This Loss Will Bring Changes

It takes an entire team effort to lose a playoff series when you have a 3-1 lead. From the goaltending, to the defense, to the forwards, the coaches, and the management, there is no one who will be able to escape blame for this disappointment.

It starts and ends with the captain…?

This played out old adage shows that we as fans have learned nothing. You win as a team and lose as a team. Yes, Crosby has to perform better and he is a big reason the Penguins are now eliminated, but that is not the only reason, or even the majority of reasons, that Pittsburgh’s season is over.

Sidney Crosby was pummeled from start to finish in this post season play. Say what you will, but at what point does a team play for their captain? At what point during the massive amount of abuse do teammates stand up for their leader?

And that is why the Penguins lost.

Did you miss it? Ray Shero certainly did.

When Jonathan Toews got to lift the Stanley Cup last season he did so with just 3 goals and eleven assists in 23 games. Crosby was on a very similar pace. The difference, Toews has a team around him that played for one another. A team that was created through smart investments, limited free agency plays, and trusts in draft picks replacing overpriced free agents.

This is why when we discuss the recent playoff for Sidney Crosby we get tricked by the smoke screen. Crosby has to produce, there is no other way around that, but when you do not put a player in position to produce you cannot simply blame the player.

In 2009, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup with Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotanko, Petr Sykora, and Max Talbot. They had character, grit, and the honor to stand up for each other. This team is missing that.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are world class players who will always push their game to levels that most cannot, but they can’t do it alone. Teams know how to beat the Penguins and that is going after their superstars. Go after Toews and Bickell will pummel you. Go after Bergeron and Lucic will have his twig smashing your berries on the next shift. Pittsburgh doesn’t have that and hasn’t had that in five seasons.

I unfortunately predicted this in the middle of March, but I never saw this early of an exit in such a pitiful passion.

So the true blame falls to…

Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma are the only persons that you can rightfully blame for the Pittsburgh Penguins recent Stanley Cup failures. From the poor choice in personnel to the poor structure, the Penguins are no longer built to last in the playoffs.

The contract to Rob Scuderi turned out to be one we will regret. Offering one to Matt Niskanen will prove even worse. Management has to step in quickly before another catastrophic mistake can be made, such as signing any of the Penguins current UFA’s.

Dan Bylsma is almost certainly going to be losing his job. According to reports from around the area, as well as a few north of the border, the Penguins ownership group already has written Bylsma off. The more important factor to consider is that the locker room wrote Dan Bylsma off.

He had no control of his players, no fight in his players, and he could not get his players to play for one another. How is that a leader?

It is time for Dan Bylsma to move on? Yes, despite my sticking up for him earlier in the season, Dan has failed to motivate the Penguins. I still believe Dan is a good coach and can do good things for another club, but his time in Pittsburgh is over.

So how did they muck this up?

Since the construction of the Consol Energy Center, the Pittsburgh Penguins have closely mimicked their “fans”; corporately entitled overachievers thanks in part to someone somewhere carrying them.

As we saw in the last series there are just certain players who do not represent what playoff hockey is all about. There is no reason for a 40 goal scorer in James Neal to only have two goals and two assists in 13 games. Chris Kunitz was absent from his normal role of agitator around the net and tough time goal scorer. Matt Niskanen might be one of the more sought after UFA’s, but his play in the playoffs was not to the level in which they needed to win.

They had too many fourth liners playing on the third line. They had too many third liners playing in the top six. They had too many defenders that didn’t deserve time over the prospects playing. There is no reason for a player like Engelland to stall the growth of Simon Despres. There is no reason for an aging defender like Rob Scuderi to get a four year deal when you have Harrington and Dumoulin waiting in the minors.

This team went wrong when they didn’t use the talent they drafted and overspent on defense. That left a huge void in the offense. The claim, by management, to draft so many talented D over the past five years was that UFA defenders cost too much. Then the management signs UFA defenders and doesn’t address the wing position.

Pittsburgh needs to go out and make some moves. They need to get players that want to play all 200 feet, not guys who want to capitalize off the superstars play.

Who goes?

First off, it is important to note that Brooks Orpik has had a very bad knee injury according to multiple reports and that his career in Pittsburgh is most likely over. Brooks is one of my favorite Penguin players of all time. He is a tremendously hard worker, a true pro’s pro, and was phenomenal in the community. It is just too darn hard to see him staying. Pittsburgh needs to utilize their young blue line talent and move on from older contracts.

To Brooks: Thank you for everything. I hope you get the payday you deserve and wish you nothing but the best in your future.

Jussi Jokinen, although a good player and skilled in his own right, will most likely command more on the open market than he is truly worth to the Penguins.

Matt Niskanen is as good as gone. He will command more than he is worth on the open market and way more than he is worth to the Penguins. The same goes for the Penguins other UFA’s. They are replaceable by other UFA’s for less or replaceable by current prospects.

Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, Derryk Engelland, Taylor Pyatt, Lee Stempniak, and Marcel Goc are probably gone as well. I wouldn’t necessarily want Goc to leave, but I don’t think he wants to stay.

Brandon Sutter and Simon Despres are the RFA’s that Pittsburgh needs to sign. These guys have continuously shown heart and pride throughout their careers. Sutter was a big piece to the Penguins winning in the first round. He has tolerated trade talk and no wingers, but has come through with flying colors. He deserves the money to stay in Pittsburgh.

Simon Despres is a great defender in Wilkes-Barre Scranton who continues to shine in big moments, but he was never given a fair chance by this coaching staff. It is time for that to change.

Speaking of Change?

Dan Bylsma is on his way out of Pittsburgh. I maintain that he is a good coach, but he has run his course in Pittsburgh. Bylsma will be a NHL coach next season, but certainly not in Pittsburgh.

Ray Shero is apparently 50/50 on returning to Pittsburgh, with most critical pundits leaning towards firing Shero. Truth be told, read the articles by Joey D here at The Checking Line as he breaks down the drafting success of Shero and you will see why Shero has to go.

It is rather difficult for the contingency in Pittsburgh to think that such a massive overhaul is needed, but it shouldn’t be. This fan base shouldn’t be happy with what has happened the past few seasons and even as I write this I laugh.

The recent “fan base” that is scavenging the tickets like vultures on road kill has been awful. The reason the Penguins didn’t salute the fans after game seven is, well, because none of the real fans were in the building. Why salute a bunch of quite, self righteous, entitled bandwagoners that do not appreciate the game. They are there for one reason only; to tell their friends they were at a Penguins game.

It is time for the Penguins to shed the flash, cut the crap, and become an organization that wants to win. They should want hockey fans in those seats, not just people. Make the move to a team that plays real hockey, hockey that wows us with execution and commitment, not hockey that wows kiddies and teenage girls gawking at Letang’s hair.

I want a team that plays the game the right way. This organization has failed to deliver that. Thank you so much for the Cup Ray and Dan, but you have worn out your welcome.

Plenty of updates to come so stay tuned. This is one hectic offseason for Pittsburgh with plenty of changes to come.