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Tim Benz: Penguins have to fix current players before acquiring new ones

Current 9 hours in the past

In current many years, the route to Penguins enhancement in the course of the year has been clear.

In 2016, it was to fire the coach and boost velocity through the lineup. So the staff swapped out Mike Johnston for Mike Sullivan and traded for the likes of Carl Hagelin, Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley.

In 2017, it was to boost depth on the blue line after Kris Letang obtained hurt in late February. So the staff obtained Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit and Frank Corrado on protection over the future number of days right before the trade deadline.

And final 12 months, the evident require to be loaded was at 3rd-line heart. So general manager Jim Rutherford traded for Derick Brassard.

Some of those people moves have been home runs. Some others have been swings and misses. But they have been evident tries at making the staff better.

This 12 months, issues look hazy.

As the puck was dropping to start off NHL motion Tuesday evening, the Penguins occupied the Japanese Conference’s eighth and last playoff location with 58 points in 49 online games. At the start off of engage in Tuesday, each individual Japanese Convention staff had played among 48 and 51 contests. The Penguins have been 26-17-6.

Through 49 online games final 12 months, the staff was in a worse location with only 53 points and in an eighth-spot tie with the Rangers.

But from Match 50 on, the Penguins went on a filthy run. They conquer the Hurricanes, 3-1, on Jan. 23. That commenced a extend in which they won 11 of 13, with just a single regulation decline in a span of 34 calendar days.

Brassard wasn’t obtained until eventually three days after that extend finished.

So, the Penguins mostly rediscovered their elite kind of the previous two seasons from inside. Which is what wants to materialize in 2019, as nicely.

It really is not in Jim Rutherford’s character to sit idle at the trade deadline. He probable will make a offer or two. He just about often does.

As we outlined earlier mentioned, however, what’s the gaping hole for these Penguins? What is actually the trade blueprint the admirer foundation and media have been clamoring for? With so quite a few gamers locked up as perceived contributors for many years into the future, who will get subtracted from that equation?

“I’m not worried about that,” Sullivan explained Monday evening after the club’s 6-3 decline to New Jersey. “Our duty is to engage in the sport with the guys that we have. We have incredibly capable guys. We’re a very good staff when we engage in the sport the appropriate way.”

Certain, a further scoring winger would be pleasant. Of course, anyone with some internet-front grit and scoring contact to offset Patric Hornqvist’s damage problems would support. A different defenseman with offensive competencies to buffer any potential damage to Kris Letang or a gradual return from Justin Schultz would be marvelous.

Nevertheless, those people commodities price considerable return. And the Penguins’ farm system is just not just deep any longer. Every word I have read coming from within the Penguins is that Jim Rutherford would truly like to hold on to his very first-round decide on this 12 months for a adjust. The staff has had only a single (Kasperi Kapanen) considering the fact that 2012.

Which is not to say Rutherford will not likely use this year’s very first-rounder as collateral if he feels the appropriate shift is out there. But is it? If it is, who?

To me, it feels like the massive “trade tracker” tale of the year is who will the Penguins send out Brassard to, as opposed to what massive fish can they land.

The Penguins shouldn’t be concentrated on having anyone new. As an alternative, how about reacquiring the Evgeni Malkin we all know and love? You know, the man who is often an MVP prospect as opposed to a single who scores just three goals in 16 online games. The man who is moreover-16 as he was final 12 months, as opposed to his minus-20 this 12 months.

How about prolonged balanced stretches from Schultz and Hornqvist? Maybe Brassard can prove he should’ve been obtained in the very first spot and is worthy of preserving.

Or possibly the staff can get a 3rd aim from Riley Sheahan considering the fact that Dec. 6. Tanner Pearson has a single level in 5 online games. Phil Kessel is a minus-12 in January. Sidney Crosby has a single power-engage in level considering the fact that the calendar flipped to 2019. Matt Murray is permitting four goals from over his final four begins.

“It really is anyone enjoying the similar way regularly. We have obtained to carry the similar effort and hard work each individual evening,” Crosby explained after the decline Monday. “We have obtained adequate talent in here. We’ll score adequate goals. We just have to engage in tough.”

Crosby is appropriate for the most aspect there. But it really is not just about enjoying harder. It really is about enjoying better. The roster is very good adequate. The guys on the ice require to start off residing up to the backs of their hockey cards.

And their contracts.

The 2019 Penguins are a staff that wants to clear up its possess backyard right before it begins acquiring new patio furniture.

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