To go along with our '30 in 30' off-season feature, we'll be asking a blogger from each team some of the burning questions surrounding their club this summer.
RLD: 1. Considering they were defending champs, was the Pens' season a success, disappointment, or neither? Brian Metzer: Generally speaking, any year in which the team makes the playoffs and advances beyond round one can be considered a success. However, I do believe that the bar was set a bit higher based on last season’s successes. Though the team had its moments throughout, they never really hit their stride and just weren’t defensively capable of doing what they did one year ago. They did start to convince us that they had another run in them during the playoffs, especially after the Capitals, Devils and Sabres were eliminated, but I think most in Pittsburgh would admit that heading down the stretch they didn’t believe that this would be the Penguins year. So, keeping that in mind, the season was a success.
RLD: 2. Even though the water is under the bridge; if you were Ray Shero, would you even give it a thought to trade Malkin? BM: I think that Ray Shero has proven over his tenure in Pittsburgh that he isn’t afraid to kick the tires on any potential trade; however Ray didn’t consider moving Malkin at this point and I wouldn’t have either. I am sure that the day will come when Shero is going to have to consider some very tough decisions, such as moving one of the franchise cornerstones, but it will not happen until contracts force his hand. He built this team down the middle and he is going to ride it as long as possible.
RLD: 3. Which UFA winger would be a better fit next to Crosby/Malkin: Frolov or Kariya? BM: If I would have been asked this question last summer, I would have leaped at Paul Kariya, but I just think that he is getting a bit long in the tooth. At this point, Frolov would probably be the better fit. He fought through some adversity in Los Angeles last season and showed that he can be a very effective player when he wants to be. He could be the Russian Sundance Kid to Malkin’s Butch Cassidy. On the odd chance the Penguins could grab both players; Kariya would probably be a nice fit next to 87.
RLD: 4. True or false: Sergei Gonchar will be a Penguin in 2010/11? BM: Call it a gut feeling, but I really think that Gonchar will be back in Black and Vegas Gold next year. Gonchar has probably been as important to this team as Crosby or Malkin, especially in the locker room. He is a steadying force that seems to be able to calm this group and is a very important part of the success that this team has had over the past few years. Gonchar has also proven to be a bit of a slow starter in a new locale. I really think that once the dust settles, the two sides will find some even ground and something like a 2-3 year deal in the 3.5 mil per range. Shero has just been so adamant about bring him back and he seems to want to be here… I talked to the man myself during the close out day and he seemed like a guy that wants to play hockey in Pittsburgh.
RLD: 5. Just how valuable is Matt Cooke to the Pens, and should they re-sign him? BM: Matt Cooke is a very important part of this team. Though he is occasionally a loose cannon, he was one of the team’s best forwards. He kills penalties, showed a deft scoring touch and is a vital component of the team’s very effective third line. Cooke, not unlike Gonchar, wants to be in Pittsburgh, and I think that his desire to be here coupled with that of the team’s wanting him to stay will help hammer out a 3 year deal in the 2.5 to 3 million per range. The cap isn’t going to cooperate in this situation, but he is too vital a part to let him walk. I do think that it will be much tougher to keep him if they do not have him signed prior to July 1st, as he will be one of the most coveted free agents in the league.
We thank Brian for taking time out to answer these burning questions in Pittsburgh! You can catch his work over at From the Point, and I recommend following him on Twitter as well.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.