Pens’ trade might not be enough
PITTSBURGH — The NHL trading deadline has passed, so now we know what the Penguins will look like in the playoffs.
What we don’t know is whether they can win the playoffs for a third straight season.
General manager Jim Rutherford made his big deal well in advance of the deadline, acquiring center Derick Brassard from Ottawa while sending away defenseman Ian Cole and winger Ryan Reaves.
There were no deals left for the Penguins in the last-minute frenzy, and that’s at least slightly disappointing.
They could have used another defenseman to help replace Cole, and they should have been in the market for an experienced backup goaltender.
The Penguins’ defensive corps hasn’t been a strength this season, especially with Kris Letang’s early-season struggles. Another experienced player there would have helped, but it didn’t happen.
It always takes two to make a trade (and sometimes more, as we saw with the Brassard acquisition), and salary cap issues matter, too. The Penguins traditionally spend close to the cap, so there’s not a lot of room to add even a moderately expensive player without subtracting another in the same pay bracket.
If the Penguins face a team like Tampa Bay in the playoffs, can their third defensive pairing match up adequately against the Lightning’s third or fourth lines?
That’s a legitimate question.
The Penguins currently cover goaltending with Matt Murray, backed up by rookies Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Murray is presently out after sustaining a concussion at practice the other day. A teammate’s shot rang off his mask.
It’s the second documented concussion in Murray’s career, which matches the number of Stanley Cup rings he has.
The playoffs unfold over nearly two months. If Murray is injured, there are rookies behind him rather than the safety valve that Marc-Andre Fleury provided since Murray took over the No. 1 spot two years ago.
The Penguins did what they could at the deadline. It’s not possible to plug every leak. But there are two areas of vulnerability that are a concern as the team chases its third consecutive title.
Catch or not?
Some of the NFL’s brightest minds are holed up in conference rooms these days, watching endless replays of borderline catches.
They’re trying to determine what meets the definition of a legal catch. Or else they’re trying to redefine the term. Or maybe they’re just looking for a way to explain the rulings to the players.
Oh, what a tangled web they’ve weaved with rules amendments backed with slow-motion replays.
The Steelers’ season may have turned on one of those dubious calls, the famous catch/non-catch by tight end Jesse James in the game against New England. Then again, the way the Steelers were playing defense by the end of the season, maybe it didn’t matter. They would have lost another way.
Famed TV producer Mark Goodson once said the key to having a successful game show was to have something that allowed the home viewers to play along.
The best thing the NFL can do is this matter is follow a basic rule of business: Keep it simple.
Viewers want action, not a soliloquy from referee Ed Hochuli.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com.