Home > Uncategorized > Penguin Player Grades: After 27 Games

Penguin Player Grades: After 27 Games

We’re a third of the way through the season and the greatest assistant coach of all time with the last name “Kovach” thinks it’s time we all weigh in on what we think of everyone wearing a Pens jersey, and I agree.  Obviously I’ll start it off.  I encourage everyone to comment on mine as well as submit their own if they so choose.  So without further ado, let’s start with the forwards:

Note:  Sorry but I have to consider salary when doing this kind of thing, because after all X amount of goals, blocked shots, etc. look very different when you consider how certain players are expected to perform.  Also, I admit as I wrote and wrote I noticed a lot of what I said about each player pertains to my overall impressions of them but the grades do reflect only THIS season.  I’m sure if I do this when we’re 2/3 of the way through the season they’ll be much, much shorter!


Sidney Crosby:  Just recently I sort of called out Crosby and his teammate Evgeni Malkin not for playing poorly, but not being dominant as often as they should given their responsibilities.  Recently though Crosby has been out of his mind, specifically in the last two games which were against the Rangers, scoring a total of 5G, 3A.  Also, he has 14 points in his last nine games.  He looks to be back in prime form and all of a sudden he sits four points behind Gaborik for the scoring lead (currently 3rd).  He’s really stepping it up, and despite a small lull earlier in the year, has not disappointed.  A

Bill Guerin:  Assuming the role of whipping boy for a lot of Pens fans this year, Guerin hasn’t been that great but given his age and price tag I don’t think he’s been horrible.  He’s on pace for 18 goals and 48 points which is about right but given his goal scoring acumen and the fact that he plays almost exclusively with Crosby it will be a disappointment if he doesn’t at least break 20 goals.  He seems to float a lot more than when he was initially acquired but again I’m a little wary of nailing him to the wall when he’s clearly at the end of the road in his career.  C+

Chris Kunitz:  I won’t nail Guerin to the wall, but I will do it to Kunitz.  This won’t even be as harsh as I want it to be since I’m giving him the slightest bit of slack due to him being injured.  Kunitz played a significant role in getting the Pens back on track last year, leading them to an undefeated five-game road trip immediately after he was traded here.  Since then you can’t say he’s been anything but a big disappointment.  He chipped in one single goal in last year’s playoffs in by far the easiest series the Penguins played and has not done much since then.  In 19 games this year he has a breakaway goal late in a 6-1 win and two other goals I’m 98% sure would’ve gone in the net anyways even if they hadn’t grazed him first.  Sure he hits a little and is okay in the corners, but at this point an extra $800k per year for Ryan Malone instead looks pretty damn attractive.  D

Evgeni Malkin:  A lot of yinzers might not be so thrilled with Malkin this year at a glance.  Of course this means nothing because those people don’t know shit, but coming off his playoff MVP performance last season I think we all probably expected more fireworks than what we’ve seen so far.  Some of it is due to Malkin missing 7 games due to injury though, and 25 points in 21 games is pretty darn good even for one of the best players on the planet.  Keep in mind he’s also stuck with inferior linemates in comparison to what Crosby has and that’s putting it lightly.  I’d like to see him tear it up a couple times in the near future much like Crosby has done recently but there’s plenty of time for that and again he has almost zero help on the wings so far this year.  A-

Ruslan Fedotenko:  Maybe the most surprising disappointment as of now has to be Fedotenko.  I wasn’t all too thrilled when Shero signed him but he proved to be an adequate fit on Malkin’s left wing.  This year he’s on pace for 12 goals which is simply not cutting it when you have an all-around superstar as your centerman.  The Penguins re-signed him for a meager $1.8 million but much like Guerin 20 goals is the minimum he should end up with.  If he falls just short they’ll probably still have gotten their money’s worth if not for the fact that Fedotenko has so far been completely invisible in almost every game this year.  It’s uncanny really.  D-

