has had a few freak and unlucky injuries over the past couple seasons. If a fantasy player values a franchise goaltender in the first few rounds then don’t overthink it and select Murray. He will win close to 40 games if he doesn’t miss time due to injury. He is the defined starter now and if those first two seasons are any indication of what’s to come, you’ll want Murray on your team.

Just make sure to draft a solid back option incase of another freak injury.

Projected Stats: 38 W, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO

Mid-Round Picks…

Patric Hornqvist, RW

Hornqvist is one of those guys that won’t be anywhere near a point per game player. He can reasonably put up 40-50 points.

Where Hornqvist gets his true value is in the categories leagues.

Hornqvist will likely be towards the top of your team in the hitting category. He takes a fair amount of shots and he likely will begin the season on Malkin’s wing.

Even if you aren’t in a categories league, Hornqvist is worth the look if you’re looking for mid-to-late round depth.

Projected Stats: 17 G, 31 A, 48 PTS, +7 +/-, 60 PIMs

Jake Guentzel, RW

Here is your golden ticket.

A lot of people watched Guentzel light up the NHL world in the playoffs. How many people will take this into consideration during the draft?

Guentzel is 98th according to ESPN’s rankings. In a 10 man league, this would make him a ninth or tenth rounder. That is a serious steal if he goes and does what he did last season. He’ll at least begin the season with Crosby.

Don’t overdraft him, though. He is almost guaranteed to be there into the seventh round of a ten man league. If you get paranoid and want him then, go ahead and take him. The later you take him, the smarter you’ll look.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 31 A, 62 PTS, +24 +/-, 16 PIMs

Conor Sheary, LW

The other wing on Crosby’s line, Sheary will also excel if he stays with Crosby. Buyer beware, though.

Every player goes through slumps, but the one Sheary suffered in last year was atrocious in the playoffs. The playoffs don’t matter in fantasy, but it’s proof that if Sheary slumps, it could get very ugly.

He is a solid player with upside but I wouldn’t consider him before round ten. If someone takes him before then, you can find value elsewhere in some other players around the league.

He’ll play with Crosby but it remains to be seen how long. Don’t overdraft him but if he’s there and legitimately the best available, don’t hesitate.

Projected Stats: 18 G, 25 A, 43 PTS, 13 +/-, 31 PIMs

Sleepers…

Phil Kessel, RW

I know it’s odd to see Kessel’s name as a sleeper to some. But, a lot of people are down on him lately.

So depending on how you classify Kessel’s talent, he is a sleeper.

Kessel has played on the third line for the majority of his Penguins career but has found some guys he meshes well with. He could finally end up back with Malkin on a permanent basis.

Kessel will still be anywhere from a third to fifth rounder depending on league size so it’s tough to title him a sleeper. But there is a solid chance he could contend for a Rocket Richard. He is THAT much of a scorer. He just has to do it for a season to get fans to fully buy in again.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 50 A, 81 PTS, -1 +/-, 6 PIMs

Justin Schultz, D

Maybe this lengthy, lucrative contract will finally give Schultz the respect he’s earned throughout the league.

Schultz’s offensive rejuvenation in Pittsburgh’s system is something that went unnoticed last year as he was only added by many fantasy teams in the middle of the year. This year, he is a mid-round pick with early-round pick potential.

Again, he isn’t someone you should draft early especially if some other guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Duncan Keith remain available. But Schultz is a guy you shouldn’t let slip if you think he is one of the top three players you’ve got to choose from.

There is a good chance Schultz could put up 50 points. While I think he will fall short, he is a solid option and you wont be able to find him on waivers so take him if you can.

Projected Stats: 9 G, 34 A, 43 PTS, +19 +/-, 20 PIMs

Overview…

Just because a few guys were omitted from the list doesn’t mean they aren’t worth drafting. A lot of them could be waiver claims if you run into injuries. Or, even I it is late in the draft and you aren’t sure who to take, take them.

Regardless, just win the league. It’s all about bragging rights, correct?

P.S. The staff is going to have their own fantasy hockey league that we will keep you in touch with.

If you would like to be a part of the “LTP Community” league, DM me upon reading this and I will reserve your spot.

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.

Offseason Player Grades: Conor Sheary

Statistics (Regular Season)

61 GP, 23 G, 30 A, 53 PTS, +24 +/-, 22 PIM

Statistics (Playoffs)

22 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, -5 +/-, 4 PIM

Grade: B-

Conor Sheary really helped out this team midway through the season while playing with Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. The Sid and the Kids line really produced and lead the team as the best line in the league. But as for any player, there are ups and downs to a long season. Sheary exemplified the struggles and triumphs of a long season.

