Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Penguins don’t need Tom Wilson, they need a time machine

Or ... now hear me out ... the Pens may just suck.
Or ... now hear me out ... the Pens may just suck.
Image: Getty Images

The Penguins are fifth in the NHL’s East Division, tied with the Flyers at 21 points but having played two more games. Pittsburgh lost to Washington on Thursday night, in a game that included Tom Wilson delivering a gratuitous late hit, as is his specialty.

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TribLive columnist Mark Madden’s takeaway was that the Penguins need to get themselves Wilson or a player like him.

Citing the time that Wilson concussed Zach Aston-Reese in the 2018 playoffs and the Penguins having traded Ryan Reaves earlier that year, Madden’s conclusion was that “it remains one of Mike Sullivan’s biggest mistakes as Penguins coach that he didn’t use Reaves much, and one of Jim Rutherford’s worst gaffes as GM that he didn’t make Sullivan play Reaves, but instead traded Reaves.”

Reaves was indeed quite good in the 2018 postseason for Vegas after the Penguins traded him, scoring two of the three goals that he’s scored in 72 career playoff games. In his regular season career, Reaves has scored 48 goals with 49 assists in 665 contests. He’s averaged 8:34 of ice time over his career, and never more than 10:52, because he’s not very good.

Wilson is more than that, on track for a third straight 20-goal campaign, but it’s positively dimwitted to suggest, in 2021, that having a player like Wilson on your team prevents players like Wilson on other teams from taking cheap shots at your guys — a point that Madden even touched on!

“It’s surprising that no one has ever sucker-punched Wilson, or otherwise fouled him gratuitously. You’d get suspended, but no one would hate you or feel sorry for Wilson.”

Wilson is in his eighth year in the NHL, and he’s always been a total dick on the ice. Yet, having a dick on your own team doesn’t stop Wilson from doing his usual dick stuff, just as Wilson doesn’t stop people from taking cheap shots at the Capitals. Islanders captain Anders Lee is no bruiser, but he still put an unnecessarily late hit on Nicklas Backstrom in last year’s playoffs… and had to answer to John Carlson’s fists, not unlike how, as Madden noted, Cody Ceci put a big revenge hit on Wilson on Thursday night.

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The Penguins’ problem isn’t that they don’t have Wilson. It’s that their window has closed, which any yutz could see coming. Sidney Crosby is still really good, but less than a point-a-game player this season, while Evgeni Malkin looks like he’s stepped off the cliff.

It’s also that the Penguins have the seventh-worst power play and seventh-worst penalty kill in the NHL. The other teams in the bottom 10 in both of those categories are the Blues, Devils, Red Wings, Senators, and Sharks. Know what those teams have in common? Outside of the Blues, they all suck, and St. Louis may well suck this year, too, but they’re very much in the playoff picture at 10-8-2 because the West as a whole might be the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.

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Most of all, it’s that the only team with a worse save percentage than Pittsburgh is Ottawa, whose top goalie is ex-Penguin Matt Murray. So, at least there’s no regrets for the Pens on that trade, but that’s cold comfort.

Wilson is 6-4 and 220 pounds, so maybe Madden is right. Strap some pads on that guy, and just by accident he might wind up being better than Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith.

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Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle blamed COVID-19 on his decision to drop plans to bring an expansion MLS team to Sacramento, which is weird because the team wasn’t going to start playing until 2022.

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Ah, in this case, COVID-19 means that the cost of building a stadium went up due to the delay. The stadium was supposed to cost $252 million, which included a $33 million indirect contribution from the city in the form of tax breaks and fee waivers. That cost rising by an unclear amount, combined with a $50 million increase in MLS’ expansion fee, apparently was enough to drive off Burkle, a man with a net worth of $1.4 billion.

Maybe Burkle, who previously dropped out of a bid to buy the Kings, should stay away from attempting to do sports in Sacramento for a while.

Sorry to all the other Jesse Spectors for ruining your Google results.