This excerpt from my Trib column rates the Penguins most disappointing players:

  1. Erik Karlsson. $11.5 million doesn't buy what it used to. Karlsson had 101 points with San Jose last season, but just 55 heading into this season's final game. What Karlsson lacked in production, he made up for by having zero defensive acumen. The power play went from bad to worse on his watch, absolutely imploding. I've never seen a good player seem so comfortable being on a bad team.
  2. Tristan Jarry. He's not a No. 1 goalie. He's proven it time and again. He's simply not capable. Jarry has no focus, no head for the game.
  3. Ryan Graves. Big contract, horrible season. He performed well in the context of New Jersey's structure. But the Penguins don't have New Jersey's structure. Graves too frequently got caught betwixt and between.
  4. It's a tie between Rickard Rakell and Reilly Smith. They combined for 27 goals. They should have closer to 27 each. Rakell and Smith were non-factors more often than not.
  5. Evgeni Malkin. Malkin turned it up some in the season's last four weeks, but it was too little, too late. Malkin took too many dumb penalties, made mistakes in the neutral zone and mostly didn't produce enough. (Michael Bunting arriving to play on Malkin's wing helped. Bunting forced Malkin to play more north-south.)

To read the entire piece, click HERE.

Let's look at the Penguins' most promising developments in terms of personnel:

  1. Drew O'Connor looks like a good middle-six winger. He had six goals in his last 12 games, finishing the season with 16 goals in 79 games. He meshed well on a line with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust. His physicality is catching up to his size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds).
  2. P-O Joseph had a solid last month when he usually operated as Kris Letang's defense partner. That's a small sample for somebody that's mostly been a bust since being drafted 23rd overall in 2017, but take what you can get. Joseph looked poised and fundamental.
  3. Michael Bunting gives the Penguins something they haven't had, namely grit, net-front presence and a tangible heartbeat that isn't wearing No. 87. He looks decent playing the bumper on the power play, too. Bunting isn't the player Jake Guentzel is, but that trade is starting to take on a James Neal-for-Patrick Hornqvist vibe.
  4. Jack St. Ivany doesn't stink as a bottom-pair defenseman. He's OK. Again, take what you can get.
  5. Jeff Carter is done. He came to Pittsburgh, contributed little beyond his trade-deadline acquisition season, ate up too much cap space with the buddy-system extension he got from ex-GM Ron Hextall, cost the Penguins Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev because he was idiotically protected in the expansion draft, yet got a hero's sendoff and will likely get a job in the organization. All that is evidence of a franchise gone soft. Not to be critical.
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

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