Sheary is an interesting player. Throughout this year, he reached amazing highs and amazing lows. He overpreformed for the first half the year and racked up big time points playing with Crosby and Guentzel. But he hit towards the end of the regular season, which carried into the playoffs. He even got benched during the postseason and had to wait until he got another opportunity to crack the lineup. As anyone else in the organization, Sheary persevered and helped the Pens get another ring. He scored twice during the finals and seemed to be coming back to the player we know he can be. Which is a puck battler in the corners and a great passer.

Preview

Next season should be a great one for Sheary. If you consider how much he slowed down after the first part of the season, it was amazing to see the points he was racking up. If he can play like that for 82 plus games then he will be 60 plus point player at least and potentially a 30 goal scorer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Sheary is a big part of Crosby’s game. He is exactly the type of winger Crosby can play with. He’s guy that will do the dirty work in the corners like winning the puck battles. He is someone that can help make plays. I expect another good season and a more complete game for this young player.


Is It That Far Fetched To Give Sheary A Break?

As the Penguins head into game two, they will likely be getting forward Carl Hagelin back from injury. This is a development that many analysts believe could swing the series in the Pens’ favor. Now, after winning game one, the Pens could have the Capitals teetering coming back to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

With a lineup playing very as well as of late winning five of its six playoff games, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly who to take out of the lineup. Chris Kunitz returned in game one and spelled Carter Rowney from the lineup. Many expect Hagelin to replace a guy like Scott Wilson. But could you really blame head coach Mike Sullivan if he wanted to sit Conor Sheary in game two against Washington?

Let’s face it. Sheary has been borderline awful in the six games. He’s a -5 over the six games with a measly two goals and four points.

Much more was to be expected of the 23 goal scorer that we saw in the regular season once playoff time rolled around. He was so bad that Patric Hornqvist replaced him on the top line that consists of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. He played 12:21 in game one, his lowest total of the playoffs and still looked lost doing it.

He’s trying too hard. He’s forcing passes he doesn’t need to make. He’s turning the puck over at inoppotune times. I counted about three different Washington chances in game one that were made possible by a Sheary turnover.

That graphic and the tweet really says it all.

Sheary was absolutely horrific in game one and it’s coming at a time when Hagelin looks like he’s ready to return.

I’m not much of a Scott Wilson fan but I did like the way he played in the series’ first game. He seemed to really have some extra jump in his game and it could’ve been a result of knowing it could’ve been his final one.

Personally, I expect Sheary to be in the lineup Saturday night against Washington with Wilson out just due to pedigree and the success Sheary sustained in the regular season. He’ll have to really work if he wants to find his way back onto Crosby’s line. Another mediocre game like his first six and he might find himself watching from the press box.

Sullivan has done it before with guys like defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Ian Cole in the past to light a fire underneath of them. Of course, neither of those happened in the playoffs.

But Sullivan will want his best line up out there because the Penguins can really begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel if they win in this round. And he doesn’t want to be responsible for allowing the Capitals to get past the second round for the first time in the Alexander Ovechkin era.

Penguins Have Affinity For NCAA Players

Throughout the 2016-17 season we have seen a lot of new names in and out of the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Most of these names are young talent coming from the Penguins farm system. Names such as Chad Rudwedel, Scott Wilson, and Carter Rowney are in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Players like Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary, and Chris Kuntiz are guys we think of as essential pieces to the Penguins in their respected ways. But what is one thing these players and many others have in common? That is, they have all played hockey in the NCAA before turning pro with the Pens, or another NHL franchise.

Would you believe that the Penguins have 17 guys that have played in the NCAA play this season in the NHL? Well, you had better believe it because it is true.

2016-17 Players Who Have Played in the NCAA for the Penguins

  1. Matt Cullen- St. Cloud State University
  2. Carl Hagelin- University of Michigan
  3. Chris Kunitz- Ferris State University
  4. Nick Bonino- Boston University
  5. Brian Dumoulin- Boston College
  6. Jake Guentzel- University of Nebraska Omaha
  7. Ian Cole- Notre Dame
  8. Ron Hainsey- Umass Lowell
  9. Phil Kessel- University of Minnesota
  10. Bryan Rust- Notre Dame
  11. Justin Schultz- University of Wisconsin
  12. Conor Sheary- Umass-Amherst
  13. Josh Archibald- University of Nebraska Omaha
  14. Carter Rowney- University of North Dakota
  15. Chad Ruhwedel- Umass Lowell
  16. Scott Wilson- Umass Lowell
  17. David Warsofsky- Boston University

*Out of the 17 listed players above, 12 are everyday players for the Penguins this season.

