Ray Shero

Where did Ray Shero go wrong?


When Ray Shero took over as the Pittsburgh Penguins general manager in 2006, he had a golden opportunity. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had been drafted in the previous two years, giving the team the foundation for a dynasty.

In 2008, Crosby and Malkin led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final. One year later, the Penguins won it all. They haven’t done it since, and Shero has been shown the door as a result.

What could Shero have done differently? Certainly, he made some good moves along the way. In recent years he traded for forwards James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis, and signed them all to reasonable contracts. Each member of that trio has grown since joining the Penguins, giving them a formidable group of top-six forwards.

But what about their bottom two lines? Championship teams are known for their depth and that’s hard to get when you have $17.4 million annually ($18.2 million starting in 2014-15) of your cap hit going to two forwards, no matter how talented they might be.

That’s a problem the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t had to deal with. Yet. Like Pittsburgh, Chicago is built around two young superstars in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but that duo is costing the team just $12.6 million annually against the cap. Both are pending unrestricted free agents after the 2014-15 campaign, however.

What could Shero have done to prevent this problem? The bold move would have been to trade one of Malkin or Crosby — likely the former rather than latter. He could have practically dictated the price and built the offense around Crosby, while retaining enough cap flexibility to assemble a balanced group.

Or, he could’ve just drafted better. Since the 2008 draft, the Penguins haven’t selected a single player that has gone on to participate in at least 100 NHL games.

Using Chicago as a comparison again, the ‘Hawks have drafted three forwards since 2008 that have surpassed the 100-game mark: Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, and Marcus Kruger. Ben Smith is just shy with 95 regular-season contests — which is still more than any Penguins drafted player (Simon Despres, 85) has managed over that span.

All four of those Blackhawks were taken after the first round. Since 2008, the Penguins have just one non-first round pick that has played in at least 15 NHL games: Ben Hanowski, who’s no longer with the organization.

Then of course there’s the Penguins defense. It’s rare for any team to win the Cup without a superb blue line, and while Pittsburgh does have Kris Letang, its defense as a whole is somewhat less than superb.

Shero tried to address that by bringing in defensive defensemen, but his recent experiments — veterans Douglas Murray and then Rob Scuderi — haven’t produced the results he was hoping for. Ultimately, in both cases it might have been a matter of chasing after players that were past their primes.

The next Penguins general manager will have to decide if he wants to stay the course or do something bold. The depth problems in Pittsburgh aren’t going to get any easier to address given that Letang’s eight-year, $58 million contract is about to begin. Can this team stay competitive while giving more than $25 million annually to just three players?

Shero clearly thought they could. The next guy might disagree.

Related: Now is the time to explore trading Letang

Five team stats you may find interesting

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Plus-10: The New York Rangers’ goal-differential in the first period. That’s the highest in the league. Just throwing it out there, but surely part of the reason the Rangers have been outshot in so many games is that they’ve been so good at taking early leads. Everyone knows it’s human nature to play more conservatively with a lead. At five-on-five when the score is tied, the Rangers have a plus-23 shot differential, per war-on-ice.com. When they’re leading by any score — and they’ve been in that situation a lot this season — it’s an NHL-worst minus-70.

Minus-22: The Anaheim Ducks’ goal differential in the second period. No team has a worse goal differential in any period. What’s more, the Ducks actually have a positive differential in the first (+5) and third (+3) frames. It’s hard to say why the second has been such a problem for this team. That’s Bruce Boudreau’s problem to figure out. (For now, at least.)

Plus-18: The Montreal Canadiens’ goal differential in the third. No team has a better goal differential in any period. Now, the Habs have also been pretty good in the first (+5) and second (+10). Which is to say, they’ve led a lot of games after 40 minutes. That they’ve kept scoring in the third supports their reputation as one of the best counter-attacking teams in the NHL. When you’re forced to take chances against Montreal, it can turn ugly real quick.

Plus-5: Calgary’s goal differential in three-on-three overtime. Five wins, no losses. That’s our way of saying the Flames have only won three games in regulation.

20: The most games any team has led at some point in the contest, per war-on-ice.com. Can you guess the two teams that have done it? ………… OK, time’s up. The first is Dallas. The Stars have won 17 games, so yeah, it makes sense they’ve led in quite a few of their games. The second team, though, is Boston. The Bruins have only won 12 games, which means they’ve blown a whole lot of leads. This must drive Claude Julien nuts.

‘Great story’ Holloway, 27, to make NHL debut tonight

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It took a while, but Bud Holloway has finally made the big leagues.

Holloway — who’s real name is “George,” by the way — will make his long-awaited NHL debut tonight when his Habs take on the Devils in New Jersey.

The 27-year-old, taken by L.A. in the third round of the 2006 draft, has traveled a long and winding road to get where he is today.

The WHL Seattle product spent all of his time in the Kings organization at the minor league level, with both ECHL Ontario and AHL Manchester (he appeared in nearly 200 games with the Monarchs over a three-year span.)

Always a capable scorer, Holloway jumped the pond in 2011 and signed in Sweden.

There, he emerged as a star — in his first year, he set a record for most points in a SHL postseason (23 in 19 games) and, in his second, became just the second player in league history to score eclipse the 70-point plateau.

In ’14-15, Holloway signed in Switzerland and continued to be a productive scorer, with 37 points in 42 games for SC Bern.

This year he’s been on fire for the AHL IceCaps, scoring 20 points in 18 games.

“This is a great story,” Habs head coach Michel Therrien told ECHL.com. “The guy has showed a lot of resilience through his career to come back after playing a few years in Europe, and he did really well for [St. John’s].

“For him to get an opportunity to play his first game in the NHL, those are great stories and he certainly deserves to finally get a shot in the NHL because he’s had success wherever he goes.”

Based on yesterday’s line rushes, it looks like Holloway will play on Montreal’s fourth line with Paul Byron and Brian Flynn.

Related: Habs recall former Swedish league scoring ace Holloway

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Bruins in the ’15 Thanksgiving Showdown

Ryan McDonagh, Brad Marchand
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The Boston Bruins are hosting the New York Rangers in this year’s Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC — but if you’re unable to watch on TV, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

You can watch the game online via NBC Sports’ Live Extra. Coverage begins just prior to puck drop at 1 p.m. ET.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in goal, looking for redemption after he got the hook in his last outing, a 5-1 drubbing against Montreal.

Boston will counter with Tuukka Rask, who stopped 39 of 42 shots in his last start — a win over Toronto on Monday.

While their starting goalie remains the same from the Habs loss, the Blueshirts will make chances elsewhere. On defense, Dylan McIlrath draws in for Dan Boyle while at forward, Emerson Etem with take Viktor Stalberg‘s spot.

For the Bruins, Kevan Miller — the defenseman that’s missed the last four games with an upper-body injury — could draw back into the lineup. Miller practiced this week and appears primed to skate in a pairing with Dennis Seidenberg.

Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim


Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

“He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

“He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

“Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.