Olli Maatta puzzle frames difficult summer decisions Penguins must make | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Olli Maatta puzzle frames difficult summer decisions Penguins must make

Jonathan Bombulie
1142835_web1_722668-a9a008e681054337a43a82b876bac98f
AP
Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) go for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla.

There are plenty of questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins as they consider how to retool their roster after a disappointing 2018-19 season.

Here’s a big one: Did the Penguins struggle in transition because their defense corps lacked the speed and skill to get the puck to the forwards effectively or did they struggle because their forwards didn’t provide the support that the defensemen needed to succeed?

A quick survey of social media and the blogosphere shows that many Penguins fans are fully convinced the defensemen are the problem, which is a perfectly reasonable position to hold. Two of the newest additions to the team’s blue line, Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson, don’t exactly fit the puck-moving mold the Penguins used to rekindle their championship era in 2016.

Those dead set on fixing blame on the defense should probably take a look at the curious case of Olli Maatta first, though.

Maatta, by all accounts, had a mediocre season, but his numbers vary wildly based on which center he shared the ice with.

When he played with beleaguered Derick Brassard at five on five, the Penguins were outscored, 8-3.

When he was on the ice with Evgeni Malkin, goal-scoring was pretty much a 50-50 proposition. The Penguins were outscored, 11-10.

When he was on the ice with Sidney Crosby, however, the Penguins blitzed their opponents to the tune of 20-3.

The same defenseman. Three completely different sets of results.

Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to puck luck. The team’s shooting percentage (15.3) and save percentage (.964) were very high when Maatta and Crosby were on the ice together.

But not all of it.

The reality is that playing with a great center who is on top of his game can make an average defenseman look great in a small sample. On the flip side, playing with an unskilled defenseman who is not in good form can ground even the highest-flying forward.

It’s that interlocking maze of credit and blame that must be untangled as best as possible before the Penguins decide how to proceed. It’s why finding a fix to their problems is more complicated than just dumping a couple of unpopular defensemen.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all offseason long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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.