It's Time For A Return To The 3 Center Model
Heading into this season, much talk in Pittsburgh centered around the Penguins’, well, centers.
Would Evgeni Malkin play center, or would he play wing? Would Jordan Staal center the third line, or would he get a bump to the second line?
The team wasn’t fortunate enough to play the season with a mostly-healthy roster, as they had planned.
Then again, in the NHL things rarely go as planned.
But as I ponder the Penguins’ playoff elimination while considering their future, it’s easy for me to surmise that the three center model is the way to go.
For starters, it was the model that ultimately led the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup in nearly 20 years.
With Sidney Crosby, Malkin, and Staal down the middle, there isn’t a team in the league capable of line-matching with the Penguins, and that presents a distinct advantage in the post-season, when every shift is important.
Staal showed this season that, when matched against the opponent’s better defensive pairs, he’s not capable of filling the shoes of a scoring line center. He also showed that such a role can detract from his defensive skillset, as well.
Unlike in years past, the Penguins seem poised to ice a series of wingers who don’t just skate on a scoring line, but also produce.
Chris Kunitz had what many considered a career year, and despite not showing his full potential while wearing the Black and Gold, James Neal has a history of generating serious offense.
Tyler Kennedy showed up in a big way in the absence of Crosby and Malkin, and despite his bone-headed tendencies, Matt Cooke is a legitimate threat on the third line.
Factor youngster Dustin Jeffrey, who showed he is ready for a permanent role in the NHL prior to injuring his knee, and Eric Tangradi, whose size precisely is what’s needed in front of the net, and the future looks promising.
Heading into the offseason, free agency, training camp, and eventually the start of the 2011-12 season, the questions shouldn’t revolve around the centers, but rather the wingers.
Who will play with whom?
It’s a good problem to have, and one I’m sure the Penguins are quite excited to tackle.