Tag Archives: Olli Maatta

Is Trading Letang Actually A Good Thing?

Before I get into my point, I want to make a public disclaimer: I am not necessarily on the “trade Letang” bandwagon. So if you tweet at me claiming I am stupid for wanting to get rid of Letang, I will not respond because it is clear you only read the title.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, is trading Letang something that could benefit the Penguins in the long run instead of just being a short term fix?

It’s hard to imagine a team without Kris Letang on it. He has been one of the key cogs of a core that has seemingly been together for the last ten years. But after back-to-back Stanley Cups, general manager Jim Rutherfordis looking for a shake-up to a team that is lacking that juice and burst that has been evident since the 2015-16′ season.

Letang was placed on injured reserve Thursday and will miss Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The injury is retroactive to 12/24 so he can come off of injured reserve Sunday against Detroit if he is ready. The Penguins likely placed him there to have an extra body on the roster for Friday.

Both Nick Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman have reported that Rutherford has indeed “tested the waters” on a potential Letang trade and has gathered intel on what his market could be in such a situation.

Of course, while being on IR, Letang can not be moved. He’s had a bevy of health issues like neck surgery and a stroke among others. Teams likely would want to do some extensive searching on his health before paying the hefty cost for a defenseman of his caliber.

Could the Penguins benefit?

That question will seemingly be tough to answer. The return could likely net the Penguins a couple solid forwards to help fill out some depth issues currently presented by the team. The forward depth possessed over their last two title runs was the big reason they repeated as champions.

Defensively is where the team would be questionable. While Letang hasn’t played defense well at all this season, he still puts up a lot of points on the offensive end. Outside ofJustin Schultz and occasionally Olli Maatta, the Penguins don’t have a ton of offensive presence.

Schultz has proven far beyond capable that he can run the top powerplay as he has been assigned that duty at times due to Letang’s struggles. Schultz’s $5.5 million AAV is very mid-range for a defenseman of his caliber. If he becomes the lead guy on the blue line, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. But he has had some rotten injury luck in his Penguins tenure. The team sorely misses him now and the current blueline is what things would look like if Letang was moved and Schultz was injured. It’s ugly.

Maatta is still only 23. He’s been the Penguins steadiest defenseman all year long. While he won’t account for a ton of offensive points, he can put the puck in the net as he scored 10 goals in his rookie season before injuries derailed the next few years of his career. To think he’s 23 is crazy and his game seems to be only evolving and likely will continue to for another 3-4 years before he hits his maximum.

Outside of that, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Jamie Oleksiak, Chad Ruhwedeland Matt Hunwick are the rest of the depth chart. If Letang is moved and everyone stays healthy, those are likely your seven NHL defensemen. It’s not a terrible core but with every injury, it looks worse and worse.

The Penguins need forward help. Moving Letang would get that. The Penguins have gotten decent contribution from Dominik Simon and Daniel Sprong still awaits in the wings. Outside of that, they will continue to plug guys like Ryan Reaves into the lineup to the dismay of many.

The Penguins have also made it clear they’d like to trade Cole and if they are to move Letang and Cole, they would absolutely need a defenseman back to supplant that spot.

Letang would be a great get for any team because absolutely no one doubts his skill. But the reality is that the Penguins are a cap strapped team year in and year out so moving a $7.25 AAV contract that will have four more years remaining on it would be a nice bit of relief for the Penguins.

If they play their cards right, the Penguins could afford to move Letang if they so desire.

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Maatta Improving His Game

Olli Maatta. Many of you are probably thinking of him as a slow moving turnover machine. Well don’t.

Maatta has been the target of many bad comments and fans haven’t treated him fairly. He set his expectations high after a superb rookie season where he scored nine goals and 20 assists. After that, Maatta was plagued with multiple long term injuries including a battle with cancer and missed a significant amount of games over the course of a few seasons.

Also, consider the fact that the Penguins were being coached by either Dan Bylsma or Mike Johnston. Once Mike Sullivan took over, everyone on the Penguins seemed to be transformed by his speed philosophy. One of the lone exceptions to that was Maatta who seemed to struggle a lot due to his lack of speed.

So what is different from 2012 and now?

Consider Maatta’s defensive partners back in 2012, Rob Scuderi and Matt Niskanen. Both Scuderi and Niskanen could stay back and cover while Maatta joined the rush. Since his rookie year he’s been paired up with Kris Letang quite often and spent a long time with Trevor Daley.

Being along side offensive defensemen like Letang and Daley gave Maatta very little opportunities to get up the ice to get some points.

Some of you might be thinking “hold on Justin Schultz does all the things offensive defensemen do, so how is he different then Letang or Daley?” Well, as we all know, Schultz and Maatta spent a significant amount of time together at the Penguins Stanley Cup parade and seem to have developed a friendship.

