November 8, 2007

What's Eating the Penguins?

A season after they increased their season point total by 47 points, the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently in the state of fuzz. Predicted by many to either make the Stanley Cup Finals or have a deep playoff run, Sidney Crosby and company just cannot find the word "consistency" in their vocabularies. Before Penguin fans start closing their garage doors and turning on the engine, let's remember that through 15 games last season, Pittsburgh was only two points better. You can make the argument though, that this Penguin team in 2007-08, is another year mature, another year experienced should not be having the current difficulties they are going through.

If you want to start atop the list of inconsistencies, let's take a look between the pipes. Marc-Andre Fleury, the number one overall pick in 2003, is showing signs of regressing after putting up a 40-win season in 2006-07. He's already been pulled twice this season and has returned to his ways of giving up juicy rebounds (see Miroslav Satan's winner from Saturday night) and finding himself out of position while trying to stop the puck. Fleury was almost in danger of losing his job for about a day when his backup, Dany Sabourin, performed admirably during a 5-game stretch that saw him post two wins and a shutout. After the first-period debacle against Philadelphia last night, Fleury will have his chance to cement his status as the number one goalie tonight in New York.

Next, you have to look behind the bench at coach Michel Therrien. He's not popular with many Penguin fans because he seems to juggle the line combinations almost on a daily basis, thereby killing the opportunity for chemistry to develop. He's also known to yank Marc-Andre Fleury early in games and, if the kid is their number one goalie, he should not be sitting sit for four games. Granted, Sabourin has been playing well, but a young goalie like Fleury cannot have his confidence played with like that.

So what should they do? I'm not opposed to making a coaching change at this point in the season. Therrien cannot be given all the credit for the team's turnaround last season, he does have the talent in front of him. If New Jersey can fire their coach right before the playoffs and still have success, making a change at this point could be beneficial come playoff time. I'm not sure of possible replacements or who general manager Ray Shero would target, but you have names out there like Pat Quinn, Bob Hartley, and Ron Wilson (if he gets canned by San Jose soon). It's definitely not out of the question, especially since Therrien was not brought in by Shero, but by former GM Craig Patrick.

I also think they need to stick with Fleury, through good times and bad. Sabourin has shown he's a decent backup, but Pittsburgh has to instill the confidence back in their former number one pick, especially after the season he had a year ago. He's struggling, yes, something that every goaltender goes through. Also, he won't turn 23 until November 28th. Fleury is still developing and goalies don't develop often at an early age. Here's hoping Penguin goalie coach Gilles Meloche can break down Fleury's mechanics and get him back on path.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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