No Defense For Shero
You are Ray Shero.
Your team just got blown out by its most bitter rival, allowing an ungodly 30 goals in the 6 games.
Your team failed to kill an astounding 52.2 percent of the penalties it took in that series.
Your team lost the series despite scoring 4.33 goals per game.Your team allowed as many goals in six playoff games as the champion Kings did in 20 games.
Your team finished 12th in goals allowed in the regular season, while the Cup finalists finished second and ninth.
Your team finished first in goals scored in the regular season, while the Cup finalists finished 11th and 29th.
You’re Ray Shero, and you add all this up. You decide that the only way to improve is to…
…add more offense?
Excuse me? Since the playoff debacle, Shero has publicly courted star right wing Zach Parise, who decided he’d rather play for his hometown Wild rather than a team that advanced only one step closer to the Cup than the Wild did last year.
After failing in that pursuit, rumors now have the Pens chasing right wingers Shane Doan and/or Alexander Semin. Boy, signing the latter would really improve the attention to defense, wouldn’t you say? Oh, I suppose that every now and then, he manages to rediscover that there is actually ice inside his own blue line.
In order to pursue the aforementioned offensive threats, Shero also dumped much-maligned defenseman Zbynek Michalek to clear cap space. Say what you will about his play (yes, it was downright ugly at times last season), he was one of their top penalty killing defensemen. Most advanced metrics show that. In fact, the numbers show he was their best in the Flyer series. His spot on the PK will now be entrusted to the likes of Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy, Matt Niskanen, or one of the rookies. That sure inspires confidence!
Shero also traded his best defensive center in Jordan Staal. He did get Brandon Sutter back in the deal, so at least Staal’s loss shouldn’t be felt too much defensively.
The one smart move he made this summer was signing Tomas Vokoun. That should at least keep Choke-Andre Fleury out of the net for 30 games or so. But there’s little doubt that Fleury would be the starter come playoff time, which means having a strong defense in front of the goalie will be critical.
The time to put together this strong defense is over the summer. And Ray Shero has failed miserably at that. He signed exactly zero NHL-caliber defensemen in free agency, meaning he will now have to give up assets to acquire defensive help. I suppose we’ll never know if he tried to sign a decent defenseman, but got rebuffed.
But that leads to another point. Do defensemen even want to come to Pittsburgh and play in the Dan Bylsma system that so often leaves the defensemen on an island? You see, this is where Shero made his biggest mistake of the summer—bringing back Bylsma as coach. Three straight early-round playoff failures were apparently not enough evidence that Bylsma’s system simply does not work in the playoffs.
I was thinking of calling this Shero’s do-nothing summer. But this would be entirely incorrect. His moves so far this summer certainly have him in the running for AHL GM of the year. He has stocked the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins with a plethora of AHL-level talent, especially up front. Of course, he had to do this to cover for the lack of forward prospects in the organization. At least here, though, he was able to recognize a shortfall and fill it. That stands in direct contrast to the defensive deficiencies on the NHL team, where he has done next to nothing to cure what ails the Penguins’ defense.
Simply put, there is no defense.