Pens Lack Chemistry

The Penguins can cite many reasons for why their season took a disastrous turn after their 12-4-3 start – tied for the second best start in franchise history. Since late November, the Penguins have been one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League. Injuries, a short off-season, player personnel changes – even starting the season overseas in Sweden, leaving them with minimal time to rest, probably hurt their chances. The one intangible, however, that is just recently being acknowledged, is the difference in the atmosphere in the Penguins’ locker room this year. Now that the front office has sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim, the Pens have lost another young leader and jovial presence in the room.
Losing players like Colby Armstrong, Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, Gary Roberts and Ryan Whitney in just one year has changed the personality of the Penguins significantly. By trying to maintain a core group of talent, which now, apparently, does not include Whitney, while staying within the salary cap bounds of the new NHL, Penguins’ GM Ray Shero is inadvertently breaking up the band of brothers that came to within two wins of hoisting the Stanley Cup last June.
Another possible reason for the Penguins’ chemistry problem is that the free agents the Penguins acquired over the summer assumed they were joining the same elite team that won the Eastern Conference last season. Wingers Ruslan Fedetenko and Miroslav Satan have stated publicly that they came to Pittsburgh because they expected the team to go deep into the postseason. That mindset may not breed loyalty and affection towards their teammates when things aren’t going well.
The Whitney trade, however, was probably the most logical move for the Penguins considering the team’s logjam at defense, including a glut of offensive defensemen. Also, the speedy winger Pittsburgh acquired from Anaheim, Chris Kunitz, leads the Ducks with 148 hits this season and will add much needed toughness to the Penguins’ offensive lineup. Nonetheless, aside from losing Whitney’s strong skating and puck moving abilities, his teammates may miss his personality and presence more than those crisp passes he makes to forwards breaking through the neutral zone.
This latest move puts the onus on Captain Sidney Crosby and Alternate Captain Evgeni Malkin to bring their team together if they want to repeat their magic Cup run this season or in the near future.
If Shero is smart, he should appreciate the importance of players with big personalities like Max Talbot and Petr Sykora. He should also realize that how players mesh on the ice usually reflects their relationships off of it.

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