Why do the Penguins lack Composure?

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The Penguins were stomped by the Detroit Redwings 5-1 this past Sunday, and while the defeat once again showed the lack of scoring depth the Penguins actually possess, it also was a game that shone a spotlight on Pittsburgh’s biggest issue, composure.

So many fans want to find a scape-goat for the Penguins constant lack of discipline. Head Coach Mike Johnston has been the favorite, while team leaders, management and even ownership has also been criticized.

In an article I read this morning from Pittsburgh sports writer Dejan Kovacevic he points the finger on the NHL officiating, and rightfully so. This has been one of, if not the, worst season I have seen when it comes to officiating in the league. Dejan does however realize that officiating isn’t the only problem. Especially when the Penguins rank #1 for Penalty minutes this season.

So no, we cannot sit here and put all the blame on the referees, and I’m not trying to. What I would like to do is point out a few things from this past game that hopefully shows what the real issue is.

I want to start with Chris Kunitz on this. It’s obvious he allowed his emotions get the best of him during this game, but what occurred was VERY uncharacteristic of him. Personally I am not fully convinced he “shot” the puck at the end of the first period towards the referee. It isn’t uncommon for players to play with the puck at the end of a period sometimes throwing it down ice or off of the boards. I’m not saying it isn’t possible that he was showing his frustration with the referee and thought he could get away with the move. I just think, being that this is unlike Kunitz, it is just as possible an unfortunate incident as it is a pre through out one.

With that said the rest of the Penguins should have taken note of this and realized they would need to tread more lightly when it comes to the officials.

Understandably emotions run high throughout the course of a game and during a pivotal powerplay in the second period Kris Letang allowed his emotions get the best of him. He received a 2 minute minor a 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct, something that is also VERY uncharacteristic of this player. Are we seeing a pattern yet?

How about the fact that Paul Martin at one point attempted to drop his gloves and take matters into his own hands. Yea you heard that right, Paul Martin attempted to fight. That doesn’t sound too much like the Paul Martin we all love to hate now does it?

After the 5-1 whipping the Penguins took Head Coach Mike Johnston was very calm during his post-game press conference. He pointed out how undisciplined the team was but he seemingly held back his real distaste for how this team embarrassed themselves. Something that has become all too familiar over the past few seasons be it with Dan Bylsma and now Mike Johnston.

So what exactly could this all mean, why is this team still, after all the changes, continuously hurting themselves because of the lack of discipline?

Accountability and Leadership.

Mike Johnston and the rest of the coaching staff absolutely take a large portion of the blame for this, but being that this has been an ongoing issue for years now, it’s become VERY obvious that there is more going on in the locker-room than not.

I am reminded of a post game interview with former Penguins defender Brooks Orpik where he talked about the lack of accountability on the team. Rob Scuderi also has said just as much at some point over the last 24 months.

So is this solely the responsibility of the coaching staff?

No, the leaders in that locker-room NEED to take charge and lead by example. Letang, despite not having a letter on the front of his jersey, is as much a leader on this team as anyone failed at that Sunday afternoon. Chris Kunitz, a player that DOES have an “A” on his jersey failed.

Sidney Crosby after the game talked about how they need to get better. Thank You Mr. Obvious, just because you can see the problem and know it needs fix it does not mean you are holding your players accountable. Nor are you showing leadership in attempting to fix it Sid.

I give credit to Paul Martin yesterday, he was the only player, not brought in by Jim Rutherford, who showed any sort of leadership. And maybe that is the big issue, maybe Rutherford didn’t do enough to rid this team of the Shero regime stench?

No, I’m not saying to trade all of the players from the Shero era, but maybe they should have highly considered changing who the visible leaders are on the team.

Crosby wont, despite my pleas in the past, lose the “C” on his jersey, but I think it has become abundantly clear that Kunitz is not, at least at this point, not the type of leader you want wearing an “A” on his chest.

My solution you ask? Patric Hornqvist has been a phenomenal player since arriving in Pittsburgh. He has done everything and more expected of him, including showing poise and composure in tough games like yesterday afternoon. Maybe it’s time to take notice and reward him with an “A” or if you want maybe give him the “C”. Maybe Crosby would finally get the picture that he isn’t untouchable from criticism.

Give Johnston and his coaching staff some time, they came in to a really bad situation. They inherited a team that had low morale and years of not being held accountable. Johnston may not be the most charismatic coach in the league, but I do believe he will find a way, be it this season or next, to get through to these players and put them back on track.

The big concern is whether the team can have a strong leader make his presence known  much like Pascal Dupuis would do. The lack of a true leader will ultimately be the death of their long playoff hopes.

Thanks for Reading.



Robert Slavinsky

Pittsburgh Penguins writer for hockeytracker.net. Since my childhood I have followed hockey, from the years of The Great One up to The Next One I have followed the fastest sport on ice. Growing up in Pittsburgh PA, I have had the privilege to witness some of Hockey's Greats. Since the days of Le Magnifique no other team in Pittsburgh has mattered to me but the Penguins.

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