Why is that important? It develops chemistry on the ice together. That’s very important for defensemen to have that chemistry because you know your partners tendencies and when to join the rush and when to cover for your partner.

That’s not the only thing that’s changed, though.

Maatta has improved his defensive game and has shown much more poise and consistency throughout all areas of the ice. Everyone seems to forget the fact that he’s only 23 years old and he is still maturing as a defensemen. Most defensemen don’t fully develop until their late 20’s.

Next time you want to criticize Maatta’s contract, consider the fact that his best years are yet to come and so far the season looks bright for the young Finn.

Offseason Player Grades: Olli Maatta

Regular Season Stats

GP:55  G:1  A:6  PTS:7  +/-:17  PIM:12

Playoff Stats

GP: 25  G:2  A:6  PTS: 8 +/-:8  PIM:12

Player Grade (B-)

I gave Olli Maatta a B- mainly because his play from game to game was that of a rollercoaster. During the beginning of the year he did not look good, but after his injury he looked a little better. Once the playoffs rolled around was when his rollercoaster effect came into play, but in the playoffs the majority of the games he actually played well in. He showed some great signs of progression and only a few minor lapses in his game. He is only 22 years old and will develop for a few more years.

Review

Maatta became a key factor around the tail end of the playoffs, and more specifically against Ottawa. He scored the opening goal in back to back games and provided the Pens with a much needed spark. Another notable accolade for him would be him taking social media by storm when a picture emerged of how Maatta handled the after effects of the parade.

Preview

I think this next season could very easily be Maatta’s best. His skating has already improved a ton and even though he may not have the speed of Kris Letang, he is still a good skater. I also believe that Sergei Gonchar will be able to fix the little lapses in his game during the offseason, and in turn lead to Olli being a key part of this next season.

Odd Men Out

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a log-jam on defense. As of July 26, just over two months until the 2017-2018 season begins, the Penguins currently have 9 defensemen that could possibly make the roster come October. This begs the question, which defensemen will be left off the team and which will be the odd men out?

The Keepers

To me, there are four defensemen that are absolute locks to be here and playing at the start of the season; Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Ian Cole. Leaving Olli Maatta off this list is somewhat controversial sure but we’ll get to him later. Besides Maatta, this leaves Frank Corrado, Matt Hunwick, Chad Ruhwedel, and Derrick Pouliot all fighting for the remaining three spots.

The Unlikely

It would seem as though that the struggling Corrado and journeyman Chad Ruhwedel are destined to start in the AHL next season. Despite General Manager Jim Rutherford‘s high praise for Ruhwedel at the beginning of free agency, it seems as though the signing of Matt Hunwick has made him more of a depth defensemen than a top 6 guy. Hunwick is known to struggle, though, and has been driving Toronto fans nuts for years; so if he does start to flounder, or the inevitable injury to a defensemen happens, expect Ruhwedel to be the first guy up. Corrado on the other hand…well, who really knows. It seems as if he’s been forgotten over the past few months as free agency continues. Unless he stuns the coaching staff and GM in the preseason, Corrado will probably be heading to Wilkes-Barre for a majority of the season.

Three Men, Two Spots

This leaves us with Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Hunwick, all fighting for the two spots that remain. As I’ve said about Hunwick, I do expect to see him on opening night, that may be in the press box or on the ice, but I just think that Rutherford would not give a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.25 million to someone just to be banished to the minors. Now, if Olli Maatta is still a Penguin by October, then there is absolutely no doubt that he will be starting. Maatta’s game went from amazing to disastrous after a slew of injuries stunted his development. Maatta’s mistakes stand out due to his lack of speed. However, when he’s not getting burned, he is still an outstanding defensemen. Maatta really has transformed his game to become a more complete NHL defensemen since his rookie season, but his speed is still something that plagues him. I personally do not want the Penguins to trade Olli Maatta. He is a great defensemen with a bright future ahead of him. That being said, when looking at the void at third line center and the excess that the Pens have on D…if Rutherford wanted to make a splash and trade for a big name, (which he does not have to), Maatta would almost have to be going the other way.  Finally there is the never-ending conundrum that is Derrick Pouliot. The Pen’s best defensive prospect has struggled ever since he stunned Pittsburgh by scoring his first goal on his first shot. Reported attitude problems and losing the ability to quickly move the puck seemingly overnight have made Pouliot spend a majority of his career in the AHL, despite his overwhelming potential. However, in an interview with The Trib, Rutherford said, “Pouliot finished the season real strong.  We feel he’s going to come in and play,” However, if the Pens were to keep Maatta, then the top 6 would include Letang, Schultz, Dumoulin, Maatta, Cole, and Hunwick. I don’t see where Pouliot fits in. I think the kid deserves a shot and also think that he is probably better than Matt Hunwick is, but again Hunwick’s contract makes it hard for me to think that he’ll be sitting many games. To be quite frank, I do not know what the Pens will do with Pouliot if this same roster is intact. Maybe he’s traded, maybe he spends time at practice and in the press box, maybe he takes Hunwick’s spot, or maybe he’s forced to spend yet another season in Wilkes-Barre.

