Almost half way through the NHL’s 82 game season and one thing is clear: something’s not right with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The defending Stanley Cup champions currently sit outside the playoff picture and according to a recent report, have just a 53% chance of qualifying for the post season in 2017-18. Ouch.
With the team struggling to keep its head above water, fans and analysts have speculated openly about what the team’s issues are this season. Is it goal scoring? Goaltending? Leadership? The team could stand to improve in all aspects, but it’s hard to overlook the offseason departures of forwards Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino, as well as defenseman Trevor Daley. With those four leaving the team for essentially no return, the Penguins lost a HUGE chunk of their leadership group. Toss the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury into the mix and the team’s leadership group looks even more thin.
No one is questioning the leadership of veterans Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, but the support group that the superstars have had in years past simply doesn’t exist anymore. Where’s the next Kunitz and Cullen? Riley Sheahan frankly looks like a bust and outside of Patric Hornqvsit and Phil Kessel, the Penguins don’t have much more veteran leadership to draw from. Young players like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust won’t automatically become leaders, but do the Pens have the luxury of time for them to grow into their roles? Or does GM Jim Rutherford have to make a move (or two) to acquire some more veteran leadership?
What’s your take? Do the Penguins have a leadership problem?