Home > Uncategorized > Pittsburgh Penguins: End of Season Player Grades

Pittsburgh Penguins: End of Season Player Grades

So here we are at the end of the regular season.  I think ‘bittersweet’ is a good description of what transpired over the last 82 games.  The Penguins frustrated fans at times, particularly post-Olympics, with very uneven play overall and didn’t convince anyone that they were the better team many nights.  That being said the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference is a solid showing and despite the oddities and apparent weaknesses there is still a chance at a meaningful run.  More than likely there is no avoiding the Washington Capitals and/or the New Jersey Devils, but as always anything can happen in the playoffs and if some players can step up their game the Penguins could still assert themselves as the big dog in the Eastern Conference yet again.

As far as the regular season goes some players turned in an effort to be proud of but many left me scratching my head.  Here’s a breakdown of my impressions of the ’09-’10 version of each player:

Sidney Crosby I admit I’m starting off with an easy one.  51 goals, 109 points, and a 5 game, 15-point finish to the regular season.  It wasn’t quite enough for another Art Ross trophy but he will share the Rocket Richard with Steven Stamkos.  I think this was the season that defines Crosby.  He is the consummate leader, plays extremely well in all zones, and is constantly improving in all areas.  He plays with no excuses and works like a dog.  Oh, and he picked up a gold medal along the way.  Not much else needs to be said, we already know him well by now. A+

Bill Guerin I think Guerin has taken way too much heat this year.  That being said I do think he deserved a healthy portion of it.  At only $2 million, his 21 goals come as a blessing and he’s a better passer than people give him credit for.  The problems lie in his shift in, shift out play.  He just looks to be in slow motion at times and I’m not talking about his skating (we all know at his age that would be an issue).  His mind and his stick don’t seem to be at the same speed as the rest of the game.  Too many indecisive moments and while he doesn’t coast out there he doesn’t make a bee line to the net or loose pucks either.  Still the point production is there for the money, but a lackluster performance in many other areas translate into a ‘meh’ season.  C+

Chris Kunitz I was pretty hard on Kunitz earlier in the year.  I just wasn’t convinced he was noticeable night in, night out.  I understand his role in providing versatile and physical play in the playoffs, yet there again lies a problem:  lack of scoring.  This year I’m still at a loss.  Kunitz missed 32 games so it’s a natural first instinct to cut him a break.  I’m not so sure though.  Over an 82 game season his numbers translate to 21 goals, 52 points.  The first part leaves something to be desired but is still acceptable, the second part is not.  52 points plus an inconsistent physical presence does not equal $3.75 million per year.  60 points and a consistent physical presence?  Sure.  That’s what I need to see from Kunitz.  He hits well, he digs well, and he produces his share, but it’s unclear which of those three you’re going to get on a given night.  I will say he looked very good after coming back from injury, but now he’s hurt again and no one knows the extent of it.  Again, I need to see more and see it more often. B-

Evgeni Malkin It was a bit of an odd year for Malkin.  He missed 15 games, and in my opinion it’s unclear whether or not he was banged up in some of the ones he dressed for.  Taking his season at face value it was still pretty good, just not up to Malkin standards.  In 67 games he scored 28 goals, 77 points.  Project those numbers to a full season and you have 34 goals, 94 points.  Those numbers tell the real story that wasn’t told with Malkin being in and out of the lineup briefly and going through a bit of a rough patch midseason.  A projected 94 point season is impressive considering his wingers are worse than they’ve ever been to the point of being criminal.  The only real complaint I have is how many penalties he’s taken and I’m not just bringing it up because of the final regular season game.  He ended up with exactly 100 PIMs, and that is simply being in the box too much for a superstar.  I don’t think it will be a trend, but it’s worth the coaches monitoring.  All things considered it’s still a scary thought what this guy could possibly do with even mediocre wingers going forward. B+

Ruslan Fedotenko Where do I begin?  Did he do anything well this year?  Seriously, I don’t think I’m being too harsh.  He was consistently slow, mostly lifeless, and had a knack for being completely invisible most nights despite getting consistently good minutes.  He mustered a paltry 30 points while for the most part playing with one of the best centers on the planet.  He was a minus 17, worst on the team.  Was he simply collecting a paycheck?  I almost never speculate in that manner but you have to wonder.  He’s only 31 years old so deterioration of skills can’t be the answer.  I just recently saw footage of him in game 7 of last year’s finals, and he looked like a completely different player:  full of energy, taking charge at times, and making things happen.  The only way the Penguins will get their money’s worth is if he comes up big a couple of times in the playoffs.  If you question Guerin’s bang for the buck, look no further than this disaster of a signing, and the worst part is I don’t think one single person saw it coming. F

