Penguins send message with trade

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — The Penguins made a peculiar trade last week, sending Carl Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings for left wing Tanner Pearson.

The odd thing about it is the motivation. General manager Jim Rutherford freely admitted one of his prime reasons for making the deal was to wake up his team, which had been slumbering through a 1-6 stretch.

Hagelin was one of the most popular personalities in the Penguins’ locker room and his departure did indeed shake things up.

Rutherford still believes he’s assembled a good team, one that hasn’t been playing to its potential.

By his accounting, the Pens went through the first 16 games, playing five that were “good, a few that were average and seven or eight really bad ones.”

With a quarter of the season almost passed, Rutherford decided to disable the snooze button before it was too late.

The Penguins’ main problems have been a lack of secondary scoring, and average or worse goaltending from Matt Murray. When backup Casey DeSmith starts three straight games without an injury issue dictating the choice, something has gone off the rails.

Murray was said to be seething about his temporary demotion, and maybe that’s a good thing. Complacency seems to be the Penguins’ enemy this season.

So in the end, Hagelin for Pearson is one disappointing winger for another. Hagelin had one goal and three points in 16 games, despite playing on Evgeni Malkin’s line. Pearson was worse, managing just one assist with the Kings.

But the hockey aspect really wasn’t this deal was about. This was intended as a jolt for the teammates Hagelin left behind.

Nobody’s there

It must be a thrill for high school kids to play in an NFL stadium.

That’s the thinking behind having the WPIAL championship games at Heinz Field.

But is it necessary? The stands are mostly empty and it’s not really practical to stage a high school football marathon in a 68,000-seat venue.

Unique vehicle

If you’ve paid attention to ESPN’s Monday Night Football, you know that analyst Booger McFarland isn’t in the booth.

He’s near field level, elevated in a cherry picker that moves up and down the sideline as the line of scrimmage moves. You’re not sure if he’s there to contribute to the commentary or to change some light bulbs.

And if ESPN has any games in cold weather places, he faces the risk of being a handy moving target for snowballs. But it’s ESPN, and that’s the way they roll. Doesn’t matter if it’s ridiculous.

By the way, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post refers to the vehicle as the “Rubber Booger Buggy.”

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

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