Pittsburgh Penguins | Kyle Dubas’ poker game

(Pittsburgh) Last summer, when Kyle Dubas accepted the position of general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, everyone, including him, knew what a difficult task awaited him.

The former boss of the Toronto Maple Leafs certainly inherited a club led by some of the best players in the league. But also an aging club, with an unmanageable payroll inherited from the previous administration.

A few months later, Dubas is not in a more enviable situation. His team is in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the second season in a row… but they are not yet clearly out of the picture either. Additionally, with just over two weeks until the trade deadline, their most attractive player, Jake Guentzel, is injured. If the Penguins move up the standings, a healthy Guentzel could help finish the schedule strong.

But with such a glaring need for rejuvenation, will the GM keep his best bargaining chip for himself, at the risk of losing him during the summer on the free agent market?

Dubas, therefore, waits. He challenges his players, between now and the March 8 deadline, to guide him in his decisions. They therefore have two weeks and eight matches left, starting with Thursday against the Canadian, to prove themselves. Will we finally bank victories, which could encourage the manager to seek a little help? Or will we have more disappointments, which could trigger a garage sale?

It is this complex situation that Dubas wanted to discuss on Wednesday by summoning the media to a press briefing. He knows full well that discontent is growing among the supporters, who do not really understand the direction that the organization seems to want to take. For weeks, on social networks, Internet users have been calling for the head of head coach Mike Sullivan.

Relaxed, in a sports tracksuit, the one who is still one of the youngest GMs in the NHL took the lead in recognizing that his team was not “where he hoped to see it”, and that in this, he felt a responsibility to answer the questions.

“Fire away!” “, he said in English to the many reporters in front of him. Or as Daniel Vézina said on the show The Chiefs ! : ” Go for it ! »


The first case discussed was that of Jake Guentzel. And that’s normal, because in Pittsburgh, we’ve been talking about him since the start of the season.

The Omaha native is currently in the final season of a contract that earns him $6 million annually. Great accomplice of Sidney Crosby, this two-time 40-goal scorer will likely demand a serious raise next summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.


Jake Guentzel

Dubas paid tribute to a “valuable teammate,” to a person “loved in the community” and to a player “who helped win the Stanley Cup.”

Never mind, he is 29 years old. The manager made no detour: “We need to rejuvenate ourselves. » As proof, at least 10 members of the Penguins who will face the Canadian on Thursday are 30 years old and over. A rarity in a league that prefers players who have never chatted on MSN.

Dubas is giving himself two more weeks to decide on his “strategy” and to “continue discussions”.

This strategy will also involve the club’s position in the ranking. The phone is ringing, Dubas said. Several of his men would be required. He describes his current daily life as a “giant poker match”, in which he tries to “read the other teams”. In Toronto, he’s gotten used to being a (nearly hyperactive) shopper this time of year.

Here he is now in the salesman’s chair… but not exclusively. “The situation is still fluid,” he insisted.

No reconstruction

Because he also knows that his big stars are not getting any younger. Evgeni Malkin is 37 years old. Crosby and Kristopher Letang, 36. Erik Karlsson has 33. While they are still delivering high-level performances, they won’t be around forever.

If his team showed him that it is “capable of making a push” towards the playoffs, the GM could move into the camp of cautious buyers. Having no first, third or fifth round picks in the 2024 draft, and dealing with a surplus of veterans, he does not have the “capital” necessary to trade picks, and probably not prospects high-ranking either. On the other hand, he could easily see himself acquiring a young established player. In other words, everything is still on the table for now.

Actually, no, not everything. A complete reconstruction is not envisaged. Such an undertaking would likely force him to let his best players leave, which he refuses to do. They are the ones, he insists, who will prepare the next generation in Pittsburgh. However, by keeping them, they are “too good” for the club to find itself in the bottom of the ranking and hope to draft very early.

You will therefore have to use your imagination to find help for them. We also understand that firing Mike Sullivan is not an avenue considered, at least not immediately.

“The coaching staff is the easy target,” Dubas said. I have great respect for Sully. We meet every day, so I know how invested he is in his work. He takes the team to heart, through its ups and downs. I know his ability to develop good people and good players. »

I believe he is a coach who can help the team win.

Kyle Dubas

The administrator didn’t say it this way, but Sullivan will also find himself, in a sense, in a hearing over the next two weeks. The need to win, it is quite clear, is immediate.

His case will be re-evaluated, “like everyone else”, at the end of the season. In a team looking for renewal, a coach in post for eight years would very well risk finding himself in danger after two seasons without a series.

But we’re not there yet. Kyle Dubas’ poker game is not over. And if there’s a GM who always has surprises in his game, it’s him.

source site-62