Change Means Change
I’m of the belief this summer will include some big changes to the Pittsburgh Penguins roster. Whether those changes come on the playing side via trades or free agency or the coaching side via firing, general manager Ray Shero isn’t going to fiddle as Rome burns.
The Penguins have been perennial playoff busts since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, losing four times to lower ranked opponents and only once making it to the Eastern Conference Final series.
Players like Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, and Chris Kunitz, among others, have been there for them all.
So, when I hear people suggest that trading Fleury would be a bad idea because “Franchise goalies don’t grow on trees” or “They won’t get a similar player back for Letang,” I shake my head.
Sorry, but change means change.
Letang is an elite defenseman who was deemed to be one of the top-three in the NHL this season. He’s a Norris Trophy finalist for a franchise that hasn’t had a winner since 1980-81, when Randy Carlyle won it.
He’s also a major player in the Penguins’ all-in offensive approach and a player who often forgets that defense wins in the playoffs.
Letang is an amazing player, likely the best defenseman ever drafted by the Penguins, but if he is moved, the idea is that a change is needed — and so getting back a comparable player would be a lateral move at best, and I submit it would be a downgrade given that Letang is one of the best in the world at what he does.
If Letang is traded, though, it won’t be change for the sake of change. It will be change with an eye at improving the team — even if they downgrade in a certain area.
In goal, Fleury has been downright terrible the last two playoff years, posting some historically bad numbers for any goalie, let alone one who is labeled with the “franchise” tag. He was so bad this playoff year that he found himself watching from the bench as the Penguins closed out the Islanders, beat the Senators, and got swept by the Bruins.
Keeping him might be in Shero’s gameplan, but the idea that he’s a franchise goaltender should be long gone. Fleury, one of my all-time favorite players, was instrumental in the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup victory, making a historic last-second, save on Nicklas Lidstrom to secure the Game Seven victory.
But, recently, it seems a beach ball could find a way to sneak behind him in the playoffs. An excellent regular season goalie, he is, but for whatever reason, his concentration and confidence disappear in the post-season.
If Fleury is a franchise goalie and franchise goalies don’t grow on trees, why do the Penguins need a franchise goalie?
I don’t know what will happen this summer, but I expect it won’t be long until Shero’s plans begin to unfold — and when it does, the goal should be to improve the team, not to collect a group of players to replace those who are lost.