The Pittsburgh Penguins might be 13-8-2 and fourth in the Metropolitan Division, but they’re not playing as well as their record would indicate. Sidney Crosby isn’t producing like we’re used to seeing and it’s caused a lot of concern around the league. For some inexplicable reason, Penguins head coach Mike Johnston alternates his teams style from dumping and chasing one night to carrying the puck the next. I’ve also praised his ability to adjust and adapt, something Dan Bylsma could never do. Under Bylsma, the Penguins dictated play, they didn’t change their approach or lines for anyone.
With Johnston at the helm, it’s been a much different show as the Penguins have used a different set of lines during every contest. Fans have been calling for a change in lines and Johnston has given it to them, but it might not be what they’re expecting.
Here are the most recent line combinations at practice.
#Pens lines at practice →
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 30, 2015
Hockey Buzz writer Ryan Wilson was right when he said:
The Penguins Need A Time Machine For The “New” Crosby Line To Work
The problem the Penguins have had this season is that they’re playing a system they’re not built for. Reuniting an old line won’t fix the system and in fact, it might actually make the team worse. Crosby and Patric Hornqvist have shown great chemistry throughout the last season and they were just split up. Hornqvist, while a quick skater, is not nearly fast enough to play with Crosby on the rush, but he certainly does a better job than either Chris Kunitz or Pascal Dupuis.
Playing Crosby alongside 36-year old wingers who are both past their prime and rapidly slowing down won’t fix the Penguins offensive woes. What needs to happen is a totally different approach by the Penguins. General manager Jim Rutherford needs to talk with Johnston and force him to change the line combinations. We’ve seen it time and time again, Pittsburgh loves to recycle veteran players because they feel they’re a safer bet than youth.
They’re not wrong, veterans are more consistent players, but they don’t bring the same spark an 18-year old player like Daniel Sprong does. Yes, that’s right Sprong is still with the Penguins at the NHL level, they’re not playing him and they’ve burned a year off of his entry-level contract.
A Change in Penguins Lines
It’s time for a brand new approach to the Penguins line combinations. Take a look at this:
- Beau Bennett – Crosby – Sprong
- David Perron – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel
- Nick Bonino – Eric Fehr – Hornqvist
- Sergei Plotnikov – Matt Cullen – Pascal Dupuis
The problem this season is that Crosby’s not being played in the right system, but he’s also not being given wingers who can play with him. Crosby loves to play at a million miles an hour, he doesn’t double back like Evgeni Malkin does. It’s time to give Crosby a chance with the youngest and fastest players on the ice, instead of trying an old combination that’s proven to no longer be effective.
Sprong is with the Penguins, so play him. Chris Kunitz needs to adjust his mindset, sure he still battles with the best of them, but he needs to change how he plays if he wants to score. Take him out of the lineup for a few games, see what Eric Fehr can do at center and move Dupuis to a supporting role on the fourth line.
It’s time for major changes in the Penguins lineup and they need to happen soon so management can figure out what areas need to be addressed at the trade deadline. This isn’t to suggest that Bennett and Sprong will surely work with Crosby, but it’s at least worth a shot.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave your comments below or tweet me anytime @MPityk_PIT
Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers