Therrien sending mixed messages
Apparently, it's OK to play poorly if you're old, but not if you're young.
That's the message coach Michel Therrien is sending so far this season, as the last-place Penguins careen toward the quarter pole on a four-game losing streak.
So, Colby Armstrong, 24, sits. Tyler Kennedy, 21, sat before he was demoted. Marc-Andre Fleury, 22, sits.
Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi, a combined 80, never sit.
Odd, isn't it• You'd think the older guys could handle a healthy scratch, given their high character and low output, while you wonder if constantly pulling the younger guys might damage their confidence.
Actually, you don't have to wonder in the case of Armstrong and Fleury.
It's obviously easier for Therrien to punish the Armstrongs and Erik Christensens of the world, rather than risk the ire of a decorated veteran. But isn't he supposed to be a thick-skinned tough guy?
Isn't he the coach who stripped John LeClair of the assistant captaincy?
At the moment, it looks as if the Penguins are in danger of having two John LeClairs, though it's encouraging that defenseman Kris Letang was recalled from the minors Tuesday (and it'll be interesting to see how long his leash is).
What's more, Therrien's incessant lineup tinkering has blurred the roles on this team, sacrificed the chance for continuity and eroded the confidence of certain players.
The common response to that is, "Yeah, but he tinkered all the time last season, and the Penguins improved by 47 points."
Actually, Therrien kept his lineup mostly intact during the season-turning 14-0-2 streak. But it's not realistic to expect another historic run like that, which means the coach might need to stick with sensible combinations through, say, a 4-3-2 stretch.
Or at least for half a period.
The line combos almost made sense in the loss to the Devils on Monday. For one thing, Therrien finally reunited Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin. That game looked like a step in the right direction.
Still, it seems unfair that Armstrong continues to get scratched while Recchi and Roberts skate free of Therrien's clutches.
Armstrong delivered seven hits and drew a penalty against the Rangers on Thursday. He then played poorly, like most of his teammates, against the Flyers and was scratched Monday for the fourth time in six games.
Roberts has committed 10 minutes worth of mostly bad penalties in the past three games, leading to a pair of first-period goals for the opposition, and has one goal in 17 games.
He never sits.
Recchi has four goals in his past 46 professional hockey games (though he played pretty well on the second line Monday).
He never sits.
Hence, the question posed to Therrien after Monday's loss:
"What have Recchi and Roberts given you that Armstrong wouldn't or couldn't?"
Therrien: "(Pause) They're facing tough times, but they are an important part of our team. They're leaders, and we gotta stick with them."
Reporter: "Is it more difficult, because they're leaders and veterans, to scratch either one?"
Therrien: "It's not in my mind (to scratch either)."
It should be.
Armstrong, a key part of this team's future, should be afforded the opportunity to play through adversity. He doesn't deserve to be the scapegoat.
There is precious little tangible evidence that general manager Ray Shero made the right move when he signed Roberts and Recchi to one-year deals worth up to $4.5 million, combined.
Then again, those guys were signed as much for their "intangible" qualities, I suppose, and for the push they can provide in the playoffs.
Problem is, you have to get there.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Bennett to miss about 2 weeks
- Ehrhoff finding his way with Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- New assistant Agnew has Pens’ PK, defense among league’s best
- Penguins notebook: Johnston calls Quinn ‘phenomenal’ coach, person
- Penguins’ Dupuis diagnosed with blood clot in lung
- Fleury collects career win No. 300 in crucial game against Bruins
- Penguins notebook: Penguins getting fewer power-play opportunities
- Finding balance between toughness, excessiveness key for Penguins’ Downie
- Mears savors success, credits legendary Lange for guidance, inspiration
- Starkey: Pens move on with, without Dupuis