If you’re just waking up and you’re a Pens fan, you know by know that Jarome Iginla waived his No Trade Clause for the opportunity to play with the Penguins, despite previous reports that a deal was set in stone to make him a Bruin.
If you thought General Manager Ray Shero pulled the wool over the eyes of Star’s GM Joe Nieuwendyk in 2011 when he acquired James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski-a trade even a video game would not allow-you’ve got to wonder what sort of incriminating information or photos he is holding over GMs league wide at this point.
The Pens gave up next to nothing over the course of the past week (some prospects and high draft picks) and in return got 2 Olympic gold medalists and a battleship in Brenden Morrow (former Captain of the Stars), Jerome Iginla (former Captain of the Flames), and Doug Murray (former Battleship Destroyer d-man of the Sharks).
Shero addressed every major problem the Pens have been experiencing not only for this season, but for the last few with these trades. Winning 13 games in a row does not mean that there is no room for improvement, and improve he did. The Pens have been in desperate need of a giant d-man to keep the crease clear since the days of Hal Gill. One of the Pens biggest problems has been protecting the net. The lack of presence in front of their goalies has been astounding. Over the course of the past few weeks- most especially it seems since Mark Eaton re-joined the team- that issue has discipated for the most part. Their defensive game has definitely stepped up to a level that will work in the playoffs.
With this talent, we have strengthened special teams, both on the power play and the penalty kill, have added a more physical element that has dropped off in the last season and a half, and blew up the forecheck to a new level.
Now, what to do with the roster? Head Coach Dan Bylsma has almost limitless possibilities before him. If Dan was ever given a gift from Shero, this is it. And if he wastes it the fall out will resemble Atlanta in season one of The Walking Dead. This city WILL eat itself alive if the Pens don’t make it deep into the playoffs.
But don’t start buying beads and crazy black and gold hats for the parade yet. This team is a dominant force as a roster, but they have to lay it all out on the ice. The Pens have zero room to act like they did in previous years. No one is going to hand them a Cup and if the reaction of just fans alone is any indication, teams right now have one goal: get the Pens out of first place and don’t let them out of the first round of the playoffs.
As far as lines go, it’s going to take some shifting around to find the right line combinations and chemistry. Bylsma’s magic line juggling act hasn’t been as bad recently, but it’s going to take some tweeking to figure out who plays best with whom. Out of the gate, I personally wouldn’t touch the first line. One of the most productive lines in hockey, leave it alone. If at all possible, I say play it like last season when Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Jordan Staal were all at peak health and our secondary scoring was off the charts. Spread the talent around because you will start controlling other team’s rosters.
Imagine you are the Islanders on Saturday, and the Pens lines look like this (assuming that Geno is back-which he is getting close):
What do you do with your lines? Who do you send out against our third line? If figuring out how to distribute your super star talent is one of the biggest problems the Pens have, then Merry Christmas to us.
The Cup is a long ways away. Fourteen regular season games left. Sixteen wins to the dance with Lord Stanley.
One shift at a time. One game at a time.
Let’s Go Pens!