Can Rob Scuderi Bounce Back Under Mike Johnston?

By: Joe Guzy

Can Rob Scuderi benefit as much from the new system as Kris Letang?
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

An all too familiar tale for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A defenseman coming off of a not-so-hot season keeps his roster spot much to the scrutiny of fans. With a decent cap hit over his head, can he prove himself and bounce back from a bad season?

No, not Paul Martin.

In case you forgot, Ray Shero signed Rob Scuderi to a four-year, $13.5M deal. This is the Rob Scuderi Shero intended to sign:

This is the Rob Scuderi Shero did sign:

Some of Scuderi’s other 2013-2014 season highlights:

  • Broken ankle kept him out for 29 games early in the season.
  • Projected D-partner, Kris Letang, missed 49 games.
  • Carousel of injuries on the blue line left him without a consistent partner.
  • Jumping into a system that was nearly the polar opposite of the “new” Rob Scuderi.

Bust.

Healthy or not, under previous the coaching staff, Scuderi would probably have a very similar season ahead of him.

But this isn’t the previous coaching staff.

Though we’ve only seen a few preseason games, Scuderi has been a unique force for the Penguins. Without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin running the show, Scuderi seems to have taken it upon himself to be a leader. This is not something that has been reported or even speculated, but it is something that is fairly apparent.

While most likely inaudible on television, Scuderi has spent a lot of time setting things up and calling things out to the younger guys. Most importantly, he isn’t hesitating. He looks comfortable. If he’s retrieving, he keeps it simple. If he’s in the neutral zone, he stands his ground and directs the puck to someone with better legs on their way to the offensive zone. He doesn’t try to jump in on the rush. He doesn’t try overcompensate. He gets to his game. 

Also, when was the last time you’ve seen this?

Goal - Comeau (Spaling, Scuderi) VIdeo: PensTV/ROOT - GIF by @JustPuckIt

Goal – Comeau (Spaling, Scuderi)
Video: PensTV/ROOT – GIF by @JustPuckIt

Yes, that’s Rob Scuderi shooting the puck on net. Not banking it off the boards, making a meaningless pass, but getting the puck on net, and it leads to a goal. Isn’t that something?

Johnston’s system was not made for Scuderi. At first glance, it may even look like a nightmare for him. His legs can’t keep up. Offense isn’t his forte. So what?

For the first time since he’s been back in Pittsburgh, he looks comfortable. His head is up and he’s ready to prove that he can still play. Forget all of the offseason interviews and promises. Watch him behind the play. Scuderi can do some great things this season if he continues to adapt. Those things may not be on the score sheet, but who’s looking there anyways?

The 2014-2015 Pittsburgh Penguins are quite the jigsaw puzzle, and Scuderi will fit in just fine.

He is “the piece” after all.