There may be one clear and determined distinction between the previous couple of iterations of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the approaching model set to start subsequent week. The Penguins’ protection is present process the strains of time and the inflow of recent faces. Not solely did GM Ron Hextall half with Mike Matheson and John Marino, however he additionally added a number of new faces combining youth and potential with established success.
It isn’t simply 34-year-old Jeff Petry on his method in, however 23-year-old Ty Smith, a piece in progress and regular but quiet Jan Rutta.
The Penguins’ protection additionally consists of the good chance of declining Brian Dumoulin. Accidents and filling in behind Kris Letang for twenty-four minutes per sport have taken their toll on Dumoulin, the 32-year-old bedrock defenseman.
His arc has been on the downward development. Accidents and exhausting minutes can shorten careers, and Dumoulin should reverse course to keep up his first-pairing standing.
It is in Dumoulin’s potential to rebound or proceed sliding that the Penguins’ defensive pairings might shuffle. And it’s within the shuffle that the Penguins coaches might create some surprising and distinctive defensive pairs to create what head coach Mike Sullivan sometimes phrases the Penguins’ “finest likelihood to win.”
Since I can already hear your wheels turning, no, PO Joseph might be not a superb resolution, both. In his large NHL run in the course of the 2020-21 NHL season, when coaches paired him with Letang, his sport from him regressed, and the momentum he constructed with stellar play beside John Marino pale.
Nevertheless, that was two seasons in the past. Maybe might see it once more.
We additionally checked into Jeff Petry’s expertise on the left. Our Montreal colleagues report Petry doesn’t like his off-side, and in restricted minutes on the left whereas Shea Weber was not efficient.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ choices, ought to Dumoulin not be the man, are restricted, at finest.
Jan Rutta-Kris Letang
What occurs if Dumoulin isn’t really as much as the first-pairing process? Marcus Pettersson has confirmed to not be the very best or perhaps a good associate for Letang, so the coaches can not credibly transfer him to the highest pairing.
The suitable-handed Rutta is not a pure left-sider, however he is come by means of with flying colours previously. Former Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville praised Rutta’s left-side work whereas in Chicago a number of seasons in the past.
“He dealt with it nicely, so it is a good choice for us,” Quenneville stated throughout Rutta’s first NHL season in 2017.
It doesn’t seem the 6-foot-3, 204-pound Rutta performed any significant minutes on the left facet with Tampa Bay during the last two seasons. Nevertheless, Rutta is probably going the primary up ought to Dumoulin’s decline proceed and he could be the very best match due to his potential to play powerful close to the online.
The explanations this is smart, a minimum of on paper, are Joseph’s mobility and puck-moving potential. Joseph can sustain with the quick sport and is fast sufficient to leap into the play but in addition get again to the defensive zone.
The explanations the pairing doesn’t make sense are Joseph’s lack of physicality and inexperience. Taking part in with Letang requires a capability to defend the online and play exhausting minutes towards top-tier competitors.
Can Joseph meet these necessities? It appears a protracted stretch for a participant attempting to make the group to leap to prime pair obligations. Joseph has a lot to show on the NHL stage earlier than he is a legit choice for high-pressure minutes.
The above would additionally apply to the newly acquired Ty Smith, whom the Penguins snared with a third-round decide from New Jersey for John Marino.
Wildcard: Mark Friedman
Friedman-Petry? That looks as if a attainable mixture, however what about Friedman-Letang?
It is implausible, if not not possible, to suppose Friedman might take top-pair minutes. Seventh defensemen do not make that leap. Nevertheless, Friedman’s profession arc has not been typical. He is getting higher and higher. If Chad Ruhwedel could make the leap to common defenseman at 31 (now 32), maybe Friedman might be utilized in a pinch if Sullivan and assistant Todd Reirden are happier with Rutta elsewhere.
We all know Friedman is not shy about defending his internet or getting his nostril soiled. We additionally know he can skate and has some offensive instincts, however he doesn’t let these needs dictate his sport from him.
He did play sparingly with Letang within the Spherical One loss to the New York Rangers.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ limitations on the left facet stay a query mark for the season. Dumoulin, Pettersson, Friedman, Joseph, and Ty Smith on the left present the Penguins with some expertise and flexibility, however not a sure-fire prime pairing defenseman–until Dumoulin is as much as the duty.