Penguins players not ready to sever ties that bind them
Sunday, February 18, 2007
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With a run of 28 points in their past 15 games and a roster of young players that includes NHL leading-scorer Sidney Crosby, prolific rookies Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal and improving goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins are grabbing a lot of attention around the hockey world.
They might also be sending a message to parties closer to home.
By winning and staging a strong march toward the playoffs, the Penguins hope they are making it more difficult for general manager Ray Shero to make changes through deals before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
That could be a nice fringe benefit for the players, who are having a blast and growing closer as the wins and points pile up.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it, I guess," defenseman Rob Scuderi said yesterday. "It's kind of a delicate process because you don't want to add or take away someone who has added to our chemistry throughout this year.
"It's up to management. They've made some good decisions so far this year and, obviously, that's paid off. I have no doubt that they'll make some good decisions, whether that be keeping everybody together or maybe trying to get a guy or two."
The Penguins have four games between now and the trade deadline, beginning today against Washington at Mellon Arena.
Shero has said he would look at trades that would improve the team in the long run and give the club a chance to become a solid Stanley Cup contender, not just moves that would help to ensure they get into the playoffs this season.
The Penguins seem to be taking care of the part about making the playoffs without any changes.
Although they are not a lock for the postseason, they are in a pretty good place -- fourth in the Eastern Conference and flirting with an Atlantic Division title.
And despite season-long concerns about adding a scoring winger or perhaps a defenseman with a right-handed shot, the Penguins have proven to be a multi-dimensional team, getting help from a full four lines and several defensemen.
"I think it eases the minds a lot more when everyone's able to contribute like they are," Crosby said. "When you're winning, it changes a lot, and everyone's happy. There's probably less thinking about trades and things like that when the team's doing well, so we hope we keep playing well."
The winning and the spreading of the wealth has not just convinced the players that they have a team that can win. They also just plain like each other.
"We're not GMs and [trades] are obviously not our jobs, but the players here are all in this together," winger Mark Recchi said. "We love playing together. We've all got each others' back. We're hoping nothing happens. We're hoping we just keep going as a team together.
"We definitely have the depth, and everybody's very comfortable with what we have here."
Although deals are Shero's realm, coach Michel Therrien is expected to have some, if not considerable, influence in trade decisions.
He's as mindful of the effects a trade might have on the players' psyches as they are.
"We like our players. We like the way things are going," Therrien said. "There's a reason why. There's a chemistry. So this is where you've got to be really careful.
"We've got meetings. We evaluate things with Ray and the coaching staff together. There's good communication there. We're going to make sure we make the best decision regarding the hockey team and not breaking up the chemistry that we've got on our team. It might [mean] not doing anything. We'll see what's going to happen."
Winger Ryan Malone is in just his third full season in the NHL, but he's a relative old-timer on the young squad as someone who predates the 2004-05 lockout season.
He has seen the team built and, like his teammates, appreciates the merits of a group that gets along and works well together. He also knows what it's like to see a lot of players come and go.
"You never know," said Malone, who has been the subject of trade rumors. "It's still a couple weeks away. Every general manager's looking to improve, looking at what's out there and seeing if it will fit.
"We have a great group of guys. No one wants to leave. But, if they can make the team better, that's the most important thing."