The following is a correspondence between Johnny Violence and devinted Thoughts From The Bench reader Mike.

Mike: Here is a hot take: #GMJR is going senile. You gave up talent for slightly less talent and youth. Plus waaaaay too many draft picks. Eventually a time is going to come where we will have to rebuild, and we will have nothing in the pipeline. Can’t keep relying on signing free agents out of college or from overseas

Johnny: Would you rather

A) Rebuild a wildcard fringe team after the Crosby Era.

B) Win another Stanley Cup or two in the next five years?

Mike: Problem is we still won’t win a cup

We have dropped from that top tier. It used to be us and maybe a few other teams that other teams knew they couldn’t beat in 7 games. Now we are in that tier below where most of the playoff bound teams. I would not bet on us to win against. I hope I’m wrong.

Johnny: Mike let me ask you this. What team right now do you think are so elite that no one could beat them in seven games? The Penguins invented the way the league is now. Eventually the league was going to catch up and create parody. This year will be one of the best Playoffs we have ever had. Anyone could win the cup this year. You look at a team like the Islanders. They have no profound star and yet they are leading the Metro. Vegas last year had no proven star and went to the cup.

Where the Penguins are still elite is that when the wonder teams have to re-sign theses guys they won’t be able to. The Penguins will still be there. They will still be there they will still contend. They may not be the best every year but they will be there.

Mike: Nashville, Calgary, Toronto, Boston, Tampa and maybe Montreal. Those teams are teams that are at that tier above on most days. But the Penguins elite players aren’t what they used to be, and they will continue to decline. Phil is very good, but not elite. He’s in the Jack Eichel/Austin Matthews mix. He’s a step below. Malkin has been awful defensively (it’s more than his +/-) and hasn’t scored an even strength goal since october Ithink.

Crosby will always be elite, but his point production is not what it needs to be with the rest of his teammates slacking. He’s doing alright with Guentzel and Rust, but our top scoring line has to play shut down many nights as well which isn’t a recipe for long term success.

Especially considering the minutes he is logging. That is tough to sustain for at least 98 games. This team needs an injection of young talent. Not 23 year old college free agents that come in, have one or two 15 goal seasons at 23/24, and then move on by 27. Get a 20 year old prospect (like sprong) who has the offensive talent, can contribute 15 goals right away, and develops into a 30 goal scorer. You don’t find many of those players off college free agency or in the 7th round. So keep these picks where you can, prepare yourself for the inevitable future. Because there will come a day that despite malkin and crosby both playing, this team may not make the playoffs.

Just because we invented this new league, does not mean other teams have not gotten better at it than us. And teams like toronto, like tampa, are locking these stars down for a long time. And they are doing it now when we expect another big jump in the cap both pre and post CBA. Its time the pens start to stockpile some inkling of young talent. Tampa was able to remain competitive and keep their young players, although they never won, they made a cup final and have been beyond the second round multiple times. That’s the model.

Johnny: If you want young players who can make an impact right now, look at every trade so far this season. I understand Pearson isn’t scoring in bunches, but essentially you traded like for like in the Haglin trade but he was younger, he has scored twenty goals a season and has potential to do so. Haggs never hit 20 in his career.

We gave up Sprong but in return got Petterson who by all accounts is so good they paired him with Letange so they could move Dumolin down the line up.

The newest trade sent two guys who were old and not producing in exchange for guys at the age of 26 and 22 respectively. Plus Bjugstad has proven he can score in bunches, and has fallen off in production since his time and position on the roster has been messed with.

I think it’s hard to look at Tampa as a comparison because Tampa is about to be in trouble too. They will lose one of their best young players this off season because they have to sign dinosaurs Girardi, and McDonagh. They have to sing those guys because they have no young Dmen in the system to support them. Brayden Point is the young talented forward your referencing but they won’t be able to pay him because they won’t be able to move guys like Callahan who have reached their expiration date but are singed forever.

Right now Toronto is being forced to essentially pick between Toews and Kane. The singed Mathews which means Marner is gonna leave.

All I’m saying is that if you look at the big five teams from the Penguins first cup run to now, all of them accept us and Boston have fallen off. Chicago is strapped with cap issues, LA is so old they can barely skate, and Vancouver literally just were giving away players in an attempt to rebuild.

All of our big stars contracts are up in three years. Right at an age where they will no longer be productive. Right now Jim Rutherford is making us younger, but not so young that we close the window to win. He is attempting to pull off what our rivals can not.

I understand the frustration and desire to win, but the fact is you can’t win every year, but I’ll be dmaned if the penguins haven’t tried every year. The Leafs can’t say that, Calgary can’t say that, Montreal can’t say that, and until recently Tampa couldn’t either. The Penguins are among the elite of the NHL and by doing that they provide you with playoff hockey every year. Eventually that bubble will burst and we will need to rebuild but over your life time and mine the penguins have missed the playoffs six times in twenty years. In that span we have seen countless hall of famers skate for the black and gold, and 5 cups raised. Name another team that has done that? There is only one The Detroit Red Wings.

4 hours later the Penguins lost in overtime to the Florida Panthers…

Johnny: Mike ignore everything I just said the sky is falling we just lost to the Florida Panthers in February.

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Written by Johnny Violence

The lead NHL/Hockey writer for Thoughts From The Bench.

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