by Todd Wyant, aka OneSmugPug
I simply stand and applaud Ray Shero at this moment. Once again, he addresses needs over names. I have mentioned the need for a large body, in particularly for the PP. I can honestly even go so far as to say that Ponikarovsky is the name I have been talking about for a few months now. I have nothing but respect for all of the Pens forwards, but with several energy guy role player types that play more of a smallish game, there seems that no one outside of Guerin and sometimes Rupp was able to hold a screen at the top of the crease. Ponikarovsky now gives us that 3rd option. I am not implying that guys were not working, I am saying that larger defensemen are taking advantage and collapsing a lot more than last year. The 2-headed Monster should be even scarier now with the ability to create those rebounds and someone large enough to take the punishment for those low goals. It certainly does not hurt that he can hold his own in his own end either. Poni was a +5 player on a -50 team with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I don’t view the loss of Luca Caputi to be that significant. He needed to find a place to be able to see some NHL time, he is certainly gifted enough. Eric Tangradi coming over with Kunitz in the Ryan Whitney trade, came with a lot of expectations and a good upside to his game. That essentially made either Tangradi or Caputi eventually to be moved at a later time. I wish all of the luck in the world for Luca, I would hate to think he will be a thorn in the Pens side from here on out.
Jordan Leopold, what can you say about a guy who was traded and the team that traded him, wanted him back. I personally view this similar to Mark Eaton’s arrival. He will be the wildcard down the stretch. We have seen his game already versus Buffalo, and he played a smart reliable game. If you look at him on paper, he certainly shows an affinity for moving the puck. One could point out that he has a career minus rating, but I would also point out that between the Panthers and the Avalanche of past years, this would be expected. I would also point out that Leopold is a +9 in 46 career playoff games. I would also point out that he does not have huge PIM totals, which to me suggests his game is based more on puck movement and clearing versus punishing checks and questionable stick work. I will not say that I have seen enough of him to make these calls legitimately but what I saw against Buffalo was very indicative of what I have interpreted.
Ray Shero once again makes the moves to meet the needs at hand. He has demonstrated, again, that he is more interested in the Pittsburgh Penguins as a successful team than just a marketing gimmick. I wanted Colby Armstrong back because he was a favorite of mine, but at the end of the day, he didn’t meet the current needs for the Pens, and I am sure Waddell is still having delusions of grandeur in Atlanta as to what his value really should be. I also like that GMRS slipped in a move for another pick for a player who wasn’t even on the radar.
As an objective fan, I am actually really happy with the moves that were made, this rush to the playoffs should be exciting, now that the Devils have slipped up enough to make the Division title reachable for the Pens.
by Todd Wyant, aka OneSmugPug