Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney will both be on the shelf for quite a while. Fine. Nothing can be done about that now.
So what do the Penguins have left in the cupboard?
When Ray Shero re-signed Mark Eaton back on July 1, many questioned the decision to bring back a player who spent much of his previous two seasons on injured reserve. With some of the Penguins other needs in free agency at the time, why devote a decent chunk of change to an oft-injured defenseman?
Two months later, Shero's looking like a genius. Granted, he couldn't have foreseen what would happen to his two most prolific defensemen before the season started, but he saw the value of having depth. With Eaton and Brooks Orpik back in the fold, the Penguins ensured they would have nine NHL-caliber blueliners in the organization. Without Gonchar and Whitney, the Penguins still seven solid reliable players they can dress on the blue line.
Think about that. On most nights, someone like Rob Scuderi or Darryl Sydor will be a healthy scratch. And it won't be for a lack of ability. It will simply be a numbers game. Assuming Michel Therrien goes with six defensemen most games, someone full of potential like Alex Goligoski or the mammoth Hal Gill will be watching the game in a suit in the press box depending on who's healthy, playing well or if Therrien likes a certain match-up.
We're in no way suggesting that the Penguins aren't a lesser team without Gonchar's or Whitney's obvious talents. It would be delusional to suggest otherwise.
But things aren't exactly that bad. This isn't like the 2006-07 season where an injury to Mark Eaton forced Josef Melichar or Alain Nasreddine into the lineup. Things were so bad that season, Shero acquired AHL legend Joel Kwiatkowski at the trade deadline.
If they Penguins can survive lengthy injuries to Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury, (two far more valuable players) they're more than capable of treading water without Gonchar and Whitney.
If we had a gun put to our heads right now, our pairings on defense for the Penguins would be:
- Kris Letang-Hal Gill - It worked well after Gill came from Toronto and became acclimated with the Penguins' system. Letang's skating ability helped negate Gill's relative lack of mobility.
- Alex Goligoski-Mark Eaton - Stick the inexperience rookie with a steady, responsible veteran. The past two seasons the Penguins placed Gonchar with Eaton at times and that allowed Gonchar more freedom in the offensive end. You could apply the same thinking in regards to Goligoski's lack of experience.
- Brooks Orpik-Rob Scuderi/Darryl Sydor - We'd stick Orpik with Goligoski, but Orpik can be a little irresponsible at times when he thinks a big hit is possible. In this case, you can stick a safer, more reliable player like Scuderi or Sydor with Orpik. We would alternate Scuderi and Sydor based on match ups. Scuderi offers a safe, defensive presence. Sydor can do more offensively with the puck.
Granted, this conversation is a little silly considering Therrien sticks with any combination on the ice about as frequently as Ashton Kutcher makes a good movie. But this is a cheap and easy way for us to encourage you to post a comment and make our blog seem more popular than it is. So have at it. Post your defensive combinations down below.
(Photo: Pete Diana/Post-Gazette)
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-More on Gonchar's injury.
-Ruslan Fedotenko is playing on a line with Crosby and Miroslav Satan.
-Dave Molinari takes a look at the Penguins' roster.
-The Penguins will allow fans to watch Saturday's season opener at Mellon Arena.
-All 11 players the Penguins cut from their NHL roster, including Kris Beech and Ryan Stone, cleared waivers and rejoined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
-The Wheeling Nailers signed forwards Erik Johnson and Mark Nebus.
-Islanders defenseman Chris Campoli and Andy Sutton are dealing with some injuries.
-With those two dinged up, the Islanders claimed defenseman Thomas Pock off waivers from the Rangers.
-Flyers goaltender/shooter tutor Antero Niittymaki is healing quickly from his hip injury.
-Despite his groin injury, Canadiens enforcer and former Penguin Georges Laraque plans on being ready for the season.
-Bruins forward Phil Kessel and Peter Schaefer are dealing with hip flexor issues.
-New coach Ron Wilson isn't exactly setting the bar too high in Toronto.
-Maple Leafs forward Jamal Mayers feels fortunate to be playing for his hometown team.
-Toronto's first-round pick Luke Schenn made his case to make the Maple Leafs' roster out of camp with a nifty shootout goal last night. (2:50 mark)
-The Sabres are going to rely on defenseman Craig Rivet quite a bit this season.
-The Lightning put former Penguins forward Michel Ouellet on waivers. Why do we have this urge to put a Mr. Yuck sticker on Ouellet and to tell Michel Therrien and Ray Shero to stay away?
-Apparently, the parents of Thrashers first-round pick Zach Bogosian aren't concerned with gas prices.
-Thomas Thewes, the co-owner of the Hurricanes, passed away.
-The Hurricanes demoted former Penguins forward Matt Murley to Albany of the AHL.
-Capitals forward Mike Green needs to prove he deserved the big pay raise he got this summmer.
-The Blackhawks have put goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on waivers with the hopes of unloading his $6.75 million salary off the book.
-Good thing the Blackhawks signed goaltender Cristobal Huet. He gave up seven goal on 22 shots to the horrid Blue Jackets in a 7-1 loss last night.
-Blues defenseman Jeff Woywitka is dealing with a foot injury.
-The Lightning traded forward Nick Tarnasky to the Predators for a conditional draft pick.
-Today's "Jim Ballsillie is going to buy the Predators and move them to Ontario" rumor is not true.
-Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk is dealing with a groin injury.
-Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn't believe in Stanley Cup hangovers.
-Before he did the same to Pittsburgh, Detroit forward Marian Hossa spurned Atlanta.
-The Blue Jackets are looking for someone to man the point on the power play.
-Columbus forward Raffi Torres will be out six weeks due to a separated shoulder.
-The Flames have made forward Todd Bertuzzi an alternate captain.
-Calgary defenseman Adrian Aucoin relizes his time with the Flames could be coming to an end.
-Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood has been doing Pilates or something.
-Los Angeles demoted goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
-The Kings allegedly offered former Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh a tryout which he turned down.
-Rookie forward Kevin Porter, last season's Hobey Baker Awards winner, is making an impression with the Coyotes.
-Stars forward and former Penguins Landon Wilson is trying to prove he still belongs in the NHL.
-The Ducks demoted former Penguins Eric Boguniecki and Ross Lupaschuk to Iowa of the AHL.
-ESPN's head content overlord (we have no idea what position to give him) wants to bring the NHL back to the World Wide Leader.
-After reading this article about the lack of coverage the NHL gets from other newspapers around the country, we fell very fortunate to be doing Empty Netters.