Thursday, September 13, 2007

Question #2: Where the Heck does Taters fit?

Gotta be honest, if I was running the Penguins going into camp, Ryan Malone would be on the 4th line.

Yes, Ryan Malone, the organizational golden boy. Just because you were on the team when it sucked doesn't mean you get a pass now. Malone had the chance to largely be Sidney Crosby's even strength winger and he produced virtually squat (16 goals, 15 assists in an injury shortened 61 games). True, he did open up space for his linemates and it was commendable for him to step up and drop the gloves defending Sid a few times, but what did he really bring to the table? The lasting memory is turnovers, flubbed chances, pucks rolling off his stick or shots going just wide.

So where does that leave him? Presumably with the acquistion of Petr Sykora, the decision to try out Erik Christensen on the wing and the other skill spots held by Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Mark Recchi, Malone's in something of a no man's land.

For the third line then, the wingers are naturally Gary Roberts and Colby Armstrong. I like Maxime Talbot in the 3rd line center spot, he's natural to that position, plays harder than Malone and figures to be on the upswing of his career still.

Malone could always sub in when the vets like Recchi and Roberts need a breather, but that's not much promise. Malone is a central piece of the lockeroom and while trading him (without even knowing his value amongst the league, given he's an impending UFA) might shake things up a little.

How Ryan Malone is fit into the roster will be another interesting ongoing development.

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