Pascal Dupuis:  Here’s an interesting one.  I say that because I have to assume I’m obligated to go only by what the player has done SO FAR this year, not including what I think he’ll do for the rest of it.  If that’s the case Dupuis grades out pretty well here.  His play is no better than what I usually expect from him (good skater, decent slapshot, but nothing else) but at the end of the day he’s got 7 goals and if he somehow reaches 10-11 for the year at least we can all say the Penguins got their $1.4 million worth, which isn’t much but still way too high for him.  Aside from him physically scoring goals it’s been the same Dupuis we’re used to:  ho-hum fourth line performance.  That being said, he’s still a fringe player with 7 goals and there’s no getting around it.  B

Jordan Staal:  I was worried that my grades would all be extremely tilted towards good or bad, but then when I remembered Staal it didn’t bother me anymore.  He’s not necessarily “bad” he just never lasts more than one game looking “good.”  We always criticize fans who judge players strictly on whether they scored or not on a particular night but I think it really is that way with Staal.  If he scores that’s great but if he doesn’t it’s rare that he does anything memorable through the course of three periods.  I admit I’m probably much harder on him than some people, but it’s difficult when I would say he mishandles the puck a handful of times every single game, carries the puck with his head down, and generally looks slow with his hands, feet, and mind. 

I’m not buying into the whole “he plays great defense” argument either.  Jeff Halpern plays great defense too and in his prime could muster as many points as Staal does now.  The difference is Halpern never made anything near $4 million per year.  He has a few years left to grow which coincide badly with his contract expiring.  Here’s to hoping Shero figures him out before that one way or the other.    C+

Tyler Kennedy:  Kennedy has only played 14 games yet he’s managed 6 goals so far this year, all of them coming near the beginning of the season.  I don’t have a whole lot to say about Kennedy except that he fits nicely on a third line.  He’s a small, quick player that complements bigger players usually designated to play the other wing and center positions alongside him.  You can bank on 15-19 goals from him in a full season and I’m sure he’ll hit 20 one of these years and go back down, but if he keeps finding ways to make an impact on the score sheet every few games there’s nothing to complain about and he’ll never hurt your team much.  I guess that’s a long winded way of saying I think he’s been “fine” so far and will be “fine” for the rest of the year……as usual.  B+

Matt Cooke:  Cooke has also proven himself worthy of a third line role since he was signed two summers ago and continues to perform at the same level.  He knows what his strengths and weaknesses are and this year he’s again proven to be good at drawing penalties, taking the body, and chipping in a goal every so often.  He has 5 so far and I’m sure if he only gets 3-4 more this season he’ll still have done his job.  A-

Mike Rupp:   I’ll try not to let the shine of Rupp’s recent hat trick cloud my judgment here but it still has to be factored in.  I said a lot about him in my last post about Monday’s Ranger game so I won’t repeat too much here.  To summarize, I don’t think anyone wanted Rupp when he was signed except Ray Shero, and as it stands right now he’s been the biggest offensive contributor to the Penguins outside of Malkin and Crosby.  With 8 goals before the halfway point and being rewarded accordingly with genuine ice time, Rupp has a legitimate chance to reach 15 goals by the end of the season and be the biggest surprise this year.  Notice I’m much more impressed with Rupp’s 8 goals than I am with Dupuis’s 7.  The reason?  Rupp actually has the skills to prove it’s not a fluke.  A+

Craig Adams:  Adams is Adams.  He plays on the fourth line, doesn’t screw up and is rarely noticeable.  I don’t think anyone should be dressed for a whole season and not pick up at least 3-4 goals, so I’d like to see him put a couple in before the season is over since he doesn’t have any now, but he does his job well killing penalties and never being a hinderance.  B-

Eric Godard:  I’m afraid I can’t give a player like this an accurate grade.  He offers nothing to the team except the willingness to get hit in the head.  I don’t really agree with the old school theory that every team needs a goon so if it were up to me the Penguins wouldn’t have a player like this, therefore I’ll just not grade him.

