Penguins' Scuderi offers honest assessment of his 2013-14 performance
Excuses aren't Rob Scuderi's style.
Neither are lies.
Which is why the Penguins defenseman's assessment of his performance last season, while brutally honest, wasn't necessarily unexpected.
“I feel like I need to have a bounce-back year,” Scuderi said. “I struggled after my (ankle) injury, after coming back. So I'm a little bit more focused this year about the things that I have to do.”
Scuderi, 35, broke his ankle Oct. 26 at Toronto, missed 29 games and didn't return until more than two months later.
“It's not so much physical. The trainers and the medical staff do a good job of getting you prepared to play again,” Scuderi said. “I think it's more the mental side of it, especially for me. I've never missed that amount of time, and I didn't come back well.
“I don't mince words, and I don't lie to myself. And I didn't play as consistently well as I expect myself to.”
That lack of consistency during the Penguins' second-round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs came as a bit of a shock considering how valuable Scuderi was during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Cup final runs, with the Penguins winning it all that second season.
Defense first. Nothing flashy. An occasional pluck of the puck from the goal line. Scuderi was as steady and reliable as it got — even if that meant his game had little flash.
The Los Angeles Kings noticed and signed Scuderi to a four-year, $13.6 million deal after the 2008-09 season.
Letting Scuderi go haunted former general manager Ray Shero, who brought the player once known as “The Piece” back for another four-year deal before the 2013-14 season, this one worth $13.5 million.
That's where the feel-good narrative fell apart. Scuderi never appeared to be the same player. Especially after the ankle injury, Scuderi said, his “reads and footwork” were off, that he “didn't feel like himself.”
“One problem turns into two, and it just snowballs on you,” Scuderi said. “You try and be a positive influence on your team. I tried to do what I could in whatever role the coaches decided to put me in.”
Scuderi's struggles limited his ice time. After averaging 18 minutes, 45 seconds during 53 regular-season games, Scuderi's average dropped to 17:45 in the Penguins' 13 playoff games. In his previous five postseasons — one with Pittsburgh, four with L.A. — Scuderi never averaged less than 20:30.
He finished as a minus-4 after compiling a plus-9 rating each of the previous two playoffs with the Kings.
“Looking at it in hindsight, it was frustrating because I think I went maybe four seasons without missing a game,” Scuderi said.
“Then to not only miss some time but to miss two full months is the longest time I've ever missed in my career.”
Throughout an NHL career that dates to the 2003-04 season, Scuderi has shown remarkable durability.
Before injuring his ankle, Scuderi played in 276 consecutive games, not sitting out since the 2009-10 season.
When asked whether his role would change with the departure of defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, Scuderi said he's being “selfish” — his way of saying it's more important for him to worry about his own game than anything else.
Time heals all wounds, and Scuderi can't wait to bury the memory of last season.
“Having some time off in the summer and getting myself physically back to where I want to be,” Scuderi said, “I'm looking to have a big start in training camp and get my game back to where I want it to be.”