Michel Therrien, fired Sunday night (fan reaction here) as coach of the struggling Penguins, never struck me as the coach who would be there when Crosby & Co. reach the promised land. Last spring he almost proved me wrong. Last night, the pendulum of fickle coaching fate swung the other way.
Pittsburgh Penguins (27-25-5, 10th/E) at New York Islanders (16-33-6, 30th)
2 p.m. EST | Nassau Veterans Mem. Coliseum | MSG+
You might think the Penguins will come out roaring today in response to the shock to their system, and you might be right -- they certainly have the firepower to attain quick highs before crashing down to earth. Sometimes that happens after a coaching change. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it's close, but no cigar. The Senators, Hurricanes and Lightning coaching debuts from this season indicate one thing: a bad team is still a bad team, no matter who's behind the bench.
Are the Penguins a bad team, or are they just untapped potential -- like the Blackhawks were when they fired franchise legend Denis Savard four games into this season?
To me they've been flawed, too flawed, all season long to be able to turn this season around now. They began five steps behind by having blueline cog Sergei Gonchar out until this past weekend, and now their hole looks too daunting to overcome. Whether it's Cup letdown hangover, the inability to overcome injuries, or all that missing depth from last year, they look to be headed toward the land of post-Cup finalist failures.
But the Penguins are untapped potential, too. It's such a fine line. If they miss the playoffs (they're currently five points and two teams out of eighth), in this summer's draft they'll add one more young stud to their young core and -- with the hiring of the right coach -- could easily be poised for the great things many expected of them after so many good lottery picks fell into their hands.
So the Penguins are not the sad-sack Lightning or Senators, Gary Bettman's 1992 expansion vintage. They're still the explosive squad that torched the Isles 9-2 in December. So will they respond to this shock -- yet another statement underlining that their seasons is slipping away? They've certainly got the firepower to do so.
But if they don't -- if they fall flat in a day game against a wounded 30th-place club -- I think we'll know where they're headed this spring, and it doesn't involve ice.
Roster Notes (pending updates)
- Don't know if Mark Streit will play today, but he didn't sound likey after practice. [Update 1:40p: From the pre-game sheet, looks like Streit is in, Callahan is out.]
Without him and Weight, the Islanders lack their top two scorers and power play QB's. To me, that's the story right there.
- Mitch Fritz, called up to provide muscle and avoid the Philly Flu, is off the roster again. We'll see if Trent Hunter is back, or if Jon Sim and/or Jeff Tambellini gets another shot.
MySpace BFFlopediaFacebook the young fellas are talking about? One hour after today's game, Blake Comeau will log on for 30 minutes of fan questions. Have to friend the Islanders first, before the game, to take part in this PR-meets-social networking bonanza.