Penguins not going for trades
Monday, January 05, 2009
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penguins fans, Ray Shero hears you.
The general manager understands that with the team mired in a slump, there are calls for change.
Center Sidney Crosby needs a winger more capable of capitalizing on his playmaking. The offense needs an overall boost. The locker room could use more of a veteran presence. A glut of defensemen could be thinned to improve the team.
Yeah, and Santa would like a few palm trees and some sand at the North Pole for his post-Christmas recuperation.
"I would not want to make a trade right now that I wouldn't have made the first 20 games. To do something because we're losing some games isn't what I'm looking at," Shero said yesterday from Ottawa, where he has been watching a wave of potential future NHL stars at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships.
He wouldn't rule out a deal "if there's a chance to make the team better," but pointed out that the mid-November trade in which the Penguins swapped defensemen with Dallas, getting Philippe Boucher for Darryl Sydor, was "a lateral move" in a season of few consequential NHL trades so far.
"There's not a lot of movement right now," Shero said, "so you stick with it a little bit and not do something you wouldn't do when things are going well."
Things are decidedly not going well. The Penguins have lost four games in a row, five consecutive games at home, most recently a 6-1 rout Saturday by Florida at Mellon Arena. Scoring and power-play prowess have evaporated. Goaltending has been spotty.
At the time of the Boucher trade -- made in large part at the request of Sydor, who was unhappy with his playing time -- the Penguins were 11-4-2. Going into tonight's game against the Rangers in New York, they are 19-16-4, which through yesterday had them fourth in the Atlantic Division, ninth and below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference and 16th -- or in the bottom half -- in the NHL with 42 points.
The halfway point of the season arrives after a home game tomorrow against Atlanta.
Players know that losing puts pressure on management, but the Penguins are trying not to listen to outcry for trades.
"That's nothing that anybody in this [locker] room can do anything about it, but play," winger Matt Cooke said. "If you're worried about [trades], no wonder we're losing."
Center and captain Sidney Crosby wants to prove that the current roster -- still heavy with players who went to the Stanley Cup final last spring despite several offseason changes -- can turn things around, but he realizes Shero is watching closely.
"We're not making it easy, that's for sure," Crosby said. "We're not making it easy on ourselves. We've got to help each other. That's the bottom line. When things are tough, no one's going to get you out of it but the guys in this [locker] room. That's the way things work.
"We've got to dig ourselves out of it."
Shero, in his third season, believes they can and will.
"It's easy to get frustrated when you work hard and it doesn't happen," he said. "We've just got to stay with it.
"My first couple years, we've gone through these stretches. I believe this current group is going to help us get back on track."
Shero sees the same problems everyone else does, including goaltending and the power play -- "We could have five or seven more points for sure if our power play was going better," he said -- and he shares the opinion of many that there is a chemistry short-circuit, although he doesn't see that as irreparable.
"I don't think the chemistry's been there the past 20 games," he said. "I think that has to do with a lot of guys out of the lineup [due to injury] and guys up from Wilkes-Barre [of the American Hockey League].
"Chemistry's a funny thing. When you're losing games, the calls for chemistry are there. It's the same thing as last year."
Shero has backed the idea of letting the team's young core of players grow together in good times and bad, expressing confidence that the lineup as it stands has the character and talent to win.
Besides, he said, if the general manager of a struggling team goes looking for a trade, he is likely to encounter colleagues who think they smell desperation and won't be offering top return value, making it all the more difficult to swing something.
That's apparently fine with the players.
"I don't think anybody wants to change anything [in terms of personnel]," center Jordan Staal said. "We want to get back on a winning streak and let Ray worry about that other stuff."http://www.postgazette.com/pg/09005/939683-61.stm