What Is Wrong With The Pittsburgh Penguins?

You know when you wake up in the morning and your hair is a complete mess, so you think to yourself “Oh no worries, I can easily fix this and make some adjustments and I’ll look fine.” And then you try to fix your hair and then it makes it way worse and your whole day is ruined. Well, this is what’s happening with the Pittsburgh Penguins and their hockey team.

It’s crazy to see how bad things have got for the Penguins because they really aren’t that bad of a team but nothing has gone right for them this year. They made some intriguing off-season moves by adding players like Erik Karlsson, who had just won the Norris trophy for the best defenceman of the year, and Reilly Smith who was a pretty good player for the Vegas Golden Knights during their Stanley Cup run. On top of that, they still also have Sidney Crosby who is still a top-tier player, Evgeni Malkin who is slowing down but still performing well, and Kris Letang who is in the same boat as Malkin.

However, although they look like a solid team on paper, they sure haven’t played that way. The Penguins have found ways to lose games they should’ve had no business losing. Blowing big leads to Calgary and Colorado has basically derailed any chance they had of making the playoffs. The crazy thing is they haven’t even been that bad when you look at their stats. They’re 11th in the league for goals against so they aren’t doing too bad on that end. But their goals for is in the bottom half of the league. The funny thing is if you look at this team on paper, you would think it would be the opposite. They have some incredible offensive players and not the greatest defensive players.

On top of this, they have the second-worst power play in the league which sits at 14.3%. That is absurd! For a team that has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, and for most of the season, Jake Guentzel, how is it even possible to have that bad of a powerplay when you have so much star power? It honestly doesn’t make sense. Either the Penguins are the most unlucky team in the league or their star players are starting to see a decline.

But I don’t even know how true that is. You can argue that we’re seeing a decline from Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang as they have had seasons that aren’t up to their standards which is expected to happen at some point due to their age. Erik Karlsson was never going to be as good as he was last season as that season was an incredibly good one and one he probably won’t replicate. Those players I can understand seeing a bit of regression.

However, Sidney Crosby has been playing like he’s still in the prime of his career. He’s putting up points and scoring goals while trying to carry this team as much as he can. The Penguins have some solid pieces around him that should at least be good enough to make the playoffs. But unfortunately for them, they’re pretty bad still.

So this season has been pretty bad for the Penguins, but things may even get worse for them. Because of the Erik Karlsson trade, the Penguins don’t have their first-round pick unless the pick is in the top ten. The Penguins are in such a bad spot in this. It would take a miracle for them to make the playoffs and they probably won’t get a top-ten pick so they’ll lose it. But even if they do get a top-ten pick, I don’t see a world where the Penguins are a better team next year so conveying an unprotected first-round pick next year would probably be worse.

So either way, the Penguins are in a terrible spot because they aren’t good enough to make the playoffs, they aren’t bad enough to tank and doing that could result in them giving up a high first-round pick, their prospect pool is not great, and they just really don’t have a clear direction right now.

The best-case scenario for the Penguins, in my opinion, is to do their best to get that first-round pick they owe the San Jose Sharks this year and then next season start to begin a full rebuild. Now if they somehow end up getting the first overall pick and get Macklin Celebrini then that changes everything and they will be more than fine, but that is probably not gonna happen. At least, I wouldn’t bank on it happening.

So what’s the plan for the Penguins then if that doesn’t happen? I think they have to basically sell everyone. And yes, that includes Sidney Crosby. What else can the Penguins really do if they wanna turn this thing around? Again, unless they win the first overall pick this year, I just don’t see it happening. They don’t have the assets to add impactful players so this may be it for this core of Penguins players.

Now the question going into the off-season if the Penguins are going toward a rebuild is do they trade Sidney Crosby or let him retire a Penguin and lead the new era of Penguins. If you were to ask me, I think it would be great for Sidney Crosby to end his career only playing for the Penguins, but I feel like the team wouldn’t be doing right by him if they did keep him. Crosby is still a great player and more left to give in his career. Crosby is a very competitive player who wants to win and I’m sure he would like to try and win another cup before his career ends. Not to mention the fact that Crosby has lost a couple of years due to injuries so having him not have the chance to win another to close out his career feels almost wrong.

Now what would you even get back in a Sidney Crosby trade? I have no idea but it’s likely going to be a big return for the guy who was the best player of the late 2000s and early 2010s. The team that gets brought up a lot with Sidney Crosby trades is the Colorado Avalanche since Nathan Mackinnon plays there and he is from the same hometown as Crosby. It would be a good fit and would help Crosby contend at least once more.

With all this being said, I don’t know what’s in store for the Penguins but Kyle Dubas has one hell of a job ahead of him. The problem for him is, he may not have a choice in what he does. If he wants to do a rebuild he may get vetoed by ownership to try and still compete. With their ownership changing not too long ago, they may not be too interested in a rebuild. But we’ll see where things with the Penguins go as it’s going to be interesting to watch.

Knowing how the NHL works though, they’ll get Macklin Celebrini and create another juggernaut that will contend for years. That’s just how the NHL works. But I’m sure you knew that at this point.

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