Only time can tell what will happen to the Penguins Defense come October. No matter what does happen, a healthy Kris Letang makes the Pens defense one to reckon with next year.

What Penguins Would Have Fun Days With Cup?

It’s been 25 days since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup (again) followed by the victory parade and I am riding just as high as I hope many Pens fans still are. I was in attendance at the 2016 parade and had the time of my life for numerous reasons. While I wasn’t able to make it to this years 2017 parade, having some beers later and watching it on tv in celebration  made me feel like I was there once again at the party.

Winning 2 cups in a row, especially in the Salary Cap era, is very difficult to do. So I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of this 1 (again) much like many of the players did during the parade as you probably have seen by now. It got me to thinking, I wonder what some of the players (particularly the younger guys) are doing with their day with the cup?

Certainly everyone is gonna have fun with it, but who would I wanna be hanging with or as their goal song dictates “party hard” with come there day with the Cup?

I’m going to get this outta the way right now, Phil Kessel is always an automatic choice. There’s no need to explain, I love Phil Kessel, you love Phil Kessel, we all love him, we know the folklore about him. This is definitely obvious. It’s like talking about the greatest Yankees of all team, don’t even need to mention Babe Ruth because we all know he’s one of the greatest players of all time, same ruling goes for Kessel.

Jake Guentzel

Unlike many of his teammates, Guentzel was only on the latter of the back to back championships. For this being his 1st time meeting new best friend Stanley, Guentzel looked thrilled the entire time at the parade. He was seen fist pumping and cheering all the way down the route. My favorite part was him talking about what he’s doing with the cup:

“IM GOING BACK TO MINNESOTAAAAAA”. Jake Guentzel was literally a kid in a candy shop, he’s got a shiny new silver toy to play with this summer. Seeing Guentzel with that joy on his face during the whole parade makes me think that won’t stop at all, for me that’s a front row seat worth the price of admission.

Brian Dumoulin

Last year in 2016 we were blessed with this gem:

Than now in 2017 it might have been even better:

Biting open the can with your teeth is such a savage move I can’t help but be a fan of it. I for sure want to be around for what Dumo will do next.

Sidney Crosby:

As if 3 Stanley Cups and 2 Conn Smythe’s and a team parade wasn’t enough already for Sid, he now gets to be treated like a super hero. His hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia Canada loves their home grown kid so much that Crosby gets his own parde in town. Imagine that, a parade for just you, not any teammates, just yourself. I would love to be apart of that and be on 1 of the floats, definitely would be a cool thing to do.

I also think Sid would let loose a little in a place where you can see him behind the scenes. He’s always very calculated and reserved when it comes to doing interviews, it would be fun seeing the other fun side of Crosby.

Olli Maatta

Need I say more?

Carl Hagelin

“Swagelin” as some call him scored the last goal of the Cup Final, a thrilling feeling putting the last nail in your opponents coffin. He also had a rough year because of injury and under production of goal scoring that we normally see from the Swede. In other words, Hagelin could use the 2nd championship to blow off some steam.

He got right to it by joining Crosby at the NHL Awards over in Vegas. Surely Hagelin ripped up the town while he was there as he wasn’t up for any awards, just there hanging with Stanley and Sid in support of his teammate. I’ll hit the black jack tables with Hagelin anytime.

Ron Hainsey

Trade deadline acquisition Ron Hainsey always struck me as kind of similar to that old dad from the movie Project X, or maybe the fun neighbor you might be aware of. He’s the loving, responsible, caring father that he should be to his wife and kids. Then, one night, the young guys a few houses down decide to throw a real awesome party, Hainsey stops by to ask to keep the noise down, next thing you know he’s invited in and getting wild with everyone else, maybe doing some shots or a quick drinking game, having a great time and being one of the last to leave.

That’s how I imagine Hainsey felt as he wasted away his time in Carolina struggling and never making the playoffs (the nice dad who’s kinda boring). Next he’s on the Penguins in the playoffs, having fun, being productive, scoring goals in the Stanley Cup (the crazy dad) slicing through defenders and finally winning that Stanley Cup! Hainsey than dressed up as a catcher and caught the 1st pitch thrown by Sidney Crosby at the Pirates game the next day. It’s been some ride for Hainsey, he can finally relax.

Evgeni Malkin

This really just comes down to the fact that Malkin has always been my favorite player. He’s also the all time playoff points leader in Russia. The reception he probably gets when he brings the Cup back to his town of Magnitogorsk is probably 1 similar to when Steph Curry goes back to Charlotte.

