The Penguins’ PP stinks.
It ranks 17th in the NHL with a conversion percentage of 20.9. It’s middle of the pack.
Except it’s not even that good.
The Penguins’ PP rarely generates momentum by way of applying constant pressure.
It doesn’t cause chaos near the blue paint.
It has little rhythm. It doesn’t shoot and crash enough. It overcomplicates. It's all over the place.
The whole isn’t greater than the sum of the parts, or even as good as the sum of the parts. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are all-time greats. But they’re not all-time greats on the power play. They don’t have the power-play nous of, say, Mario Lemieux or Sergei Gonchar. (That's admittedly a big ask.)
Enough is enough. It’s time for a change.
Put winger Jason Zucker in front of the net on the top power play.
Zucker is willing to cause chaos near the blue paint. He scores from in front. He’s good at puck retrieval. He’s got speed. He shows up to play every shift. He’s been the Penguins’ best player lately.
It’s time to get away from lifetime achievement, veteran respect, and making sure nobody knows an unpleasant moment.
The Penguins’ top PP should feature Zucker in front of the net and rookie defenseman Ty Smith up top.
Smith knows how to run the power play. He’s a Dollar Tree Gonchar.
If, when injured players return, salary cap constraints dictate that Smith returns to the Penguins’ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm team, GM Ron Hextall needs to clear cap space so Smith can stay in Pittsburgh.
The GM’s job is to make the team better. Smith on the power play makes the team better.
When something isn’t working, try something different.
It’s long past time for the Penguins to try something different. And not just with the power play.