Home > NHL, Penguins, Uncategorized > What do the Pens do With Sid?

What do the Pens do With Sid?

Honest, guys, I totally planned on writing a post about last night’s game. I watched the whole thing looking for something  interesting to write about, and I had this whole post outlined in my mind about how incredibly Marc-Andre Fleury played and how I believe his lateral movement is what makes him so hard to beat. I was going to unearth some rad YouTubes to support my thesis and I had a couple of articles to reference.

But then Sidney Crosby announced today that he has been cleared for contact and that he could return as soon as Sunday, and now all I can think about are the following three questions:


1) When Sid returns to action, who are his linemates?
2) When Sid returns to action, what line is he on? (The answer to this is dependent upon question 1.)
3) When Sid returns to action, what does the power play look like?


I saw some jagoff on Twitter mention he’d like to see Sid paired with Dupuis and Sullivan. This is why I sometimes hate Twitter and the internet at large. Because people are allowed to talk on it who aren’t me and if you don’t think I know best about who Sid should play with then you are like, so totally wrong man.

The reason I so strongly disagree with this alliance is it returns Jordan Staal to the third line. There was a time when Jordan Staal was the ideal third line center with his size, defensive prowess, physical nature, and moderate offensive touch. But not so much anymore. Similarly to Geno, Staal has elevated his game this season to a height that many former critics of his believed he would never reach. Staal ‘11-’12 averages nearly half a goal per game and is on pace to match and possibly surpass his rookie season goal total — where he netted a career-high 29 goals in 81 games — in only 62 games. The last thing the Pens should be interested in is reducing Jordan Staal’s ice time.

Sullivan is having a disappointing season. His production is among the worst it’s been at any point in his 14-year career. One can argue that matching Sullivan with Crosby would likely increase Sully’s opportunities as teams struggle to contain Sid’s dynamic abilities,  and I can’t argue that. But should the Pens be concerned about helping Sullivan wake up or developing a line that rivals the Neal-Malkin-Kunitz unit?

On Sid’s other wing (it is not clear to me what wing Staal would play) would be Pascal Dupuis. The chemistry that Dupuis shares with Crosby is well documented, and if I’m not mistaken Dupuis spent some time on a line with Staal in ‘08-’09 when the Pens acquired him in a trade with Atlanta. That is to say these three players are not unfamiliar with one another, and this creates a line with an all-world wunderkind (Sid), a physical presence who dominates the ice and can protect the wunderkind (Staal), and a safety net of chemistry for the wunderkind who has good speed and is responsible defensively (Dupuis, although it should be noted that Sid and Staal are responsible defensively also).

I suppose Staal-Crosby-Dupuis becomes the second line by default because — I didn’t forget to mention this, I just believe it to be that much of a given — Bylsma isn’t going to do anything to disrupt Neal-Malkin-Kunitz, even if it’s something as minor as changing their designation to “second line.” Crosby’s line is #2, and who actually gives a turkey because they’ll get about the same amount of ice time anyway and Crosby is a big enough boy not to get upset by being a second line center for the last dozen or so regular season games and the playoffs.

(Okay so I will address this. Neal was brought in absolutely positively and undoubtedly to be a Winger For Sid. The problem is he never got to play with Sid, developed instant chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, and both he and Geno are having career years. It was never supposed to be this way, but then Sid was never supposed to lose nearly a year and a half of his career to a concussion and broken neck. Sid and Neal will get to work together at some point this season, but you’re nuts if you think that just because Neal was brought here to play alongside Sid Bylsma and Shero are going to rearrange the whole team.)

This was a much more intriguing question during the time leading up to Letang’s injury. The Pens power play was clicking at a rather phenomenal rate. (I can’t find the statistic, but at one point the Pens were something like 8 of 18 over the course of five games). Since Letang went down on February 29th (thanks for nothing, Leap Day William) the Penguins haven’t scored once with the man advantage. With this in mind it seems a given Sid will be on the first unit, and — for the sake of argument — I believe that even if Letang was healthy and the power play was still potent Sid would still crack the top unit. There is nothing to suggest that Crosby would do anything other than improve that group. I imagine a Crosby-Malkin-Neal-Kunitz-Letang power play unit in much the same way Bran Stark dreams of the days when he could scale the castle walls of Winterfell. (Woah. Sorry).

The other happy news is that Kris Letang has not been diagnosed with a concussion and felt well enough to engage in some “light off-ice workouts today.” Clearly Kris Letang means a great deal to this team — some would argue he’s more important than Crosby at this juncture (though I would not) — and getting him back would be a spectacular and unexpected boost for the Pens. For now, I’ll take satisfaction in hearing that this season might not be a total loss after all for the greatest player in the world, and I’ll hope today marks the moment when he can finally put this concussion business behind him.

  1. Tommy H
    March 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Luke and I were hashing this out this morning…

    Staal as a winger to Sid is not a bad idea, but I don’t think you are going to see it. Having the best 3 center combination in the NHL goes a long way, and we really haven’t seen it since 2010. I also would rather keep Staal with Cooke and Sullivan as Cooke compliments Staal’s defensive strengths, and Sullivan provides them with a pass-first mentality who is confident with the puck (especially in the last 10 games). I think putting Dupuis with Sid and TK could work (and maybe Jeffery!), but things are going to have to be tweaked moving into the playoffs.

  1. March 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

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