Tag: Rob Scuderi

St. Louis Blues v Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh’s biggest question: Is the defense good enough?


For a team not really known for its defense, the Penguins sure have seen defensemen fly off the shelves.

Last summer, teams spent $76.45 million to lure away Deryk Engelland (Calgary), Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik (Washington).

This summer, more of the same with the Sharks signing Paul Martin and the Kings inking Christian Ehrhoff.

The issue here is obvious — if Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t that great to begin with and then lost all these guys, how good will it be heading into 2015-16?

“I’m comfortable with (our defense) going into the season,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said earlier this summer, per USA Today. “But it is certainly the area we will watch the closest.”

Rutherford isn’t the only one that’ll be watching.

Eyes across the league will be glued to Pittsburgh following Rutherford’s bold renovation project. Nearly all of his moves this summer were designed to improve his forward group — adding the likes of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr and KHLer Sergei Plotnikov — essentially banking on the idea that, ready or not, his collection of young defensemen will carry the load.

And it really is a young group.

Only Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy have appeared in over 200 NHL games; even a “veteran” presence like 26-year-old Ian Cole is a bit of a wildcard, given he was buried on a deep Blues blueline before being acquired last season (prior to ’14-15, Cole’s career high in games played was 46).

As such, kids are going to take on some pretty hefty roles.

Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, both 21, figure to get a lion’s share of the now-available minutes, while the likes of Adam Clendening (22), Brian Dumoulin (23) and Tim Erixon (24) will be fighting for depth spots — which, in Pittsburgh, are pretty important spots.

This is a defensive unit, remember, that was ravaged by injury a year ago (recall when the Pens only dressed five d-men against San Jose?) Things got so bad that, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Taylor Chorney was in the lineup.

Though the club has since hired two new staffers in an effort to “minimize injuries,” losing blueliners to injury always remains a concern.

But there is a wrinkle.

Rutherford, who took heat last year for rolling the dice on a thin blueline while stockpiling offense, says that his abundance of forwards may actually help out should he to add a defenseman.

“Hopefully the younger guys can fall into place and do a consistent job,” he explained. “If not, part of having more depth up front, is that it can help us in the long run because if we have to go get a defenseman we have those extra pieces.”

Translation: Rutherford knows the group might need help.

“I’m fully aware,” he said, “that at some point in time we may have to address that position.”

Looking to make the leap: Derrick Pouliot

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Is this the year Derrick Pouliot transitions from promising prospect to full-time pro?

He seems to think so.

“I think I’m capable of being a reliable defender in this league. I think I can produce even more offensively, too,” Pouliot said earlier this summer, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s really about taking a two-way role, not giving up anything and creating some chances for us.

“I’ll come into camp in shape and be able to handle some more minutes.”

Last season, Pouliot looked primed to make the leap. He made his NHL debut in December and eventually replaced an injured Olli Maatta on Pittsburgh’s blueline, impressing onlookers through 34 games until an injury of his own prematurely ended the campaign.

While it was a good showing from a kid that only turned 21 in January — Pouliot racked up seven points while averaging 17:33 TOI — the former WHL Portland standout only provided a glimpse of what he could do.

Now, the Pens want a much bigger look.

They also need it.

Pittsburgh’s defense took a hit this offseason and, as a result, Pouliot’s role is bound to increase. Blueline minutes are there for the taking: Paul Martin, who averaged nearly 23 per game last season, is now in San Jose while Christian Ehrhoff, who averaged nearly 22, is in L.A.

Rob Scuderi turns 37 in December and seems primed for a (further) diminished role, and it remains to be seen if the Ben Lovejoy-for-Simon Despres trade will ever work out in the Pens’ favor.

So, enter Pouliot.

The eighth overall pick in 2012, he’s expected to shoulder a significant load this year, despite it being (essentially) his first full NHL campaign. And this isn’t any ordinary team he’s looking to leap into; Pittsburgh made major splashes throughout the summer, none bigger than the Phil Kessel acquisition, and is a legit Eastern Conference contender.

