Newsflash: Penguins are old! (Stop the presses!)
Terry Marcotte, a cherished Ottawa personality while with CTV News, produced a weekly segment for the local channel a few years back highlighting the accomplishments of senior citizens in the sporting community.
Too bad Terry didn’t stick around for another few years cause he could have filled a month of the work quota on the Pittsburgh Penguins alone.
In Pittsburgh, age is not an issue. Heck, when the general manager is pretty much younger than the bulk of the high-end talent on the roster, you know you’re antiquing. Fresh-faced Kyle Dubas, ex of those playoff slugs in Toronto, has taken his general manager act and new attack method – kill ‘em with canes! – to Western Pennsylvania.
Going overboard on the Erik Karlsson deal? Maybe, but the rest of the world-wide web isn’t. The Pens and their 37-year-old GM are getting the full lampoon treatment following the trade, announced Sunday:
“Love Crosby but Pens are trying to milk a cow that ran dry a few years ago.”
“Trading away draft picks when you’re already the oldest team in the league is just not smart.”
“Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Karlsson. 36,37,36 and 33. When is the last time a cup winning team had that stat line for their 4 best players?”
“Bring me your seniors, your bargain bins and recyclables . . .”
The nuts and bolts of the deal looks like this: Pittsburgh sends a 2024 first-round pick, forward Mikael Granlund and blueliner Jan Rutta to San Jose and goaltender Casey DeSmith, defenceman Jeff Petry, a 2025 second-round pick and winger Nathan Legare to Montreal for the 33-year-old former Ottawa Senator. Montreal also gets rid of Mike Hoffman in the swap as he heads to San Jose.
Karlsson’s coming off a 101-point season, the first d-man to do so since Brian Leetch in 1991-92.
Pittsburgh and Dubas had been pecking around the rumour mill regarding Karlsson for the past few months.
“It’s been kind of a long grind throughout not only the regular season but the summer to get this done,” Sharks GM Mike Grier said “We’ve been going at it for a while trying to get this done with a few teams. Kyle’s been pretty upfront and aggressive for the last couple months, but it’s been a little bit of a grind.”
On one hand you have to wonder what Dubas is doing, adding another highly skilled yet aging vet to his lineup. ‘More of the same,’ please?
And oddly enough the deal smacks of Dubas in a big way. The knock on the Pens and his former team in Toronto was ‘loads-of-talent-not-enough-jam.’ That might not be terribly fair. Anyone questioning the fortitude and desire of Sidney Crosby and to a slightly lesser degree, Geno Malkin, should have heads examined.
But that age and durability thing? Questionable.
On the other hand you have to admire Pittsburgh’s adherence to the current (and past) program. The Penguins will continue on, unabated, with the thought that as long as Sid and Geno and Kris Letang are present and accounted for, the game revolves around their style. That means skill and plenty of it.
Pittsburgh has its Core-3; Toronto has its Core-4. The team-directed philosophy seemingly never alters until the core alters. ‘Tis the way of things.
Case in point – Pittsburgh was an organization back in
early 2018 that made the decision to divest itself of tough guy Ryan Reaves. The Pens had surrendered a first-round pick to St. Louis just eight months previous to acquire the NHL’s heavyweight champ . . . in the end though he just didn’t fit the Penguin philosophy or game plan.
Hard to argue with success back then. Pittsburgh was coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins.
(And before this completely morphs into a Ryan Reaves piece . . . as much as we’d like . . . we’ll add that Reaves will be a better add in Toronto. Hell – you haven’t much to lose since you haven’t won anything with that core group as of yet.)
So what’s the bottom line here. Pretty simple, is Pittsburgh a better team today with a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup? I’d say yes to Part I and unlikely to Part II.
This is a young person’s league now. If the absolute grind of a long playoff run can lay waste to the body of a front-line, uber-conditioned 25-year-old star, what’s it going to do to a number of front-line, uber-conditioned 36- 37- and 33-year-olds?
Ask Matthew Tkachuk and get back to me.