THE BALLAD OF MATT HUNWICK

If the Penguins don’t win a third consecutive Stanley Cup, Pittsburgh fans already know who to blame: Defenseman Matt Hunwick.

Hunwick had a rough night at Florida Saturday: The Penguins lost, 6-5, and Hunwick was frequently out of position en route to minus-3.

But Hunwick played OK the night before when the Penguins won 6-1 at Carolina. A lot of Penguins had rotten games at Florida, not least goalie Tristan Jarry. Jarry leaked in four goals on 16 shots before giving way to Matt Murray.

Hunwick will be fine. He looked a bit confused switching to the left side. That’s his preferred spot, but Hunwick had been playing on the right. Hunwick drifted right on a few of Saturday’s goals against.

Hunwick’s no Doug Harvey. But neither is his predecessor, Ian Cole. Would you give back Derick Brassard to keep Cole?

But, I get it. You don’t understand hockey. You need a scapegoat. It was Olli Maatta the last two years. It was Kris Letang at the start of this season. Now, it's Hunwick.

The canonization of Cole goes hand in hand.

Cole (whom Ottawa flipped to Columbus) is an average defenseman. A No. 5. Often scratched in Pittsburgh and at his previous place of employment, St. Louis. Plays hard. Blocks shots. Good on the PK. Helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups.

But Cole is extremely replaceable.

I heard another radio personality talk about Cole’s “unique skill set."

Really? Cole has a “unique skill set”? Because I could drive my Ford Edge through a typical town in Saskatchewan or Minnesota and come back with three or four Ian Coles. If I'm exaggerating, it's not much.

Cole is competent. He’s hardly “unique.”

That comes from Pittsburgh’s hockey media overrating Cole because he’s charismatic and chatty. Coach Mike Sullivan didn’t like that Cole talked to the media so much. That was silly. But the overly fond farewell to Cole is residue of that.

Hunwick is average, just like Cole. Better skater, less grit, but the same breed.

Average is all that's needed in the bottom pair.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Mark Madden

Mark Madden

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