The Penguins are 17-15-3: Two points out of a playoff spot and just two points above Carolina, the Metro Division’s last-place team.
It’s not hard to figure out why the Penguins are struggling.
Last season, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin finished second and 14th, respectively, in the NHL scoring race. Right now, they’re 23rd and 33rd. Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel are supposed to score goals. Sheary has one tally in his past 15 games, Guentzel none in his past eight.
That’s not meant to heap blame on those players.
It is meant to steer you clear of overanalyzing, say, lack of production from the bottom six. It doesn’t much matter who the fourth-line right wing is.
If those who are supposed to produce more do, many of the smaller problems solve themselves.
If those who are supposed to produce more don’t, solving the smaller problems won’t matter.
The acquisition of 6-foot-7 lamppost Jamie Oleksiak won’t help much. That get is designed to get defenseman Ian Cole out of the lineup.
Cole took two sketchy penalties in Monday’s 4-2 loss at Colorado. Coach Mike Sullivan was visibly seething after each – especially when the first, an unnecessary cross-check, ended in a power-play goal.
Additional trades will likely be made.
But what’s preventing GM Jim Rutherford from summoning energy to the Penguins from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton? Adding Guentzel, Sheary, Bryan Rust, etc. over the past few seasons certainly helped in that regard. The current Penguins are jaded and lifeless.
Winger Daniel Sprong (15 goals in 25 games) seems logical. Winger Dominik Simon is already with the Penguins. Winger Zach Aston-Reese hasn’t produced (three goals in 24 games), but couldn’t do less than many of those already in Pittsburgh.