The Penguins have proved yet again that their depth in the farm system helped boost them to be a top 3 team in the NHL this season. Although all 17 former NCAA players have proved their worth this season, there are three names that stand out to me.

Justin Schultz- 12 Goals, 38 Assists. Schultz has proven this season that he is capable of putting up the offensive numbers he was expected to after being a 2nd round pick in 2008 all while improving his defensive game.

Conor Sheary- 23 Goals, 30 Assists. Playing aside Sidney Crosby for most of the season is beneficial, but believe me Sheary is the real deal. In just his 2nd NHL season he has proven capable of being Crosby’s right winger for a long time.

Jake Guentzel- 15 Goals, 16 Assists. Recently joining Crosby and Sheary to form the Sid and the Kids line, Gunetzel has proven to Penguins management that he deserves to stay in the lineup going into the playoffs.

To give credit where credit is due, these players have all proved that the NCAA is producing some serious talent now more than ever. There are also a few people in Penguins management that need to be recognized for their outstanding work.

Mark Rechi– Player Development Coach

Randy Sexton– Director of Amateur Scouting

Derek Clancey– Director of Pro Scouting

Without these gentlemen being part of the Penguins organization we may never see players like Sheary or Gunztzel make such a huge impact as they have this season.

 As far as the AHL team, Wilkes Barre Penguins, they currently have 14 rostered players who have played NCAA previously. The most notable singing being Hobby Baker finalist Zach Aston-Reese. Two notable players in the ECHL playing for the Wheeling Nailers are Cody Wydo, and Daniel Leavens who both attended Robert Morris University here in Pittsburgh.

The NCAA is producing talent at a much more rapid level than they have in recent years. In 2015 alone 30% of the NHL were former NCAA players. Not only are they gifted hockey players but 91% of NCAA players are graduating with their degree. The NCAA is growing each year in talent, and I personally cannot wait to see what the future holds for these student athletes.

Sid and the Kids Line Must Remain Together

Plenty of players have been shuffled through the lines on this Pittsburgh team. A lot of it has to do with the never ending train of injuries suffered, but coach Mike Sullivan always likes to mix it up.

Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle right away, and no I’m not talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning. Other times you build up time before you really achieve the greatness you wanted. The HBK Line that filled our hearts with joy last year rather than break them like the acronym stands for would be the latter. Now, there is a new line out there that has come to fruition with gleaming positivity almost right away.

The new recent line I am speaking about this season of course is the “Sid and the Kids” line. This line has Sidney Crosby at center with Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel manning the wings.

Both wingmen have played along Sid at different times. Sheary started with him last year and into the 2016 playoffs. Guentzel and Crosby just got paired up in 2017 about a month ago now. Sheary and Sid found common success early moving around, Guenztel on the other hand took some time to get the correct fitting, but he has incredible vision so the points were coming right away. Once the seal was broken though it was off to the races.

Putting these three together has been dynamite so far and there was no better example of this than on Sunday afternoon in a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers capped off by a Marc-Andre Fleury shutout and a natural hat trick by Crosby.

Who did the assists come from each time? That’s right, it was Guentzel and Sheary. This isn’t just a quick fun run that lasts as short as Iceland’s Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson’s hockey career after he punched his coach. A line this potent must have sustainability.

I’m not just basing this off of Sunday’s phenomenal theatrics, but that game put the exclamation point on what this line can be. It’s creating chances almost harmoniously every second they’re out on the ice. At their worst, the line is nail biting, just missing chances that would otherwise build momentum for the Penguins. At it’s best, you have what we saw: three players with a combined nine points and a force that wears you down.

This was even before Crosby’s 3rd netted goal of that game:

Between Sheary’s stick handling talent and Guentzel’s remarkable hawking ability to find the open man or spot he needs to fill at such a young age. These two have the speed and right guys to play with an elite star like Sid. We don’t need to go on about his talent. On a team where injuries have been at the forefront, it is a MUST that this line remains a unit come playoff time in the next 2-3 months.

Of course we have seen other great players on this team line well with Crosby. Patric Hornqvist is a perfect example. Although, he has proven he can be equally effective on a 2nd line with Evgeni Malkin. Even a guy like Bryan Rust can be put on the 2nd or 3rd line when he comes back and still bring that fire to the team, a stronger group if that’s the case.

We may have HBK 2.0 here, a sequel to that phemenomal squad but a sequel that lives up to and further attains affluent success. The opposite of True Detective season 2. It’s more like every new season of your favorite tv show (I’m talking It’s Always Sunny, Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones (except for season 5). Maybe I’m just a sucker for a catchy name, but something has just resounded for the “Sid and the Kids” line. When things are going that well, you don’t mess with that at all. I can’t wait to see what other exciting sparks we might see them accomplish.