Justin Schultz

I just want to recreate a bunch of the memes that have now went viral of Schutlz walking and chugging. There’s no question he, Maatta, Conor Sheary and Guentzel were the ones really getting after it at the parade, if you know what I mean.

Really you could make a case for any Penguins player on this roster. Back to back, sounds great to say. Raise a glass, a cold one, or the finest bottle of choice for your 2017 Stanley Cup Champs!

 

 

Unsung Heroes

Overtime, Game 7; these are the games as hockey fans we love. Thursday night, the Penguins defeated the Senators 3-2 in double overtime to clinch their bid to the Stanley Cup Finals vs the Nashville Predators. The game winning goal coming from 37-year-old Chris Kunitz, which was his second goal of the night. This entire playoff, and regular season has been filled with unsung heroes. Yes, we have the three-headed monster in Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel leading the way in playoff points. But there are a few guys pulling some of their own weight. Names that stand out are Jake Guentzel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin.

 

Jake Guentzel- 2016-17 Regular Season– 40 GP | 16 G | 17 A       2016-17 Playoffs– 19 GP | 9 G | 7 A

What an amazing rookie campaign Jake has put together. Those who watched Jake play in WBS before being called up knew the type of impact he could have in the NHL, and what an impact he has made. Some may ask why he made this list of surprise players these playoffs, but I don’t think anyone expected a player with 40 NHL games to be in the top 5 of playoff scoring. Not to mention 3 GWG this postseason.

Image result for jake guentzel playoffs

Chris Kunitz- 2016-17 Regular Season- 71 GP | 9 G | 20 A |         2016-17 Playoffs- 14 GP| 2 G| 3 A |     

Chris Kunitz, what a guy. This is a player that Penguins fans have wanted to be dealt out of town for the last three years at least, and I am guilty of criticizing him as well. But with Kuntiz you know what type of player you are going to get. He’s the type of guy to battle in front of the net, finish his checks, and hey, even score goals when reunited with Crosby. Kuntiz has scored the most important goal of these playoffs so far (2OT ECF) so how could he not be a hero?

Image result for chris kunitz goal

Bryan Rust- 2016-17 Regular Season- 40 GP | 12 G | 4 A |            2016-17 Playoffs- 17 GP | 6 A | 1 A |

Rust is a player that really emerged last season when the Pens were faced with injuries and he made a similar impact that Guentzel is making this year. Rust is another guy that will finish his hit and grind in front of the net, but also comes up with some very timely goals. This post season, Rust has 2 GWG those goals being Game 5 vs CBJ, and game 7 vs Washington. Rust plays big in big games, so keep an eye out for him the Stanley Cup Finals.

Image result for bryan rust playoffs

Olli Maatta2016-17 Regular Season- 55 GP| 1 G | 6 A |              2016-17 Playoffs19 GP | 2 G | 5 A |

Maatta has been criticized time and time again, and granted he has not been the player the Penguins expected, he has held his own. Some unfortunate injuries have slowed Maatta’s growth, but minor things such as foot speed seem to be an issue for him. To Maatta’s credit he has played well this season, especially vs the Sens. Scoring two goals in as many games, and one being a GWG in the 7-0 victory, Maatta seems to be finding his way as of late.

 Image result for olli maatta 2017

Honorable Mention: Brian Dumoulin- Dumo gets my honorable mention for this list. Next to Ian Cole, he may be the best defensive defenseman the Pens have. Logging 20+ minutes in almost every playoff game, he is faced with the task of shutting down teams’ top offensive lines. He is a valuable player to this Pens roster that often goes under the radar.

Image result for brian dumoulin playoff

This Penguins team is filled with superstars as we all know, but there are a ton of depth/role players that are just as important as Crosby or Malkin are. Role players play a key part in winning teams, and the Penguins have built their team using high end role guys. They played a huge part in the 2016 Stanley Cup Run, and will again be a key factor in the 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Olli Maatta Beginning To Return To Form

The Pens are coming off a 7-0 blow out against the Senators notching back to back winning efforts.

Notice that the defense is getting a scoring touch here. Olli Maatta himself has scored the first goals in the past few games. But man has he come up big for the Pens during the playoffs.

He has been playing solid minutes for the team and remains effective. Ever since Maatta was diagnosed with cancer and returned, he hasn’t been the same.

Before cancer, Maatta was an obvious top 4 defenseman in the NHL. After returning he has struggled to produce points and help the team.

But with all the injuries during this stretch he has stepped up along with the defense as a whole. But Maatta seems to be finding the same confidence he had during his rookie season.

He is finally living up to his contract and helping his team.

If the Pens do repeat as champs they need impressive play by the injured defensive core. Maatta will be a huge part of this moving on as long as his teammates.

So next time your watching the Pens make sure you’re watching the defense closely and especially Maatta. Who is starting to transform back into the top pairing defenseman the Penguins wanted him to be.