HotTake Tuesday: The Pittsburgh Penguin’s Biggest Problem

Another session of the afternoon HotTakes to get you thru the rest of your day! Today, Ian Altenbaugh from joins Nick and James to give their takes on the Penguins biggest problem, a potential identity crisis, 3-on-3 Overtime and more! Take an antacid… these are bound to not go down very well…

Do the Penguins have an identity crisis?

Richter: First of all, I’d like to start this press conference off by saying a big fat happy birthday to John Elway… I mean James Conley. Secondly, I dunno. They wanna play fast, they wanna be more physical, they wanna be difficult to play against, and they wanna score a lot of goals. What team doesn’t want to be labeled by those things? Some teams are only defined by one or two things. For instance, if I say Philadelphia Flyers, you’re likely to think “gritty, dirty, losers since 1975.”  You get the idea… The Pens wanna be known for excelling in pretty much every area. Can’t fault them for wanting to be well-rounded though. They’ve hit a bit of a skid lately, but that’s just what I expect for a team trying to mesh those styles together in the regular season.

Conley: That’s a really nebulous thing to pin down. I think any hockey team would be happy with any identity along the wins of “we win a lot and aren’t terrible.” Cut away the cutesy branding and I think every good team is built and operates pretty much the same way.

Altenbaugh: I think, hockey buzzwords aside, the Penguins want to play similar to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Columbus Blue Jackets, or the Detroit Red Wings. Meaning good puck possession, players supporting each other, and forwards going back to support the defense. The Penguins are built similarly to those teams in how there is an emphasis in speed and hockey IQ. The team has been using different looks on offense and defense, and we might be witnessing the period during the season that Mike Johnston talked about “making adjustments”. Meaning, the coaching staff is tinkering a little. The team is floundering offensively, but the coaching staff is tinkering too.


What’s the biggest issue facing the Penguins?

Richter: Right now, hey… It’s gotta be health… It’s everything. They might need some Harry Potter-like sourcery to do this. For whatever reason, they just haven’t been able to shake the injury curse for the past however many years. Another big issue that they face, and every other team faces too, is that the NHL is becoming less and less accommodating to star players. It’s more and more difficult to score a lot of goals and for whatever reason, the NHL seems ok with that. Goal scoring is down across the league. Defensemen and goalies are getting better and better at limiting quality scoring chances, and systems like the trap choke the life out of fun hockey. Wide-open, high scoring hockey just isn’t rewarded as much anymore.

Conley: The Pens’ crisis right now, as always, is one of injuries. The team is down two of its top-four defensemen and three top-six caliber forwards. Not many teams are facing that kind of issue and have faced that issue for going on three months and are still in the thick of things anyway. I know that conventional hockey wisdom wants to blame compete level and leadership and grit and possession and personnel and coaching every other bumper sticker philosophy it can that would put some measure of control back into someone’s hands so that the appropriate parties can be blamed, but sometimes the bounces don’t go your way for awhile and sometimes you apparently lose half your team to injuries every season and when things go sideways you can’t blame much but your own shit luck. I still don’t think it’s responsible to try to get a read on this team. We have no idea what it might actually look like.

Altenbaugh: The playoffs. Honestly, as long as the players are healthy…I guess it’s health. The Penguins are also struggling to find an identity in their bottom six, and we’ve found out Mike Johnston has his pet gritty players the same as Bylsma (and most other coaches for that matter, even Mike Babcock loves Drew Miller and Dan Cleary).


NHLPA & NHL At Odds Over 3-on-3 OT


Richter: The PuckDaddy blog broke this earlier this week. In some ways 3-on-3 OT is just as gimmicky as the shootout. Can it actually happen in game play? Yes, but so can a penalty shot. Both are divergent from the traditional setup of the game. If you say one is a gimmick, then the other is as well because it’s still basically a skills competition. It’s Globetrotter hockey. I’m not really defending either position, in all honesty. A team like Pittsburgh could feast on three on three hockey with all of their stars, and could easily rack up a ton of extra points in OT. I just don’t agree with two different sets of standards between the playoffs and the regular season. Just make it consistent. I hate the loser point more than anything.

Conley: Yeah that’s good let’s keep these two nice and contentious all the way up to the very first season in which the current CBA can be revoked and everyone can get locked out. Keep the fangs sharp, boys.

Altenbaugh: I actually like the shootout. I prefer the idea of removing a point once the game has entered overtime. Meaning, drop the loser point, and create a “regulation” point. If a team gets nothing for losing in overtime or a shootout, or just one point in a win, they’re more likely to try and finish in regulation…which I think is what this whole thing is about anyway.


#HockeyPorn in HockeyTonkville

Richter: Imagine watching this game with your grandmother… Awkward much? Yikes… Perhaps Bettman was trying to find a way to get more men interested in hockey by thinking outside of the box?

Conley: [licks thumbs, slicks back eyebrows] “Nice.”

Altenbaugh: My grandparents are all long past, so the idea of watching a hockey game with one of them right now is rather frightening. Is this like a ghost situation? Or a walking dead situation. Because my reaction would be significantly different.


Caption This


Richter: “I’ve seen potatoes with better eyes than this guy…”

Conley: “We can do this all day, it’s still an illegal curve.”

Altenbaugh: nhlrefvomit

Thanks for reading HotTake Tuesday! Special thanks goes out to Ian  for jumping on with us today… Give him a follow on the twitter machine. You can also follow James and Nick on twitter as well. Feel free to email, use the hashtag #HotTakeTuesday on twitter, tweet us directly, or facebook us any questions or topics you might have. We look forward to providing you with flaming hot takes every Tuesday. 

Stay Classy.