Pascal Dupuis I admit, I was a Dupuis hater coming out of last year’s campaign.  Turns out I think he just had a subpar year.  He was reliable two years ago since coming into town with Marian Hossa and this year he proved to be valuable again.  18 goals is a few more than expected and at times he was playing like a man possessed, at least as much as his skills would allow.  He skates very well, attacks loose pucks and apparently can earn his keep production-wise.  I don’t have many complaints and again his goals were key for a team that doesn’t have as many consistent contributors as one would think. B+

Jordan Staal I think Staal made an apparent step in his development this year.  Maybe the Cup run gave him confidence or it’s just his natural progression, but he seems to be getting there.  He disappears a lot less than he did in past years and looks pretty formidable when the adrenaline is flowing and he’s confident in rushing the puck.  The things he needs to work on are his hands.  He will challenge defenders often but lacks the finesse necessary to break through and create a clean chance.  Hopefully he’ll get there, and his point production needs to inch up a bit more, but despite the fact that I believe his “shutdown” prowess is a total mirage he’s slowly but surely turning into a very valuable player. B

Tyler Kennedy This was another typical ho-hum year for Kennedy.  He inevitably got hurt and missed a mentionable amount of games and he chipped in enough to keep his job.  It’s not for lack of trying, he’s just too small and too one-dimensional to do much more.  Shots on goal are always nice, but when you fling the puck wildly towards the net at every opportunity and create unnecessary turnovers then it’s a problem.  Shooting constantly is nice when you’re in squirts, but in the pros more is demanded of a player.  Then again he makes $725,000 per year, so for what he is he does the job. C+

Matt Cooke Regardless of what your opinion is of the Cooke/Savard incident, overall Cooke was a good presence for the team almost all year.  I think after the incident he seemed to lose his bite, but hopefully that will return for the playoffs.  He produced 15 goals and 30 points while playing the pest role and generally being someone opponents don’t want to face.  I think this year his play was right on the mark for what was expected. B

Alexei Ponikarovsky I won’t give Ponikarovsky a grade, because frankly I think it would be a little unfair.  He seemed unspectacular yet reliable in his first few games, but after that he was being constantly moved around amidst the forward lines when Evgeni Malkin was sidelined with injury.  He also missed the last two games of the season with a suspension.  I’m optimistic he will be exactly what he has been for the Maple Leafs:  a decent contributor that you shouldn’t expect to see on a highlight reel.

Mike Rupp I never thought Rupp should have been given top six minutes (you don’t want to go to the well too many times), however I do think he should have been rotated in much more often.  His 13 goals obliterated his former career high of 6 and he displayed a lot of skill for a big man that lacks a lot of overall speed.  With Malkin essentially having no reliable wingers for most of the year, I think it would have been worthwhile to let Rupp have a go with him a few times a game.  Regardless of all that Rupp had a very surprising year, and is more a part of this team than certain guys who get a lot more playing time. A-

Craig Adams What is there to say?  I guess if you want a penalty killer and a penalty killer only, Adams is your guy.  He makes the right amount ($525,000) for what he does, so I guess there’s not much to complain about.  That said I still can’t get over the fact that he couldn’t score one….single…..goal this year.  As dumb as it sounds, one goal would’ve made it all better for me.  It boggles my mind that he even had 10 assists.  I can’t fathom Adams being on the score sheet every 8 games.  Anyways, I think my beef with him is more directed at Bylsma for playing him way too much at even strength. C

Eric Godard No grade. He fights, he sucks at everything else, and I don’t think we need him no matter how little he makes.  That said, he has one more goal and three more points than Adams for having barely played this year.

Sergei Gonchar Yet another player that’s taken a worse rap than he deserves.  Third on the team in points (11g, 50 pts) despite only playing 62 games.  I do agree he’s been less aggressive in his own zone but at the age of 35 I’m willing to accept that, especially since his totals are still great.  He takes the equal blame other players and coaches take for the disappointing power play, but for the most part he’s been the same reliable point machine he’s always been.  He will be sorely missed next year unless a miracle happens cap wise. A-

Brooks Orpik The saving grace of Orpik is that he’s the only rough and tumble defenseman in a group that all of a sudden didn’t have much muscle this year.  I still maintain he doesn’t bring that element as often as he should but at the same time when he does he’s very tough to play against.  25 points is an unexpected bonus to boot. B+

Jay McKee In my opinion McKee had an up and down year with a bit more on the “down” side.  He was reliable and blocked shots to his heart’s content all the way up until December, then he seemed to lose something.  Age and a battered body probably have a lot to do with it, but my hope is he’ll be the poor man’s Scuderi this team desperately needs for the playoffs.  He doesn’t fit the up tempo style the Penguins try to play so hopefully he can make do from here on in.  Up to this point he’s failed to be the same consistent player over the course of the season. C-

