ShareThis Page

Prospects conforming to 'the Penguins way'

| Sunday, July 17, 2011

Europeans, Americans and Canadians in Penguins uniforms worked feverishly at Penguins rookie camp last week at Consol Energy Center while general manager Ray Shero, wearing a Team USA shirt, proudly looked on.

Shero couldn't care less which nations his players hail from, so long as they play hockey the American way.

Or, make that the Penguins way.

Really, they are one and the same. Shero and coach Dan Bylsma passionately speak of what it means to "be a Penguin," and while it means something different to everyone, the roots of American hockey shine through.

"We will bypass certain players who might be rated higher in the draft just because we want to draft players and people who we think are Penguins," Shero said. "It's that important to us."

Herb Brooks' 1980 U.S. Olympic team will always be the modern day launching point for American hockey, and there are similarities with these Penguins. Brooks' team didn't have many superstars, and after Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were lost for the season with injuries, it was the Penguins who were forced to win games without star power.

And they did it, recording a remarkable 106 points without their stars.

Tom Fitzgerald, the assistant to Shero, is convinced that the Penguins' penchant for acquiring a certain type of player is precisely how they managed such a magical regular season.

"Look at what we did without Sidney and Geno," Fitzgerald said. "We competed every night and we played the right way. You can do that when you have the right kind of players. That's what being a Penguin is."

Shero added that the game has changed significantly in three decades, but that certain philosophies remain relevant to winning games. Give Shero and Bylsma a team with speed and competitors, and they believe they can win.

Certain physical attributes jump out at Shero and his staff. A fast player with a knack for delivering hits might impress the Penguins more than a skilled player with size.

Think Chris Kunitz.

"Oh yeah," Shero said with a smile. "Chris Kunitz is a Penguin."

The Penguins are littered with speedy, feisty players on the NHL level and throughout their system.

Being a Penguin, though, is far more than an array of physical gifts.

Competitive people, some of whom weren't even drafted, comprise Bylsma's lineup. Such players also made their presence felt at rookie camp. Kunitz and Mark Letestu are a couple of Penguins who weren't drafted, and yet they contribute.

"Look at Zack Sill," Shero said of the forward prospect. "Wasn't drafted, but just a total Penguin."

Bylsma seemed pleased with the players on hand at rookie camp, and noted that such a blueprint has been successful for the organization.

"Lots of Penguins out there," Bylsma said. "Lots of Pittsburgh Penguins."

He wasn't stating the obvious, of course.

The coach and general manager, both Americans, welcome players from all backgrounds. But that same work ethic, speed and tenacity that Brooks identified as the proper way to play hockey is quite evident.

"We like our team a certain way," Shero said. "I want fast and aggressive. That's what Dan wants. We believe it is a formula that can always work."

Additional Information:

National pride

Name • Position

Ray Shero • General manager

Tom Fitzgerald • Assistant to the general manager

Dan Bylsma • Head coach

Todd Reirden • Assistant coach

Tony Granato • Assistant coach

John Hynes • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach

Bill Guerin • Player development coach

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.