It hasn’t worked out as planned for the Penguins.
They’re in the NHL’s “top quartile,” according to CEO David Morehouse.
But for the Penguins that isn’t good enough.
For the Penguins, that’s not even close to good enough.
Not for an organization that was already anticipating the arrival of subsequent Stanley Cups immediately after accepting the one that was awarded in 2009 in Detroit.
“These kids are 21, 22 years old,” Mario Lemieux pointed out on the ice at Joe Louis Arena after the Pens had ended up on the right side of a 2-1 verdict in Game 7 against the Red Wings. “They’ll be around for the next 10, 15 years if they want to. They have a chance to do something special in Pittsburgh if they want to stick together.
“Anytime you have (Sidney) Crosby on your team, and (Evgeni) Malkin and (Marc-Andre) Fleury and (Jordan) Staal, the talent that we have gives you a chance to do something special.”
That was the theory, at least.
It was a good one, too.
But it no longer applies as the Penguins were once convinced it would.
Staal left after the 2012 season, traded to Carolina because he no longer wanted to be a third-line center and because he no longer wanted to play for what the Penguins could afford to pay him as such. And with him went the three-center model that had made the Penguins unique among their fellow NHL Cup contenders in the first place.
This was by far the most damaging development on the way to not winning subsequent Cups.
Fleury has stuck around in net but he’s regressed, a decline that commenced in the second round of the Cup defense when he was yanked 25:14 into Game 7 against Montreal. He wasn’t the train wreck this postseason that he was last postseason when he wound up being benched after four games of a first-round series against the Islanders, but nor was Fleury a franchise-caliber goaltender on the level of a Henrik Lundqvist.
Fleury isn’t that anymore. And eventually you run into one of those when stalking Stanley.
As for Crosby and Malkin, they remain a dynamic duo but not one that’s clearly superior to what the best of the rest of the league has to offer each spring, as they were once perceived to be.
That’s a designation that now belongs to Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane.
The Penguins’ self-proclaimed “Big Four” just isn’t what it once was, in terms of composition and in terms of capability.
And given that, the contention that the Penguins should have won x-number of Cups since 2009 seems a lot less credible.
Upper management needs to come to grips with that before reaching a consensus on a new general manager.
Because if that guy and his presumptive new head coach aren’t brought in to first and foremost come up with a reasonable Plan B, the Cup will remain out of reach.