Mack: Dear Jim, Put Down The Phone

Now's Not The Time For Penguins' GM To Chase A Deadline Deal

Chris Mack
February 12, 2019 - 5:57 am
Jim Rutherford

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dear Mr. Rutherford,

With the National Hockey League's trade deadline just two weeks away, and your Pittsburgh Penguins scuffling along to just four victories and nine points in your last 12 games, as general manager, you're undoubtedly feeling your usual mid-February itch. By 3pm on Monday, February 25th, you're going to want to make another move to try and fortify a roster that's dealing with not just injuries, but showing a distinct disinterest in playing the style of game your head coach would like them to play.

Despite all that ails your squad though, this a personal appeal, a plea to you: Resist the urge to add to the roster turnover that's marked the last 12 months of your tenure.

Don't do it, Jim. Send those calls to voicemail. Actually, since I have this idyllic vision of you as an old soul who'd insist on using a rotary phone ala Strother Martin in "Slap Shot," just let the thing ring off the hook.

Don't make a move just to make a move before the deadline.

Related: Murray, Crosby Lead Penguins Past Flyers 4-1

You're a crafty veteran of the NHL Trade Deadline wars, and rightfully so have never shown an aversion to wheeling-and-dealing. Within the next two weeks though, you'll presumably be getting Justin Schultz and Zack Aston-Reese back in the lineup to go with the recently returned Evgeni Malkin. At least one, if not two of these additions, should be enough to give your power play a boost back to where it was before its most recent 1-for-20 run. 

Also, I feel like we should have a talk about your success rate on deals over the past 12 months.

You haven’t exactly had a Midas touch. Essentially turning Ryan Reaves, Ian Cole, Riley Sheahan, Carl Hagelin, Daniel Sprong, and four draft picks – including a 1st rounder – into Marcus Pettersson, Tanner Pearson, Jared McCann, and Nick Bjugstad has the Lanape tribe feeling better about the 60 guilders-for-Manhattan deal every day. Not to mention the Jack Johnson signing that looks worse with every stride of a defenseman who looks as if he’s skating with anchors around his ankles.

To be fair, Pettersson’s been one of the few people to make Johnson look serviceable, and while the jury is still out on McCann & Bjugstad, early returns are good, and their arrival was at the very least addition by subtraction in jettisoning a sullen malcontent in Derick Brassard.

Yet even that serves as a reminder of where you were just one year ago: Thirstier for a trade than Le’Veon Bell for some “likes” on social media, chasing down Brassard led you to dealing a guy whose physicality will be sorely missed come playoff time (Reaves) and another guy whose voice in the room (Cole) served as the kind of accountability needed amongst a group sometimes disinterested in non-postseason hockey.

Following that poor decision down a slippery slope of “maybe one more move will do it” led directly to an ill-advised signing (Johnson) and the dealing of a kid who never got the shot he deserved (Sprong), as well as another solid veteran of the ’16 and ’17 Cup runs (Hagelin).

It also required resources be used that are necessary for an aging Stanley Cup contender that's constantly looking to refresh it's cupboard of young talent. 

Do you even have any draft picks left to deal? With Matt Murray's checked injury history, you can't afford to deal Tristan Jarry. What's left?

Keep in mind, this isn’t to say that you've necessarily made your team worse. 

I don't know if it's any better than it was at last year's deadline, though.

And that's exactly the problem. Despite move after move and tweak after tweak, your team is exactly where it was a year ago: Fronted by some of the game’s most dynamic stars, but without the fortitude to consistently play the game the way they’re being coached nor the scoring depth to support them when they do acquiesce to playing more conservatively, the Penguins of 2019 look a whole lot like the Penguins of 2018.

As your superstars continue to age toward their mid-30s, the last thing your organization can afford are multiple years falling short of the conference finals, and like it or not, such a finish in 2019 would mean three early exits to go with two championships in your five years at the helm.

No amount of deals in the next two weeks are going to change the way your team plays. It's on them to start playing the right way.

So please, Jim. Put down the phone and sit this deadline out.

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