Mike Prisuta's Sports Page

Mike Prisuta's Sports Page

Want to know more about Mike Prisuta's Sports Page? Get their official bio, social pages & articles on 102.5 WDVE!Full Bio


FSG powers that be must accept reality before Pens can get better

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils

Photo: Getty Images

The Penguins aren’t a playoff team because they aren’t a very good hockey team.

That much is obvious, and that much needs to be acknowledged as the Fenway Sports Group attempts to lurch forward and reorganize, restructure and restore the franchise to contending status in the wake of the firings of Brian Burke, Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor.

Canning the incompetents was the easy part.

The hard part will be accepting how far the Pens have fallen.

This goes way beyond the “inconsistency” that’s been cited repeatedly by Mike Sullivan and the players as the main reason for missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.

The Penguins aren’t as close as they think they are, and aren’t as good as they thought they were.

That much needs to be recognized before any other decisions are made.

With their playoff lives on the line, the Pens went 6-9-1 in their last 16 regular-season games.

In the process they lost to Montreal, Ottawa and Chicago at home, and Detroit and Columbus on the road.

That’s a consistent and defining run of failure against teams that didn’t make the playoffs at the season’s most critical juncture.

The Pens also went 28-4-5 in games they led after two periods, which is an avalanche of losses in such situations. Appropriately, their regular season ended in Columbus in a game in which they took a third-period lead, lost it and eventually lost overtime (an outcome that didn’t apply to the leading-after-40-minutes statistic but nonetheless betrayed a fatal flaw).

Championship-caliber teams rarely lose in such situations. The Pens almost never did when they were winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.

But now they’re a team that consistently struggles to protect leads.

Their body of work this season included winning just 40 of 82 regular-season games, and only 31 of those in regulation.

All of that stuff is defining, as well.

That isn’t inconsistency, it’s inadequacy.

And they all had a hand in it, even the “Big Three.”

Sidney Crosby found the net in one of the Pens’ last nine games.

Evgeni Malkin wound up minus-12 through his 82 regular-season appearances and scored 16 goals at even strength.

And Kris Letang admittedly never got into a “groove” and was never able to “mentally be totally there” on the way to minus-13 (only Jeff Carter was worse at minus-16, even though Letang only played 63 regular-season games).

Those three are also have their fingerprints all over a power play that too often let the Penguins down.

Sullivan maintained the power play might not have been as bad as some in the media have suggested.

But we can all agree it wasn’t good enough.

The popular it-was-everybody-else’s-fault narrative as it relates to Crosby, Malkin and Letang might be reassuring to some, but isn’t applicable.

The disconcerting part of all of this is we didn’t even get to see how far away the Penguins remain from being able to survive and advance in the postseason, something that’s eluded them for a franchise-record five consecutive series dating back to the second round in 2018, because they lack the sand and physicality a playoff environment requires.

Back then it was because they were tired.

In 2019 in was Matt Murray’s fault.

In 2020, it was because of the pandemic and the bubble.

In 2021, it was because Tristian Jarry was in net.

In 2022, it was because Jarry too often wasn’t in net.

The excuse-making needs to cease.

The new director of hockey operations or new president or new general manager or new whatever combination FSG comes up with as a leadership team needs to come from outside the organization.

And they’ll need to see this team for what it is and make decisions accordingly.

It should be painfully apparent by now rationalization only gets you more of the same, or worse.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content