It’s a twisted blessing that the Penguins’ 16-year playoff streak is over.
It stings a little right now, not least in the locker room and when it comes to the team’s bottom line. Playoff ticket revenue is free money. The players aren’t paid.
But missing the playoffs eliminates a low bar that the Penguins were perhaps willing to settle for, especially having not won a post-season series since 2018.
Now big-picture decisions can be made. Squeaking into the playoffs and losing in the first round isn’t something to be settled for anymore.
Hope not, anyway.
Washington is like the Penguins: Aging and in decline.
But, at this year’s NHL trade deadline, the Capitals swapped pending free agents Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson and got a first-round pick, two second-round picks and two third-round picks.
The Penguins acquired Nick Bonino, Dmitry Kulikov and Mikael Granlund in a desperate try for a wild card. Bonino and Kulikov got hurt. Granlund scored once in 21 games. He cost the Penguins a second-round pick.
The Capitals dug out, at least a little bit. The Penguins got further buried.
If Mike Tomlin finally had a losing season, it would be good for the Steelers. Same principle.