New leaders step forward for Penguins because of injuries
By Rob Rossi, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Leadership is a term with many definitions, and in the NHL it is often presumed that players wearing letters "C" or "A" on their chest are a club's leaders.
That is not always the case, though certainly Penguins centers Sidney Crosby ("C") and Evgeni Malkin ("A") and defenseman Brooks Orpik ("A") each have shown their own ways of leading. Crosby has been a leader by example on and off the ice. Malkin has led by taking over games at crucial moments. Orpik has provided an honest voice, often the one of reason.
The Penguins are without Crosby (concussion), Malkin (right knee) and Orpik (right finger) - Crosby indefinitely, Malkin for the season and Orpik for at least a month.
These Penguins are not without leaders, however.
By surveying the dressing room and speaking with coaches and management, Tribune-Review beat reporter Rob Rossi has identified the leaders who have kept the Penguins together as injuries and adversity have conspired against them in 2011.
• On-ice role: Role-playing forward
• Leadership style: By example, notably with his daily commitment to professional responsibilities such as staying in shape.
• Reasons players look to him: He willingly does the dirty work - playing a checking-line role, killing penalties, fighting when called upon. He is among the sport's hardest workers and most intellectual voices. Also, he excels at advising younger players without coming off as preachy. His experience as a two-time winner of the Stanley Cup carries clout with rookies and veterans. Teammates love that he is a committed father.
• On-ice role: Versatile winger
• Leadership style: Vocal, notably by owning up to his controversial actions and always staying on-point with messages from the coaching staff.
• Reasons players look to him: He plays, sometimes controversially, but always for the Penguins. His appreciation for the franchise's bedrock foundations of hard work and family are unmistakable. He is honest and funny, and he treats every teammate as an equal. He expertly picks and chooses when to deliver a message. He won respect last season for how he handled the Marc Savard incident's aftermath.
• On-ice role: Scoring-line winger
• Leadership style: Vocal, notably on the bench during games and in the dressing room.
• Reasons players look to him: After being challenged by coach Dan Bylsma to improve his conditioning, he returned for last season in the best shape of his career. He is a deeply committed family man who keeps the job of playing hockey in perspective. He always looks for the positive in any situation, but he is willing to flip the switch to a more serious tone when times call for one.
• On-ice role: Enforcer
• Leadership style: By example, notably by forcing opponents to need stitches after on-ice fights and keeping teammates in stitches with off-ice antics.
• Reasons players look to him: He proudly embraces hockey's hardest job as a designated fighter. He is the same loose, funny guy even if he's not dressing for a stretch of games. No teammate is safe from his jabs, but he is just as quick to poke fun at himself. His off-ice charitable work with kids has enhanced his reputation as one of the sport's true gentle giants.
• On-ice role: Shutdown defenseman
• Leadership style: By example, notably maintaining a level of composure on the ice during critical moments such as late-game and penalty-killing situations.
• Reasons players look to him: They watched him act like a pro while he dealt with early-season struggles to learn a new system and adjust to a different city as his young family temporarily remained in Phoenix. His willingness to block shots provides an instant level of respect. He exudes appreciation for the stability provided by the Penguins after spending years with a tumultuous situation with Phoenix.
• On-ice role: Foundation-piece center
• Leadership style: Vocal, notably with his increased willingness to demand more from everybody, starting with himself.
• Reasons players look to him: His seemingly superhuman fast return from foot surgery in the last postseason shocked and awed teammates. He genuinely cares little about how he is perceived outside the organization, and thus is the rare high-profile player unafraid to show his true colors. He plays his best at critical moments, especially in the playoffs. His commitment to two-way play helps win games, which gives him credibility with teammates and coaches.
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