Pens Defense

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Pens Defense

Postby Hugo Stiglitz on Sat Jan 19, 2013 3:20 am

I'm sure this is no revelation, but the Pens defense will be the big X-factor for their success. I believe and have believed since the signing that picking up Vokoun is HUGE! Especially in a short season like this, having a tandem of this caliber can't be understated enough.

Is this really a trial year? The Penguins have so many questions marks and I have a feeling we will see lots of shifts in the pairings. Player by player:

Orpik - I've been down on him since half way through last season. I don't know where I stand with him because I don't know what caused his serious decline in play. I know his stats show otherwise, but he was pretty horrible. He became this stereo-typical physical dman who goes for the big hit rather than the smart play. I always felt that his physical condition played a big role in his poor play. He came back too early from an injury, plain and simple. He probably was never 100%. I think this season shows whether or not his simply an aging player on the decline or just a victim of injuries.

Martin - I've obviously been no fan of his part way through last season. Before that, I really went to bat for him more than a few times. I never like to condemn a player for a handful of bad games. I think was horrible, but the fact remains he WAS one of the premier positional defensemen in the league. While I may jump in or even initiate some Martin-hate-talk, I really hope he returns to form...it only helps.

Niskanen - Is he a #1 pairing dman? IMO he isn't, but he could be a good compliment to Letang. Letang may not be a shut-down guy, but he's as physical as they come, solid positionally and great on the transition. So what can a guy like Niskanen bring to a player like that? If he plays responsible hockey, he could really let Letang do his thing and just fill in the holes while adding some ability on the transition. But again, is he a #1 guy?

Letang - Not enough can be said and I'll keep it short. He is the Pens' #1 Dman and I foresee a very solid season.

Engelland - Still a fan of his and I still think he gets not only a bad rap sometimes, but I believe some of his skills are overlooked. IMO he's an ideal 6th/7th dman and I expect a solid season.

Despres - Can't really say too much since I couldn't view his develeopment, but I think we're going to see him moved around the line-up quite a bit to see where he fits. I just hope nobody is expecting him to be Drew Doughty out of the gate. He's going to have some really great games and some really bad games...it's all part of the learning curve. From everything I read though, I feel like there's a sense of urgency to rush him in.

Lovejoy - I think he's going to be a stand-out. Nothing to back that up, but just a hunch. I think he has all the attributes to be a solid player and could chase some guys out of the line-up.

Bortuzzo - I leave for him for last because again, I've never seen him play in WBS or in camp, but from everything I've read I almost think it's a mistake to put Despres over Bortuzzo. This isn't because I think Bortuzzo is/will be better than Despres, they're very different players, but it seems that Bortuzzo is more "ready" to make the jump. Also, there shouldn't be a rush on Despres, we already have guys who play his style; he can take another season, but a cup of coffee with the Pens wouldn't hurt. I digress, Bortuzzo is a type of player we need more than another Offense/2-way style dman. We need a shut-down guy.

The Pens defense, as it's been over the past few years looks good on paper. Stellar? No, not stellar, but solid. Solid is all you really need to win a cup. If Orpik and Martin bring their best, I see this defense being more than solid. It's really going to come down to who shows their best and plays the "system."
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby murphydump55 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 4:17 am

I fully agree about Bortuzzo. I want this kid in the lineup. His reach, his size, and his mobility are exactly what we lack. He's not Hal Gill's size, but he can still take up space because of his wing span, and unlike Gill, Bortuzzo can actually skate for his size. He could be that crease clearer that we so desperately need.

I just don't get this forcing of Tangradi and Despres. While I understand why Tangradi is here over Bennett, I honestly believe Jeffrey should be given a look on that second line. He's proven he can play in many situations when healthy and had a great run throughout the star's injuries until he blew out his knee. Tangradi hasn't shown a thing as to why he should be given this spot off the bat....it just seems like it's being forced.

Again I feel the same way about the Despres - Bortuzzo situation. Bortuzzo hasn't looked completely out of place when called up, and was having a great season in WBS. Despres on the other hand was becoming a healthy scratch in WBS and his play was declining. He didn't even have a good scrimmage up here, yet it sounds as he'll be forced into the top 6 before Bortuzzo.

Thoughts?
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby scals37 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:07 am

I would have to argue that the amount of unproven dmen on this team still makes our defense questionable as a whole until 1 or more guys step up in a big way... the fact is most of our defense has yet to make a big impact, but the other side of that coin is the youth and potential of said players, not to mention the depth behind them that will push and/or replace them if they can't produce...
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby pens_CT on Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:06 am

A quick summary with only this year in mind:

Orpik- Probably will have a much better year. Injuries held him back last year without a doubt.

Letang- Definitely the number 1 d-man on this team, and reallly needs to stay healthy.

Martin- I just don't see him as a fit in HCDB system. On a team that preaches defense first like Phoenix he would do a much better job.

Niskanen- Ideally a bottom pairing guy, I think he will be exposed the more minutes he plays.

Despres- Has the talent to play top 4 minutes, is he ready for it now at age 21? Probably not. This year he needs to be in the bottom pairing.

Bortuzzo- Has the potential to be a good PK type guy, needs time to get used to the NHL speed.

Lovejoy-No better than a #7 guy who fills in for brief spurts when minor injuries occur.

Engelland- Also no better than a #7 guy on a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations. You insert him in games where you think that you need someone to drop the gloves, otherwise he should be in the press box.

While there is NHL potential in Morrow and Dumoulin at WBS, neither guy is ready at this point. Look for Shero to make a move for a veteran defenseman before the trading deadline.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Fire0nice228 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:16 am

I pretty much agree with the last 2 posters and I'm hoping that GMRS at the least gets a solid top 4 Dman rental for a Cup run to push Niskanen to the 3rd pair with some PP duty. I really don't see the Pens doing much in the playoffs if they have to play any of Engo,Lovejoy,Bortuzzo on a really regular basis. Martin needs to have a bounce back year and a return to Olympic form if the Pens are going to make some big waves this year. Can that be done in the DB system or is Martin also 'not a fit' here..
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby DelPen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:54 am

Fortunately the offense and goaltending is more than good enough to get us to the playoffs. I'm confident any weakness in the defense can be addressed at the trade deadline either by addition or subtraction like adding Gill in 2008 or dumping Whitney in 2009.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Nizzy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:23 am

Letang Despres
Orpik Martin
Niskanen Engelland
Bortuzzo
Lovejoy

Pick someone up at the deadline like maybe Murray from the Sharks or something.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby columbia on Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:33 am

DelPen wrote:I'm confident any weakness in the defense can be addressed at the trade deadline either by addition or subtraction like adding Gill in 2008 or dumping Whitney in 2009.


We heard that the last three seasons and it never happened.
You can't blame Shero for the trade market, but fans need to stop counting on the magic pill at the deadline.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby BurghersAndDogsSports on Sat Jan 19, 2013 11:04 am

columbia wrote:
DelPen wrote:I'm confident any weakness in the defense can be addressed at the trade deadline either by addition or subtraction like adding Gill in 2008 or dumping Whitney in 2009.


We heard that the last three seasons and it never happened.
You can't blame Shero for the trade market, but fans need to stop counting on the magic pill at the deadline.


The problem has been for all teams, the parity and the fact teams make a killing financially even on one round of playoffs, keeps teams from dumping too many guys if they are even close in the race. Add in the salary cap effect, even minimal for an upcoming UFA, teams have a hard time trading for certain guys.

This may change slightly in a shorter schedule if some teams come out slow and have no chance, I havent really looked at the upcoming UFA list to see if any are on some pretty bad teams. But if there is a year, I think its this year. With the cap staying somewhat stable, Letang and Malkin as upcoming free agents getting raises, Shero may be more inclined to part with our stable of d prospects for a legit shot at the cup.

The only time in the next 2 - 3 years we can trade those guys and get value is going to be at the deadline for an impending free agent. I still feel this is the year he will even overpay if he has to.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Tico Rick on Sat Jan 19, 2013 11:15 am

Just throwing this tidbit out there: Rob Rossi, like many on this board, questions in today’s Trib whether Despres is ready for regular duty:

http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/3290345-74/penguins-defense-season#axzz2IQkA0Mjw

But Dan Bylsma’s quotes in the P-G indicate that he’s on the big club because he won the job. It seems like Bylsma has fewer doubts about Despres than many here do:
It's not to take a look at him; it's not to give it a try," Bylsma said. "He's played 18 games in the National Hockey League. We've taken a look at Simon in those games.

