Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mid Season Review - The Players

In keeping with the previous review I did this season, here are my thoughts on the Pens at mid season:


It's a little easier to see who has been below expectations now that we're more than halfway through the year.

Nils Eckman - I know it's not fair to kick a guy when he's down. I also know that he would work really hard. His hat trick stands out as one of the best moments of the season. Having said all of that... he is still the worst on the team at -13. He only produced 15 points in 32 games. That's not good enough for a guy that was expected to play on the top line. He scored 55 and 57 prior to this season.

Colby Armstrong - Much as it kills me, you have to put him on this list. Prior to the season, he was expected to contribute some scoring and be a top six forward. He simply hasn't produced. I will be the first guy to acknowledge that he's filled in well in other areas. He kills penalties. He hits. He works hard. He is a plus player. He does the little things. However, he's not scoring, and that's what he needs to do. I'm hoping for a big second half from Colby.

Ronald Petrovicky - He is a great agitator. He is a tough player. He takes dumb penalties, usually involving blows to the head.

Noah Welch - He's been unable to earn a prominent spot here in Pittsburgh, leading to the consolation prize of "he should be playing 25 minutes a night in Wilkes Barre" from Michel Therrien. Maybe he has Christensen-itis from last year... maybe he just needs time to develop. I know he'll earn a bigger spot, but it might not be this year.

As Expected

Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Thorburn - They play tough, usually don't take dumb penalties and possess the puck in the offensive zone really well. They've also chipped in offensively with a few timely goals (the opening goal of the season by Ruutu was huge).

Josef Melichar and Rob Scuderi - Solid defensive guys. Both are plus players. Both don't make many mistakes. Scuderi especially is a good penalty killer. His defining move, in my mind, is using the stick on the back side of the 5 on 3 penalty kill.

Ryan Malone - I was going to put him in disappointments, but I think he's been largely OK after a horrible start.

Michel Ouellet - Chips in offensively (he'll have 15-20 goals by year end) and is the object of Michel Therrien's man crush. I think he makes the most of what he has. He can be a solid NHLer for a long time, playing on the third line and sniping on the power play.

Dominic Moore - Solid worker, though he doesn't play as much on the PK anymore. Without the solid PK work, I'm not sure what his long term role is on the team. Might be passed by Mad Max.


Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney - Both have contributed more offensively than most people could have hoped for, especially in the goal scoring department. Both log tons of minutes. Whitney's breakout passes are wonderful to watch.

Maxime Talbot - Flys around on the ice. Starting to show some offensive skill from time to time. Give him time to develop - he'll be a dangerous third or fourth liner.

Jordan Staal - Everything about this guy is great this year. He's been far beyond any one's expectations, and he's only going to get better. Plays on the PK. Leads the NHL in short-handed goals. He's starting to play a more regular top 6 role on the wing. He's the youngest player in the NHL by more than a year. Simply amazing.

Eric Christensen - I know he's a -9. I also know that we're starting to see why he's so highly thought of with some absolutely sick goals. He's provided some much needed scoring since his recall. He should finish with 20-25 goals if he keeps the momentum going.

Alain Nasreddine - Did you know he's been here for 21 games? I didn't think it had been that long. He's not getting the big minutes, but this career minor leaguer is making the most of his chance, and he's a +6 in just 21 games, which says that he's helping more than he's hurting. Can you ask for anything more from a 5th or 6th defensemen?

Mark Recchi - Big turnaround from last year when he was a -28 with the Pens and then -8 with the champion Hurricanes. He's a +3 and is contributing some important offense from the wing.

Marc-Andre Fleury - He's starting to come up big when the Pens need him the most. He still struggles with rebounds sometimes, but give the guy a break... he's just 22! He's the biggest reason the Pens are in the playoff race.

You've Gotta Be Kidding Me

New category! This is for the guys that just are too amazing for words.

Evgeni Malkin - He's not as consistent as you'd like to see, but when he gets going, he can dominate a game. He has already shown that several times this year, and will likely do more of that as the stretch drive hastens. He will be a huge help in taking some of the pressure off of Sid.

Sidney Crosby - Year #2. Scorer #1. Poster boy for the NHL. Even better on the ice in just about every facet of the game.

So what do you think? Who would you move around? I didn't cover everyone... but this is most of what jumped out at me. Second half starts tomorrow night in Dallas.

Let's Go Pens!

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