By: Jim Meinecke
It is like clockwork now, isn’t it? If the Penguins fail to reach their goal of winning a cup each year, there must be a drastic fix that needs to happen. It can’t just be that injuries have plagued the team at all of the wrong times, or the fact that management has mishandled some key trades over the past five years and left the cupboard bare in terms of draft picks. Inevitably, talk of trading some the Penguins’ nucleus comes up. Sidney Crosby is as close to untouchable as there is, so the next best option? Evgeni Malkin.
For whatever reason, Malkin has been the scapegoat among Penguins’ fans and, at times, the scapegoat of the Pittsburgh media as well. The trade rumors have become an almost yearly past time with the team failing to win a Stanley Cup since 2009. The rumors gained some steam earlier this summer when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman gave a radio interview where he said:
“I have no idea if the Penguins are going to trade Malkin. I would suspect no until a sale gets done. But I can tell you this – there are people around the league who have been saying they’ve been hearing rumors that Malkin is not happy and would welcome a change of scenery.”
Friedman faced a firestorm from many local media members and later clarified his statements with Pensburgh to put out the fires surrounding much of the Malkin trade talk. Things remained quiet for almost two weeks until Mark Madden posted a column yesterday suggesting that if the Penguins really want to change, Evgeni Malkin needs to be traded. His asking price? David Backes and TJ Oshie. The trade seems absurd, of course, but I want to get into some numbers about Evgeni Malkin and hopefully put these rumors to bed once and for all.
The problem with trading someone like Evgeni Malkin is that he is a once in a generation player. Somehow the Penguins lucked out and got two of these players on the roster at once with Sidney Crosby, but that doesn’t lessen Malkin as a player. Just as Jaromir Jagr’s greatness is not and should not be lessened because he played with Mario Lemieux. No matter the return the Penguins would get back for Malkin, they would not be able to replace his production. To put things into perspective, I looked at each season since 2006-07 to see what players averaged a point per game.
The only player to average a point per game for every season during that stretch? Sidney Crosby. The only other players that had eight of the nine seasons? Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. Only 59 players accomplished this feat even once over the course of nine seasons, and the Penguins have two of the three players that have done it at least eight of the nine seasons. How do you replace that? The simple answer is that you can’t replace it.
One more chart to drive the point home. The chart below is from quanthockey.com and it shows the NHL’s All-Time Points per Game Leaders:
Evgeni Malkin is 12th on the all-time points per game leaders list. It is just some amazing company to be in. He is one of the league’s best and will probably go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
The simple fact is that trading Evgeni Malkin in the near future means that the Penguins have effectively closed the window on the Crosby/Malkin era and have decided it is time to rebuild. The organization doesn’t make a move like that to ‘retool’ or ‘reload’ for the upcoming season. Fans, like the players, have been upset with the recent results of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Because of that, it is easy to suggest things in the heat of the moment, but the fact remains that Pittsburgh is blessed to again have two superstars together at one time to possibly make multiple cup runs. Untimely injuries and questionable trades have been the difference between the Penguins and Blackhawks over the last six years. The organization doesn’t rectify this problem by trading one of the game’s best players (possibly ever). They do it by making better decisions and building around those players through free agent pickups and draft picks.
Thanks for reading.