Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grading the Penguins: The forwards


Everyone else seems to love doing this grading thing, so I figured I might as well give it a shot. This segment will be on the forwards. The defensemen and goalies will be in a later edition.


Sidney Crosby: A-plus

In his half-season, Crosby was on pace for his finest season ever in the NHL. It took several weeks, if not longer, before he was caught in the goals and points department. He finished 18th and 32nd in those categories (32 goals, 66 points.)

Evgeni Malkin: C-minus

Suffered through injuries but even prior to that, played at a subpar level yet was still fifth on the team with 37 points in 43 games. Does not always bring 100 percent effort. Was not helped by having a coat rack and a bar stool as his linemates.

Jordan Staal: C-plus

Missed training camp and the first half of the year. Came back on Jan. 1 only to immediately be thrust into "the guy" role. Finished with decent offensive numbers (11 goals, 30 points in 42 games) considering the circumstances. Continued his strong defensive play but disappeared in the playoffs. Must improve faceoff percentage.

Max Talbot: B

A key cog of the league's top penalty killing unit. Energy player who has been described as the "heartbeat of the team." Provides modest offensive numbers at best, but his goal scoring was down slightly from the norm. Good rebound from last season, however, which was interrupted by injury.

Mark Letestu: B

Fared admirably with limited ice time, notching 14 goals (sixth on the team) and 27 points. Was thrust into the No. 1 center role because of injuries and was in over his head. Promising future nonetheless.

Mike Rupp: C-plus

Never one for putting up big numbers, Rupp came close to matching his career-highs set a year ago when he scored 13 goals and 19 points. Had nine and 17 this year playing primarily on the effective fourth line. Has a tendency of taking poor penalties or getting burned defensively.


Chris Kunitz: B

Struggled to stay healthy for the second straight season but topped Penguins forwards not named Crosby with 23 goals and 25 assists. His placement on a top line is debatable but he again provided strong forechecking abilities to create space for his teammates. Proved capable on the power play in front of the net but disappeared in the playoffs again (10 goals in 78 career playoff games.)

Pascal Dupuis: B

Definitely not an ideal top-line winger but has some chemistry with Crosby. Was one goal shy of matching last year's numbers (18-20-38 last year, 17-20-37 this year), which is kind of impressive since he wasn't alongside Crosby for half the season. Excellent penalty killer netted four shorthanded goals.

Tyler Kennedy: A-minus

Smallish, gritty winger ended up being Pittsburgh's biggest offensive threat. Enjoyed a breakthrough year with 21 goals and 45 points (topping career-bests of 15 and 35.) Pretty much the lone Penguin who's going to look to shoot first rather than pass. Management might've been split 50-50 on keeping him (he's a restricted free agent) but certainly played his way to a new deal, if not a bigger role in the offense after stepping up his play late in the season (14 goals, 23 points over the last three months.) Seven power play goals tied for second on the team.

Matt Cooke: D-minus

Massively downgraded because, well, you know. His forechecking - when it's clean - and penalty killing abilities saved him from an F. Pittsburgh very much missed him in the playoffs.

Craig Adams: A

Tough one to grade, but you know what you're getting from Adams and he's graded in that niche. Effective fourth-liner, very good penalty killer. (I know I say that a lot, but Pittsburgh didn't lead the league in PK% for no reason.)

Arron Asham: B-minus

Performance in the playoffs improved his grade. Appeared in only 44 regular-season games partly because of injuries and was not all that effective except in spurts.

Chris Conner: B-minus

Played bigger than his size (listed at 5-8, 180) and often won battles against larger players (which is basically everyone in the league.) Provided plenty of energy and speed but not enough offense to justify keeping him in the lineup come playoff time.

Alex Kovalev: F

Re-acquiring him was a low-risk, high-reward gamble that didn't work out. At all.

James Neal: D

Hate to give that low a grade but I have no choice. The talent he possesses is obvious. He can create space, he has a good shot. But the "he just needs a good center" excuse could last only so long. Missed far too many golden opportunities and didn't score at nearly a high enough pace.

Dustin Jeffrey: B

Playing crap minutes, with crap linemates, Jeffrey flourished about as much as he could. Was often mis-used, then a knee injury ended his season.

Eric Tangradi: Incomplete

Spent most of the season in the AHL and part of it with a concussion after Trevor Gillies' cheap shot. His development suffered as a result, but he was cited as the key reason Pittsburgh scored its one postseason power play goal. Just about as mis-used as Jeffrey.

Mike Comrie: Incomplete

Injured in the second game of the season. It affected him until it became bad enough that he had surgery that kept him out of the lineup for months. Once healthy, Bylsma refused to play him. When he did, it was in the wrong kind of role.

Eric Godard: C-minus
Brett Sterling: B-minus
Nick Johnson: B-minus

Godard became expendable and suited up for just 19 games but did fight more than he did last year. Sterling and Johnson were injury replacements who fared adequately and should receive consideration for future employment.

That's a lot of names, but the Penguins went through a lot of forwards. I didn't even include some who played a handful of games. In a later post, the defense and goalies.

No comments: