Ray Shero

Where did Ray Shero go wrong?

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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

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Penguins renew acquaintances on Rivalry Night

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Tonight, there’s a big Metropolitan Division showdown at Consol as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers. You can catch the game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET), or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

Rangers ‘are doing a lot of good things’

‘I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

 

 

PHT Morning Skate: It’s not like they robbed a bank

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley seems pretty chill about healthy-scratching Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Lance Bouma. That goes for Monahan and Gaudreau in particular, noting that they’re “great kids.”

Besides … it’s not like they robbed a bank. (NHL.com)

Uh oh, did Nazem Kadri make the throat-slashing gesture to Mark Giordano? See for yourself in the video above. (Puck Daddy)

What should the New York Islanders do with unrestricted free agent Kyle Okposo, who’s enjoying a productive contract year? (The Hockey News)

What a playoff berth would mean to the Florida Panthers. (Sportsnet)

Checking in with various teams as the trade deadline looms. (NHL Numbers)

On the Canucks using those Pavel Bure-era jerseys. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Despite tough fight, Stars hand Wild their sixth straight loss

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The Minnesota Wild put together the kind of effort that would beat a lot of NHL teams on Tuesday. Unfortunately for that beleaguered group, it wasn’t enough to edge the Dallas Stars.

Despite generating 40 shots on goal and generating 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the Wild lost to the Stars 4-3 in overtime. With that, they’ve lost six straight games.

(The view doesn’t get much prettier if you pull away a little further, either, as Minnesota’s only won once in the last month, going 1-9-2 in their last 12.)

Ultimately, the Stars’ big guns were too powerful. Tyler Seguin generated two assists and so did Jamie Benn, who set up John Klingberg‘s overtime game-winning goal.

Again, the effort sure seemed to be there for the Wild, even if they’re far beyond the point of accepting moral victories.

As frustrating as this must be, Minnesota’s not that far from a playoff spot. Still, it has to sting to see “Close, but not good enough” as a prevailing theme as of late.

Royal beating: Lucic, Kings crush Bruins 9-2

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The Boston Bruins welcomed Milan Lucic back on Tuesday. Maybe they shouldn’t have extended such a warm welcome to the Los Angeles Kings overall, however.

You won’t see many games as lopsided as this one, at least in 2015-16, as the Kings walloped the Bruins by a humbling score of 9-2.

Lucic wasn’t just there, either, as he scored a goal and an assist in his quite triumphant return to Boston.

Tuukka Rask had a short night in Boston’s net, yet it wasn’t as if Jonas Gustavsson enjoyed his time. It was a pretty sound beating by all accounts.

This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.