ShareThis Page
Penguins

Shero hopes gamble pays dividends

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Ray Shero's plan for the Penguins to contend for a championship always has centered around, well, his centers.

His acquisition Tuesday of star right wing Marian Hossa strengthened that plan -- if only temporarily.

Hossa was acquired from Atlanta along with forward Pascal Dupuis for forwards Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, prospect Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round pick only minutes before the NHL trade deadline.

It was a bold move by the second-year general manager of a still-young club challenging for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

It was especially bold because Shero said he has not discussed a possible contract extension with Hossa, who along with Dupuis, can become unrestricted free agents July 1.

"I'm not sure," Shero said. "We want to get to know each other. We're going to see what happens. I want his focus to be on this hockey team and fitting in, winning hockey games. That's what I'm looking for."

Hossa is earning $7 million this season, and he will command at least that on a future contract.

His arrival clearly indicates Shero believes the Penguins' oft-presumed bright future is now.

"For the two years I have been here, I have been real up-front about our game plan," Shero said. "When something like this happens -- Marian Hossa becomes available -- you have to give it a shot.

"I believe our future is still taken care of. It's a balancing act, but we're a better hockey team today than we were before this trade."

Hossa (26 goals, 56 points in 60 games) actually has underperformed this season by his lofty career standards. A combination of speed and power and a two-way presence, he is expected to play alongside center Sidney Crosby, who could return from a high right ankle sprain next week.

Crosby paced the NHL in scoring last season without a winger of Hossa's talent -- unless, of course, coach Michel Therrien paired him with Evgeni Malkin.

Therrien will no longer need to rely on that duo to carry the offense.

Malkin has shined as a center on a line with left wing Ryan Malone and right wing Petr Sykora since Crosby was injured Jan. 18. He has moved into contention for the scoring title by scoring 12 goals and recording 30 points in 18 games without Crosby prior to last night.

Malkin had combined with Sykora and Malone to total 70 points over that span. That line combination should remain together with the arrival of Hossa to play with Crosby and perhaps Max Talbot.

Even better news for the Penguins is the lack of need to make a winger of natural center Jordan Staal -- Shero's first draft pick as Penguins' general manager, second overall in 2006.

The Penguins prize Staal as a shutdown center, at least at this point in his development, and he can now fill that role in the playoffs -- perhaps on a line with tested veteran left wing Gary Roberts and Dupuis.

Throw in a possible checking line that will include left wing Jarkko Ruutu and right wing Georges Laraque, and ...

"It's on us now to win. I don't think there is much waiting around," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "It's about this year. You see how wide open the East is. We have the team to do it."

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.

click me