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/penguins/sidney-crosby-to-kill-penalties-too-671082/

Eight D-men is a lot to carry, but in this shortened season, and with the players starting out the gate without necessarily being in game shape, I think we're going to see a lot of hamstring pulls, groins, etc., so it could be that we'll need all 8 defensemen and that they'll all see significant ice time as the season progresses.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby KG on Sat Jan 19, 2013 11:38 am

Nizzy wrote:Letang Despres
Orpik Martin
Niskanen Engelland
Bortuzzo
Lovejoy

Pick someone up at the deadline like maybe Murray from the Sharks or something.


I'm excited about the Despres and Bortuzzo additions to the blue line. I think it is premature to peg Despres top line minutes. Hopefully Bortuzzo can be the new Scuderi we've been missing back there. I think this year Shero should look for a veteran on either an expiring or short term contract to bridge the gap for the kids to log additional minutes. I also wouldn't mind seeing Engelland moving to 4th line enforcer/13th forward eventually...Key to this year on the blueline is will Orpik and Martin bounce back and be the players they were/can be....

Excited....
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby columbia on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:20 pm

Tico Rick wrote:Just throwing this tidbit out there: Rob Rossi, like many on this board, questions in today’s Trib whether Despres is ready for regular duty:

http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/3290345-74/penguins-defense-season#axzz2IQkA0Mjw

But Dan Bylsma’s quotes in the P-G indicate that he’s on the big club because he won the job. It seems like Bylsma has fewer doubts about Despres than many here do:
It's not to take a look at him; it's not to give it a try," Bylsma said. "He's played 18 games in the National Hockey League. We've taken a look at Simon in those games.

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/penguins/sidney-crosby-to-kill-penalties-too-671082/

Eight D-men is a lot to carry, but in this shortened season, and with the players starting out the gate without necessarily being in game shape, I think we're going to see a lot of hamstring pulls, groins, etc., so it could be that we'll need all 8 defensemen and that they'll all see significant ice time as the season progresses.



Despres, 21, will make mistakes, as he did Wednesday in the Black & Gold scrimmage. However, his upside is enticing to coaches, who thought he could contribute more than some regulars last season.
The range of likely defense partner Kris Letang will help cover for Despres, but his inclusion among the top six is more an indication that Robert Bortuzzo has not developed as hoped — and that Ben Lovejoy may be in coach Dan Bylsma‘s doghouse until he eventually leaves Pittsburgh.


Bortuzzo hasn't developed as hoped?

He's played all of 6 NHL games, you **** idiot.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Fire0nice228 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:22 pm

can't develop in the minor leagues? thats news to me..
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby columbia on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:24 pm

Fire0nice228 wrote:can't develop in the minor leagues? thats news to me..


Yeah, I mean, what is the basis of his assessment?
The idea that Despres is (hopefully) ready is a completely independent factor.

I'm not even talking about hockey; Rossi just seems really dumb in general.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Fire0nice228 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:29 pm

I feel like Rossi doesnt watch or see enough WB/S games to even attempt to decipher the development of a player with his keen eye for hockey let alone publish things about it that the uninformed masses will take as gospel.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby pens_CT on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:38 pm

Fire0nice228 wrote:I feel like Rossi doesnt watch or see enough WB/S games to even attempt to decipher the development of a player with his keen eye for hockey let alone publish things about it that the uninformed masses will take as gospel.

The fact he mentions Ryan Smyth as a potential forward for the pens makes me wonder if he has watched the NHL the last few years as well.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby KG on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:48 pm

Gonchar, Whitney and Scuderi are all expected to be UFA's after this season...FYI = )
Last edited by KG on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby JoseCuervo on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:58 pm

Basing off what I saw in the Black and Gold scrimmage, Despres looked nowhere close to top-six duty and was manhandled by the pens third line. Letang looked great on the other hand, but I really don't want him babysitting Despres all season because it got Letang out of position a few times. The Martin-Orpik pair looked pretty strong, though Martin looked a bit awkward playing on his off-hand at rightD and Orpik chased a few hits in is own zone. Bortuzzo, Niskanen, and Engelland all looked okay and neither one stood out in a good or bad way. I thought Lovejoy looked awful, though, and was surprised that they kept him over Strait, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. Of course, this is all based on one scrimmage.

I think the real X-factor is not the personnel on defense, but the ability of the forwards to play solid defensively in their own zone. Strong defensive work by the forwards can make up for small short-comings by the defensemen in this system.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby KG on Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:02 pm

JoseCuervo wrote:Basing off what I saw in the Black and Gold scrimmage, Despres looked nowhere close to top-six duty and was manhandled by the pens third line. Letang looked great on the other hand, but I really don't want him babysitting Despres all season because it got Letang out of position a few times. The Martin-Orpik pair looked pretty strong, though Martin looked a bit awkward playing on his off-hand at rightD and Orpik chased a few hits in is own zone. Bortuzzo, Niskanen, and Engelland all looked okay and neither one stood out in a good or bad way. I thought Lovejoy looked awful, though, and was surprised that they kept him over Strait, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. Of course, this is all based on one scrimmage.

