The Pittsburgh Penguins have not played well this month. That’s probably the nicest way of putting it. They lost three out of five on a five-game homestand. They went on to lose two out of three on this latest road trip. This road trip had them play the Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes, and Colorado Avalanche. They ended up being swept by the Avalanche. They needed to rely on a goal in the final seconds of regulation just to beat the lowly Coyotes. With where they are in the standings right now, a shakeup in Pittsburgh may not be too far out.
It Might Be Time For a Shakeup in Pittsburgh
A lot of times this season, the Penguins looked lethargic on the ice. They’ve also been way too sloppy, giving up a ton of odd-man rushes during games. Recently, against the Avalanche, they were guilty of giving up a 3 on 0. Another odd-man rush they gave up led to a goal as the puck got batted into the net:
— NHL (@NHL) December 19, 2017
PDO is the sum of a team’s 5V5 shooting %. They can’t score at even strength and haven’t done so all season. Their PDO is also so bad that you can’t even see it on this chart from Sean Tierney of The Athletic.
IS QUICK ELITE?? MY COLUMN: pic.twitter.com/pqFs3CVTKU
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) December 14, 2017
A big part of that has come from the bottom six. Gone are the days that the Penguins can roll four lines out every game when each is a threat to score. It just hasn’t been that way this season. Ryan Reaves only has one goal, as does Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney only has two. That is the currently constructed fourth line. Combined, they have four goals almost halfway through the season. Compare that to last season, Matt Cullen had 13 goals by himself as the fourth line center. There’s a chance that the 3 players combined this year may not even get to that.
The Lack of Scoring
There are some other players who really haven’t scored much either in the bottom six. Bryan Rust is a great player but he only has four goals this season. Conor Sheary has only been snakebitten lately as he just has one goal in his last 15 games. He has nine on the season. This is far too low for someone who gets a lot of minutes every night whether it’s in the top six or bottom six.
So now the question becomes, what do the Penguins do? General manager Jim Rutherford said publicly last week that this last road trip was key. He suggested, the result on the ice may lead to a move off the ice. Given the outcome, it’s hard to see Rutherford standing pat. The NHL roster freeze is at midnight tonight which means its the last day for teams to make trades before the holiday freeze.
Where from Here?
The best move would likely be getting a big-time third line center and bumping down Riley Sheahan to the fourth line to center them. Sheahan has been good since coming over, but he’s just not good enough to be the third line center on the Penguins. Sheahan has a primary points per 60 of 0.93 this year (according to Corsica.hockey) but since coming over from Detroit, his 5V5 points per 60 is very close to 1.8. As a fourth line center, that’s great but it’s not suited for being the third line center.
There are not too many names out there right now but it won’t stop Rutherford from engaging in trade talks. They’re not going to trade a big-time player but it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone such as Hagelin, Sheary, or Cole are dealt to try and shake things up and send a message. Six of their next eight games come against the Metropolitan division which has been the best division by far in the league this season. Even though they may make a move, they need to start banking points and banking them quickly as the season reaches the halfway point.