Whatever Pittsburgh Penguins GM Kyle Dubas’s analytic-rep is, he’s going to be remembered for always opting for the big swing. While he may have been championed as a hockey sabermetric darling who rose to the biggest chair in the sport in Toronto, those that deride him would happily point out that any idiot can figure out to trade or sign the biggest possible name. Be it John Tavares or now Erik Karlsson, Dubas certainly knows that there are few players who change a team instantly and even fewer who become available.
Pittsburgh is Karlsson’s new home, and he landed in there in exchange for a bunch of shit the Pens aren’t going to need at the end of the Sidney Crosby era. They coughed up a couple picks, though the first-rounder next year is top-10 protected should it all go balls up. They jettisoned almost all the flotsam off their roster, as Mikael Granlund was the very definition of a millstone, Jan Rutta might not know how to tie his skates, and Jeff Petry is getting his role taken up by one of the greatest defensemen of all-time, and their backup goalie in Casey DeSmith. If only the Penguins could find a farm upstate to leave Jeff Carter, it might turn out to be a perfect summer for them.
Will it work? It certainly turns the Pens into must-see TV, at least when Karlsson, Kris Letang, Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin are all healthy (so like 12 games). While crusty hockey men with shit-ass Canadian whiskey (redundant) stains on their shirts love to point out that Karlsson is hardly the world’s best defender, he instantly changes a team’s offense. It is not hyperbole to say that Karlsson has changed how the game is played, with teams everywhere wanting a d-man who can wheel out of his own zone and jumpstart them up the ice on his own or can lace one pass that starts a rush the other way through three guys. Or ridiculous shit like this:
As the Penguins are always looking to soup up their game, Karlsson is the nitrous oxide to the engine. But that doesn’t solve everything, or even most things. The Pens are still going to toss out Tristan Jarry in net most nights, and he might have been the biggest reason they missed the playoffs last year. But then again it’s kind of Dubas tradition to juice the roster and ignore the goalie position. Maple Leafs fans have kept every bar in The Six above water commiserating over such things.
The bottom six is still an issue as well, which tends to happen to Dubas-built rosters as well. Rem Pitlick, also picked up from Montreal in this three-team trade, helps a little. Lars Eller was signed to do so as well, but at 34 he’s turning odd colors in the sun. Noel Acciari does something, so people claim.
Still, the last Stanley Cup was just won by a team that also always reels in the big fish or does everything to try in Vegas. As much as common hockey thought (there’s a phrase for you) makes Cup runs about the guys on the 3rd and 4th lines, the major moves are still made by the best players. Get as many of them as possible and figure it out later. It’s not like the Penguins have to worry about long-term planning. They’ve done the dynasty thing already. This is about putting together one last run before the core triumvirate rides off into the sunset. Even if Karlsson and Letang only play most of the games, and are healthy for the playoffs, the Pens will be pushing the pace to level plaid. They’re going to score spectacular goals and a lot of them. They also might give up a lot of ‘em too. But hey, a glorious death is better than one no one’s going to remember. The Dubas guns are blazing again.
Lionel Messi played his first road game last night in the Leagues’ Cup in Frisco, TX against FC Dallas. They couldn’t find him either:
This is yet another part of Messi’s genius. Dallas was clearly looking for him to run into the box as we’ve seen him do already on these shores, so he hangs out behind everyone where he is nearly impossible to pick up once a defender has committed to being in the box. And his finishing from outside the 18 is always just hard enough to be unsavable without blasting it over.
I am not lying as I tell you that as I was writing the above paragraph, he also did this:
Sadly he couldn’t do much about Inter Miami’s defending, as they gave up four goals but still went through to the quarters on penalties. Maybe if you score four per game you don’t have to worry about the defense.
We couldn’t wrap up the weekend without giving you another chance to watch Tim Anderson do his best Glass Joe impression:
Can’t sum it up better than this:
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