Mark Eaton The great thing about Eaton is you rarely notice him.  For a defenseman that’s a great thing.  He’s solid, limits mistakes and hardly makes them himself.  He’s just mobile enough and just physical enough to get the job done and he’s smart.  He always plays within himself and earns every cent of his $2 million per year contract.  Knowing what you’re getting in a player is very valuable in sports and Eaton fits that bill. B

Kris Letang I’m going to try and not be too hard on this guy.  After all, he doesn’t make $3.5 million until next year.  Nevertheless he has a lot of work to do to be worth that kind of scratch.  He skates extremely well and passes well.  He also plays as physical as his size allows.  That said he still has a lot to learn in his own zone and simply doesn’t put up as many points as everyone keeps expecting him to.  Truth be told his shot is average at best and his shot selection is borderline terrible.  His accuracy is terrible.  He’s still extremely young, however I don’t know if I see enough for him to earn that kind of cash going forward with the possible exception of his final contract year. B-

Jordan Leopold I’ll come out and say I didn’t like this trade.  I don’t mind the slight overpayment of a 2nd round pick, it’s just that I wasn’t convinced Leopold was all that good.  I’m still not all that sure but lately he’s done a good job of dispelling my doubts.  The Penguins have had team defense troubles so it’s hard to tell if Leopold is directly responsible for any of that or if he’s been unusually reliable, but some timely goals since his arrival have been great to see.  I really can’t come up with a grade, but hopefully he’s settled into the system.

Marc-Andre Fleury When it comes to Fleury, I defended him a lot midseason because I felt I was playing the percentages.  He has been known to give up some softies but he also saves the Pens’ bacon much more often than he’s given credit for.  Now that the season has ended I have to say I’m disappointed.  Past the first month of the season he failed to string together a number of solid performances.  The amount of soft goals non-Pens fans incorrectly assumed he gave up became a reality.  The proof is in the pudding, so I’m still erring on the side of him flipping the “on” switch for the playoffs.  I wouldn’t say I wasn’t a little worried though. C-

Brent Johnson His 10-6 record is about right for the team he plays on.  It might seem like I’m losing a little steam at the end here but Johnson was exactly what was expected, nothing more, nothing less.  33 isn’t that old so I would take him again next year for a minimal raise, although I would explore other options if there were an odd $100-200k laying around under the cap only because of his prior back problems. B-






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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. John Kovach
    April 13, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Mike:
    Well, I pretty much agree with you with just a couple of differences. I would have graded Guerin a “B”. Why? Not that I disagree with you about his performance, it’s just that I had really low expectations for a guy his age. Like you said, that contract and… for a 20 goal man it came out looking good. Also, that’s fine not giving a grade to Ponikarovsky. I don’t think people realize he was a 50-point player this year with most points on a lousy team like Toronto. Despite what most people think, it would be good to have him back next year at the right price since he outscored most of the Penguins playing on a lesser team. That’s my feedback. Let’s hope they get it together for the playoffs. GO PENS!

    • April 13, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      Yeah I was unsure where to slot Guerin, probably a slight matter of opinion. Gonchar was one I flip flopped on as well. I don’t have a problem with people putting him in the B range. I don’t know how I missed Goligoski, he’d probably be a D+. Talbot I wouldn’t give a grade anyways but if I had to it’d probably be a C. Extremely hard to give him a grade though since he was really racked up.

  2. Dan
    April 13, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    It’s tough grading some players cause many of them missed some time but I will just add some of my thoughts on a few players:

    I would probably give Guerin a B as well. His points pace was slightly higher until the last quarter of the season when he was playing with Staal a lot. He also stopped getting power play time at one point. He definitely does seem slower but hopefully all of the above has to do with him taking it easy until it matters.

    You screwed up on Fedotenko. He gets an F-

    Kennedy- That was pretty nice but I see you did factor in his salary.

    I would also downgrade Staal to a C. He did absolutely nothing when they needed him the most when Malkin missed time in the final month of the season. Before this I had gone the longest I had ever gone without bitching about him. Any kind of semi decent production from him in the last month would of got them the 2nd seed.

    Blysma F———– You can’t play “your game” when Malkin and Gonchar are out so you have to adjust it. Also when “your game” consitently doesn’t work against the trap you might to adjust something there too. Oh and add 1 more – for tomorrow when Talbot or Rupp is sitting for Adams. Oh and 1 more – for wasting Crosby’s energy tomorrow by double shifting him with Adams when obviously nothing will come of it. Finally add —— for waiting too long to bench Gogo if he continues to faulter.

    • April 14, 2010 at 12:17 am

      Well said lol. I’m always interested to hear what people have to say about these because you can make some great arguments for adjusting some of them (your Staal argument being a prime example). As far as Disco Dan, your points sound all too probable of coming true (shudder).

  3. John Kovach
    May 24, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Well, I guess it’s obvious now that “playing our game” didn’t work.

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