Chris Bourque:  Ummmmm………what to say about Bourque?  The Penguins picked him up off of waivers just before the season started and I had no problem with it at the time and I’m not sure I even do now, but he’s really struggling to keep up at this level.  Ray’s son is just not skilled enough to play with NHLers.  He isn’t strong enough and can’t skate well enough to make any sort of contribution, and even if he did possess those qualities he doesn’t have any other skills that would translate into any kind of point production.  He’ll be a healthy scratch once all the forwards are healthy again but like my dad has mentioned the Penguins will probably at least keep him with the big league rather than send him down, mostly as a favor to his father.  D


Sergei Gonchar:  Gonchar has played 16 games and contributed 13 points, which are his usual impressive numbers.  Now that Crosby and Malkin are officially piquing it would be great to see a full, healthy season from him to see what totals he would put up.  I don’t think 70 points would be out of the question.  Anyways, before and after his injury Gonchar has been steady on defense and deadly on the power play; in other words he’s done exactly what he’s been paid to do just like always.  He’s one of the more reliable defensemen in the league and while his defensive play isn’t flashy he’s experienced and doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.  This year I’ve seen him get confused briefly a couple times leading to good chances for the opposition, but the complaints are minor considering he’s still a main catalyst for the Penguins.  B+

Brooks Orpik:  Orpik was kind of a personal favorite of mine since he came up to the big club, but I soured on him slightly after his last contract was signed.  He makes a lot of money and in hindsight it was the right move to keep him, I just think he’s a lot less valuable most of the time.  In a chippy game he’s a great player to have and in the playoffs I would say he’s a “pretty good” player to have but most games I’m not that impressed.  He’s good for about 10-20 points a year which is well below par for a defenseman who makes $3.5 million per year and gets a bit of power play time.  To be honest his physical game isn’t all that apparent most of the time.  When he’s in a groove he’s a very imposing player to go up against but I just haven’t seen it as much as I would like and this year is no different.  Bonus points for being an unusually good skater though.  C+

 Jay McKee:  McKee was brought in to at least somewhat replace Rob Scuderi and I think he’s done a great job.  It cost the Penguins less than $1 million and his reputation of blocking a ton of shots has translated to what he’s done so far for Pittsburgh.  Unfortunately the NHL’s incredibly flawed website doesn’t list the leaders in blocked shots, but I know for a fact that McKee was in the top 3 a couple times this year and I assume he’s still near there.  A-

Mark Eaton:  Eaton never really did much for me at first but now I appreciate his role on the team.  He is a very good bottom pairing defenseman and can play in the top four for awhile if necessary.  He’s not very physical but he minimizes mistakes and plays well positionally.  He’s also contributed 3 goals so far this year and from this type of player any production is a bonus.  B+

Kris Letang:  Letang seems to be somewhat untouchable in some circles, and while I do like his game and what he brings I’m not sure he’s as extraordinary as some might think.  He’s an incredible skater and always knows what to do with the puck in the offensive zone, therefore meshing well with the most gifted Penguins.  He’s also been surprisingly good in his own zone even when he was initially called up.  This year though it’s been kind of the same story as last year.  Will Letang ever shoot more?  Will he ever mature into a legit power play quarterback?  It doesn’t seem like those questions will be answered this season, as Letang is on pace for a lousy four goals.  He’s on pace for about 30 points though, which is good considering he was injured and the fact that he’s amongst three legitimate power play defenseman on the Penguin roster.  I like him, I think he’s a good player but even though he’s young I don’t think there’s much room for improvement.  B

Martin Skoula:  Another nice surprise was the late preseason addition of Skoula as the Penguins’ seventh defenseman.  He really came in handy given all the injuries the blue line has sustained and has 3 goals to boot.  I admit after a couple games I still thought he looked really stiff but he’s gotten comfortable later rather than sooner and as of now can always step in and play regularly for a long period if necessary.  B+


Marc-Andre Fleury:  Steady as she goes.  That’s pretty much all you need to say about Fleury.  Like it or not he’s one of the best goaltenders in the league and if it weren’t for Martin Brodeur’s god-like status in Canada he would deserve the starting job in the Olympics as much as anyone else.  He never gets credit for saving the team’s bacon and keeping them in games, which he did a lot more early in the season than in the last month or so, mostly because he hasn’t had to.  We’re well past his emotional early days where he was prone to soft goals and this year he sits atop the league leaders in wins and will certainly stay in the vicinity all season.  He’s exhibited virtually no flaws so far.  A