In short, the pressure’s on for Pouliot.

“I definitely know the expectations, that’s for sure,” he told NHL.com. “I know I have to be ready when the season comes around, what I have to do to be ready. It’s a little different in that aspect, that’s for sure.

“I’m pretty anxious. I feel like I can take on a bit of a bigger role.”

Report: Penguins won’t re-sign Martin, Ehrhoff; intend to spend on wingers


Even with the trials and tribulations they faced at times in Pittsburgh, one would think there was a chance that the Penguins might bring back either Paul Martin or Christian Ehrhoff. Instead, it sounds like they’ll go very young in 2015-16.

Le Presse’s Marc Antoine Godin reports that the Pens are opting for a “full youth movement” on defense, and that they’d rather spend their cash on wingers this summer.

It’s easy to pick out the Penguins defensemen who would rank as “experienced:” Kris Letang, Ian Cole, Rob Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy.

Beyond that, you have promising (and resoundingly unlucky) young blueliner Olli Maatta leading a group of fresh faces that includes the likes of Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin. Some would go even further with that youth movement, actually:

On paper, the Penguins could very well have a healthy amount of cap space, especially if they go with young and cheap blueliners instead of signing veterans. Beyond the go-to answer of Justin Williams, it’s to say how robust the free agent market will be regarding wingers, although the Penguins could also aim for a trade or some other move.

/Waits for wave of Brandon Saad comments.

Anyway, it’s an interesting and bold strategy, assuming Godin’s report is correct. We’ll see how that situation shakes out in what’s looking like a summer of change both on and off the ice for Pittsburgh.

Hamonic suffered torn MCL on Scuderi hit, no surgery required

Rob Scuderi, Travis Hamonic

The day after the Isles were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, news finally started to surface about their injured players — specifically, defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Hamonic, who missed the entire Washington series with an undisclosed ailment, revelaed he suffered a torn MCL on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Rob Scuderi in the second-to-last game of the regular season (as pictured).

That was Hamonic’s last hockey-related activity of the year though, per Newsday, the tear didn’t require surgery — in fact, Hamonic was holding out hope of a Round 2 return, should the Isles have won Monday’s Game 7.

There’s no denying Hamonic was missed. The 24-year-old averaged nearly 22 minutes per night this season and broke out offensively, scoring a career-high 33 points in 71 games. Hamonic was also largely assigned the task of defending Alex Ovechkin during the Isles’ regular-season tilts against the Caps, a job that fell to Johnny Boychuk instead.

Boychuk fared well against Ovechkin but, with injuries also hitting blueliners Calvin de Haan and Lubomir Visnovsky, the Hamonic ailment was even more pronounced. On Monday, the Isles were forced to play AHL recall Scott Mayfield and little-used Matt Donovan a combined 26:24 against Washington.

Rutherford admits mistakes, but has support of Penguins ownership

Mike Johnston Press Conference

You may question some of his moves, but you can’t say he lacks candor.

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford met with reporters today in Pittsburgh, and proceeded to:

Admit the club erred in the development of Beau Bennett, that the player should have spent more time in the AHL.
Express regret for trading young defenseman Simon Despres for veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
Concede he could have handled an interaction with a certain member of the media better.

Those were the mistakes for which he held himself accountable.

But Rutherford also said:

— He has the full support of ownership to make the changes he sees fit, which may include buyouts. (Rob Scuderi?)
— He will look to add a top-six winger, most likely through a trade, given the dearth of options in free agency.
— The head coach he hired, Mike Johnston, did a good job, and the players said so.

Anyway, it should be a very interesting offseason in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have a number of pending unrestricted free agents, including Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss.

It could also be a challenging one for Rutherford. If he wants to add a top-six winger through a trade, what, exactly, could he offer in return? He already traded his first-round pick to get David Perron, and it’s not like the Penguins are blessed with an overabundance of prospects.

Besides, they need to develop their prized youngsters, not trade them away for short-term fixes. (You know, like they traded away Després.)

Related: Friedman says Penguins need to ‘think about’ trading Malkin