Friday, July 2, 2010

Can't spell Shero without hero

NHL free agency (you know, the one where signings actually occur on the first day) started out scary for the Pittsburgh Penguins. One of the top offensive defensemen in the league, Sergei Gonchar signed a 3-year deal with the Ottawa Senator for $5.5 per year.

To make matters worse, the man Pens fans thought would replace Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis, didn't seem interested in playing for Pittsburgh. So not only did we lose our most productive defenseman, but we wasted a 2011 third round draft pick for nothing on getting the rights to Hamhuis.

We should have known Pens general manager Ray Shero had a plan. And it was one very few outside the organization saw.

After seeing the defense's play drop significantly with the losses of Rob "The Piece" Scuderi and Hal Gill, Shero knew the team needed some blueliners. Rather than commit a third year to Gonchar, he waves his magic wand and two of the market's top defensemen in Paul Martin (29, on right) and Zbynek Michalek (27).

Some might question giving both players 5-year deals and committing $9 million per season to these gentlemen (Martin is getting $5 million per year and Michalek is at $4 million), but both moves are going to make the Penguins a better team. It brings stability to the blue line for years to come.

Good for the New Jersey Devils for signing Anton Volchenkov, they can have him. The Pens beat him this year in the playoffs and he has never played 70+ games in a season. He also doesn't have the versatility of the new additions to the Penguins.

Gonchar will be missed, but once again Shero made the right move. Something he seems to do with regularity with very few stinkers mixed in (resigning Ruslan Fedotenko and trading for Alexei Ponikarovsky are his two goofs). It's quite amazing to have a fan base go from thinking "Crap! We're screwed." to "Crap! We're looking great!" in the matter of a few hours, but Shero did it. There is a reason Pens fans have the saying, "In Shero we trust." The man takes risks and does what is necessary, via trade or free agency, to make his team better. He is the type of GM all sports fans love and wish ran their teams.

Michalek (left) and Martin are good players at both sides of the ice. Neither will have the scoring touch of Gonchar, but they will be more responsible in their own zones. Neither are considered all that physical either, but it's hard to less physical than Gonch. That's not a knock on Gonchar, it's just not the way the man plays.

Look for Michalek to be near the top of the league in blocked shots, and expect to see Martin playing 20+ quality minutes a night and contributing to the power play and penalty kill. There is a lot of versatility and talent to be excited about with these two.

Look at what other teams are doing in free agency and try to tell me there is a team that is improving more than the Penguins. I'll call you a liar.

Blues Traveler - Hook


  1. They are improving defensively but their power play takes a hit with Martin replacing Gonchar on the point. They have done well, but you can't say their power play didn't take a hit yesterday. And Martin just might be less physical than Gonchar as well in addition to the fact that he is not that great of a puck moving defenseman. So again, defensively better, which should result in more wins, but their power play took a hit.

  2. Gonch helped our powerplay when he was in the lineup, but he's been fighting too many injuries to be re-signed to a long term deal. Our powerplay has been so bad the last couple years that I actually think it's going to get better next year. Letang will hopefully step up as powerplay QB and Mike "no qualifications to run the powerplay" Yeo is finally gone. If the Pens want to win a cup, they need to have a strong defense. Shero got it down like always.

    Go Pens.

  3. I think the powerplay is going to change, which could better utilize Malkin and Crosby. Gonch was awesome on it, but he was the key/focus. There is talk of Malkin being on point, and that could work out well.

    RJ, have fun when Volchenkov misses at least 12 games a season and Uncle Daddy is burned out when the playoffs come around.