Brent Johnson:  I have to say I was always a fan of Johnson.  I also have to say that after his multiple back injuries that I was half excited, half nervous that he would be employed as the Penguins backup goaltender this year.  All things considered I’m happy with the way he has performed.  I can remember one or two lackluster goals he’s allowed but he also brought his best game on most of the nights he was called upon to start.  As mentioned a couple goals bothered me but all in all a legitimate backup goaltender.  B


Deryck Engellund:  B

Ben Lovejoy:  C+

Nate Guenin:  C-

Max Talbot:  N/A

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. John Kovach
    December 2, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Well…here we go-I agree with you on most of your grades. The exceptions are:
    Kunitz-I won’t nail him to the wall, I’ll drive a stake through him to make him stick. Was “F” the lowest grade possible?
    Adams- I’ll take him down to a “C-“. I didn’t expect much, but feel we got a little less.
    Bourgue- You were way to kind in giving him a “D”. If I feel Kunitz might deserve lower than an “F”, well I think that puts Bourque somewhere around “Z”.
    Orpik-Don’t disagree with the grade, but Dave Molinari game him the nod over Robbie Brown as the Pens best “44” ever. Is he kiddin me? Did you ever see Orpik “wind it up?”
    Fleury-Again, I agree with your grade of “A”, stating he saves the team’s bacon. I remember a guy that did that and only cared about wins, not goals against..his name was Tom Barrasso.
    Can’t wait to see how they all do during the second third of the season.

    • December 2, 2009 at 9:59 pm

      I sympathize with all those. I think with Kunitz, Adams, and Bourque I was trying not to be TOO critical or biased. Kunitz I didn’t give an “F” just because he’s a capable NHL player, but that salary obviously factors in. Adams I actually wanted to grade lower but figured everyone would think I was picking on him but I do agree. Bourque, well I guess he has to be an “F” I think my rating came more out of what they expected from him which couldn’t have been much. Again though, he can barely skate with everyone else on the ice let alone make something happen so your “Z” rating is respected lol.

  2. Uncle Tom
    December 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    What about Goligoski? I know he’s injured, but he’s played enough to get a grade.

    I’ll give him a B as he’s done better than I expected.

    Bourque is gone. I’ve seen worse but he’s right down there. I told your Dad that I never saw him move off the boards.

    • December 7, 2009 at 6:19 pm

      Oh I would definitely give Goligoski an A- or something like that. He’s virtually tearing it up points-wise and while his contract isn’t big at all it still wasn’t a surefire investment. Frankly I’m really happy to see it because Letang probably isn’t explosive enough to be their next PP quarterback.

  3. Dan
    December 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I just spend 30 minutes typing responses to this and I forgot to put my name and e-mail in. When i clicked back it didn’t save it…. that’s a lil frustating.

    Guess you will have to wait for my expert response cause I’m not doing again right now!

    • December 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm

      That’s hilarious because it happened to someone other than me. If you muster up the strength some other time I’d be interested to see.

  4. Perry Muir
    December 10, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I agree on most of the grades you gave Mike. I would probably give Dupuis and Letang slightly higher marks than you did though. I can’t explain why I’ve become such fans of those guys, maybe because they seem to fit the “unsung hero” label well. I thought they both played very well going back to last years playoffs, especially Letang, and Dupuis, while he hasn’t scored much, is so quick on the puck and helps move it into the offensive zone nicely.

    I believe they will both improve as the year goes on….assuming they avoid injury which has been at a pandemic level so far this year for this team.

    • December 10, 2009 at 7:44 pm

      Yeah I see your points. I have a little personal hate towards Dupuis to be honest so a little of that might have creeped in. I think I was weighing his impressive goal total (for him) against his usual style of play which I can’t stand haha. That’s how I came to the grade I suppose.

  5. Dan
    January 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Obviously I didn’t redo my deleted post but Fedotenko sucks. O and please get Ray Whitney for Malkin.

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