By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)
Over the past summer a major topic of conversation for the Penguins was the bottom-six forward corps. Jim Rutherford did what he could do to repair the group by retaining Marcel Goc and Brandon Sutter and bringing in Nick Spaling, Blake Comeau, and Steve Downie. This was a welcome relief for a team that spent the last two seasons in the bottom half of the league in even strength Fenwick %. Exit: stage left were possession black holes Tanner Glass, Taylor Pyatt, Joe Vitale, and Chuck Kobasew. They were replaced by the new forwards who, hopefully, could provide “grit” and “character” to go along with their slightly better hockey acumen.
This could all work out except for the possession black hole that is the fourth line. Right now Marcel Goc, he of a 51% even strength Corsi in his last four seasons, is stuck in hockey purgatory with Craig Adams and Zach Sill. While Goc is doing an impressive job of dragging his linemates kicking and screaming up towards positive possession numbers, he can only do so much. Through eight games Adams and Sill have 8 shots between them, two less than Goc has himself. While Goc can win faceoffs to the tune of 60.3%, he cannot shoot the puck for Adams and Sill. He cannot create offense himself. He cannot keep the puck in the offensive zone.
The eventual return of Beau Bennett, should push Steve Downie, also a positive possession player the past four seasons, into a fourth line role, thus relieving one of Adams and Sill of the need for regular NHL minutes. Such a move should propel the Penguins, already a top-10 possession team, even further up.