I think the real X-factor is not the personnel on defense, but the ability of the forwards to play solid defensively in their own zone. Strong defensive work by the forwards can make up for small short-comings by the defensemen in this system.


Surprised Shero didn't move Lovejoy for a 6th round pick or something. I'm sure he looked into moving someone before he lost Strait for nothing...Pens D will be the key this year. Especially come playoff time. Don't want this team to become a regular season success/playoff flop....Entire team needs to commit to defense....DB needs to have a short leash on players with this shortened season...
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Steve on Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:08 pm

I think the key is #44 - I'm hoping we see the USA Olympic Brooks (for example), and not the slowed-by-injuries Brooks.....
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby netwolf on Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:33 pm

I'm sure Shero explored the trade market. Problem is, every team knew what the situation was, so if he got any offers (doubtful), they were lowball. At least the guys kept ahead of Strait can all play.

Letang is the top dog. Anything you want from a defenseman, he can do, and do well. The one thing he could improve on is mental consistency, but that's true of many players his age.

Niskanen took a big step forward last year. He's similar to 58 in that he does a lot of things well. Pens are counting on him continuing to refine his game.

Orpik had a down year, no question. The extended offseason could prove to be of big benefit to him, as by his own admission, he hasn't been 100% in a while. I'm hoping his body will allow him to get back to what he's capable of doing.

Martin has been a disappointment so far. Lingering effects of the shoulder injury that erased most of his final season in NJ or struggling to adjust to Bylsma's system? Either way, it took Gonchar a while to settle in as a Pen. Here's hoping Martin is on the verge of figuring it out. Heard on Pens 24/7 radio this morning that he rarely played the left side before coming here. I knew he had played some right side in NJ, but didn't know he primarily played there. Maybe moving him back will help.

Engelland and Lovejoy have drastically different skill sets, but both top out as bottom pairing guys.

Despres has a ton of potential, but I'm not sure how a guy that struggled to the point of being a healthy scratch in the AHL is ready for the NHL. Then again, he wouldn't be the first guy to play so-so down there, then play better in the NHL. The biggest thing for him is simplicity. Stay in position and make the easy play. He does that and he should be okay.

Very happy to see Bortuzzo here, even if he doesn't dress right away. He's been WBs best defenseman for a year and a half, nothing left to prove there. He's pretty mobile and he's even more rangy than his 6'4" frame would suggest. Looking forward to seeing him get into the lineup to see how he translates his game to this level. Could be looking at another Hall Gill, but with better skating and passing.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Sarcastic on Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:50 pm

I think our D is, again, a question mark and I refuse to see the Pens as a clear cut threat to win the cup until it proves itself. I said it many times in the past that I want to see one more scoring D (to replace martin or niskanen) and one big mean sob who can push people out of the crease.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby penny lane on Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:56 pm

KG wrote:Gonchar, Whitney and Scuderi are all expected to be UFA's after this season...FYI = )


THE answer!

Defense could use more height and muscle. ^ if we could blend into 1 guy, great. :wink:
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby pugilist13 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:00 pm

Just weighing in on the bottom paiir D men. I don't know, as i look around the eastern conference i dont see any of the other top clubs with a big advantage. The Rags have Stralman, Bickel, Eminger, and Sauer. Cryers have Grossman, Foster, Gervais, and Lilja. Even Boston who are pretty deep at the position have a void at the 6 spot if Dougie Hamilton doesn't stick with the big club right away.

Any combo of Engelland, Bortuzzo, Lovejoy, Despres isn't a bad thing as far as im concerned. With 9 million in cap space i'm sure Shero will upgrade at some point during the season.
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Re: Pens Defense

Postby Sarcastic on Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:08 pm

If Despres and Bortuzzo chip in, it will certainly help. What worries me is the amount of ice time guys like martin and niskanen get. I'll be rooting for them, but their lack of size and clear cut skill isn't something that can really change. That's where we need Bylsma to come in with a plan.

I liked Grossman a lot. According to many Flyers fans, he was their best D in the playoffs. I think we could have really used him ourselves, to be honest.
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