Everything had been a breeze for Ron Hextall and Brian Burke.
Orchestrating one final meaningful postseason run in the Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin era was seen as a massive endeavor, or some sort of responsibility, of the hockey world and instead was a chance to sit back, enjoy the catering, and be entertained by the Indictment of a successful organization for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins started – to the moon – the moment two-time Stanley Cup architect Jim Rutherford was fired and replaced by two hockey men with equally large hockey footprints. Hextall and Burke do not need to make any major changes. The framework for a division winner was already in the locker room, despite the terrible start.
This was proven when, on the last day of their regular season, the Penguins claimed the East Division title, arguably the toughest the NHL had in their pandemic season realignment.
Pittsburgh went 32-11-2 in 45 games with Hextall and Burke at the helm and again barely lifted a finger without them. It was the second-best record in the NHL since they were set. Aside from some administrative chores during the day, which might involve calling a player or two from the cab squad or keeping their caps at night, the light work meant that Hextall and Burke could mostly sit comfortably in their leather-bound stools to help Crosby guide watch The penguins win one after the other, building something like a Hart Trophy candidacy.
With little to do, Hextall and Burke seemed to have time to think outside the box.
Understanding the limits and weaknesses of the potential system, the penguins tried to take a problem out of the hands of another team in order to improve their own. This MO resulted in the management team’s lone blow and one of the smartest and ultimately most effective steps to close trading. The penguins grabbed the veterans center and Stanley Cup champion Jeff Carter – for the stretch run and also for a subsequent season, at half price each – in exchange for just two mid-round draft picks.
The story goes on
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – MAY 26: Sidney Crosby # 87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins prepares to shake hands with the New York Islanders after the sixth game of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on May 26, 2021 in Uniondale give. New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)
With improved depth and insurance in the center with a luxury on hole # 3 through 2022, the penguins looked like a Stanley Cup contender.
Not unlike most things, it turned out to be too good to be true for Hextall and Burke.
Pittsburgh was ricocheted from the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs in six games on Wednesday night.
It was a tight streak, and close to 50-50 in terms of gameplay, characteristic of the division itself. But the Penguins ‘netminder, Tristan Jarry, couldn’t keep up with the islanders’ goalkeepers (or goalkeepers), and the For that reason alone, Serie swung hard towards number 4 in the East Division.
It’s a difficult result for the penguins. It feels like a waste, like a missed opportunity, like an outcome that was slightly out of their control due to Jarry’s fighting and the fact that his backup, Casey DeSmith, wasn’t available.
But what is done is done. And now that task of getting another championship load out of a core approaching the latter half of their 30s seems all the more difficult.
While Crosby remains under contract for another four seasons, the players who took part for the drive – or drives – reach the end of the series, at least contractually.
Malkin, who turns 35 this summer, has one final season on his current contract, while Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Carter are also on the verge of an unrestricted free hand. Kasperi Kapanen and Jared McCann will also need new contracts in 2022, although they will remain under team control.
A major, irreversible change comes to a Penguins franchise with three Stanley Cups in its current form, giving Hextall and Burke a summer and momentum to put together a roster around a core that is quickly reaching its expiration date.
Problematic is that Pittsburgh has allocated over $ 45 million for strikers and $ 25 million for defenders for the next season, but the ability to make changes should be there.
While the draft expansion is intended for any team, it could come in handy if the penguins’ negotiating skills are retained, and there is also the option to buyout.
But the priority must be the goalkeeping game, which Hextall, himself a legendary former goalkeeper, will know very well.
You have to trust that he can improve the situation online because he has done it before. But it seems quite possible that the last, best version of the penguins was spoiled by failures in this position.
It may be something they couldn’t quite plan. But there is some management, and Crosby, Malkin and Letang are not coming back.
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