When the Pittsburgh Penguins brought defenseman Rob Scuderi back to the organization last summer, signing a four-year contract with their one-time draft pick, they reportedly had Brooks Orpik‘s pending free agency in mind.
Not that Orpik, 33, is guaranteed to move on after this season, but there’s a chance he’ll pursue bigger money than what Pittsburgh will be willing to offer.
But regardless of Orpik’s future, the 34-year-old Scuderi recently played a role often manned by his fellow Boston College alum, criticizing his teammates for their flashy tendencies after Friday’s overtime loss to Edmonton.
If you’re going to try and play hockey like the Harlem Globetrotters, you’re going to get burned. We continue to make the same mistakes, go for the same highlight reel plays. That might look good on the highlight reels every now and then, but it’s not a formula for winning.
Yohe said in a recent blog post that he has received negative feedback from some Penguins fans regarding Scuderi’s complaint. Apparently a few folks think someone struggling with his own game shouldn’t be scolding anyone else.
Like Yohe, I disagree, as Scuderi was signed as a direct response to the team’s freewheeling faux pas in past seasons. Even if Scuderi hasn’t yet gotten back to full speed since his return from a broken ankle, he has the experience (two Stanley Cups, countless playoff games) and style of play (decidedly no-frills) that lends credibility.
The Penguins appeared to take heed of Scuderi’s words – and perhaps their own consciences – in Saturday night’s 2-1 defeat of Calgary. Much like the rest of the road trip, Pittsburgh wasn’t at its machine-like best against the Flames, but Dan Bylsma‘s squad seemed more content to defend than it was the previous night.
Bylsma admitted that it’s been “an adjustment” for the Penguins to maintain their tight-checking ways of October and November with offensive stars like Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin returning from injuries.
Ironically, the Pens might’ve been at their systematic apex when half the roster was made up of AHL call-ups. Now, with more artillery back on the ice, Pittsburgh is trending toward the high-reward, high-risk mentality that’s led to trouble against well-schooled teams.
Maybe blowing a pair of late leads to lowly Edmonton was the best thing that could’ve happened. As I wrote Friday afternoon, there’s plenty of time for the Penguins tune up its game, and it may even be counterproductive to have everything clicking before the lengthy Olympic break next month. Why waste your best in January?
Nevertheless, Scuderi was correct when he said bad habits made at midseason can be tough to break in the springtime. His $3.375 million salary may look like an millstone – especially since he’ll be 38 in the final year of his contract – but he’s earning his money in different ways right now.
As Orpik knows, talk doesn’t equal results when the stakes are high, but all a team can do is focus on the process during a long regular season. Maybe two veteran defensive voices can be better than one for this edition of the Penguins.