Monday, May 12, 2008

Craig Patrick talks Penguins

Great interview in Sunday's Trib by Rob Rossi with former Pens GM Craig Patrick. Patrick was in charge of the Penguins for a fifteen plus years but ever since he got fired by the team after the 2005-06 season he's dropped off the hockey landscape, rarely talking to the press or getting his name in the papers a lot.

When asked what did him in, Patrick responded:

We just ran out of time. It worked immediately after I and a bunch of us were gone. When I was let go, I was told, "It's time to make a change." I can understand that. But if we had been around at the beginning of the next season, we'd probably still have jobs. But that's not what happened.
While we do think he has something of a point, we don't really agree with this. The Penguins needed a breath of fresh air; even simple things like not having internet access in the coach's office. Patrick, while good at what he did, became stale. After the lockout he got bold and picked up high profile free agents (John LeClair, Ziggy Palffy and Sergei Gonchar), none of whom paid dividends early, if at all. It was a bold move, but one that didn't pay off.

Two years after his firing, Craig Patrick's imprint still remains on the team. Sure you can look to the slam dunk draft picks like Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but dig a little deeper and you'll find eight players (Scuderi, Malone, Orpik, Talbot, Whitney, Fleury, Kennedy and Letang) that Patrick and his crew drafted and helped to develop. Sure some of those guys are first round picks and we're not suggesting it's impressive he drafted NHL'ers but rather just to point out just how much he's shaped the team that we still see today. And that doesn't even take into account the guys like Carcillo, Welch, Armstrong and Christensen that enabled his successor Ray Shero to pull the trigger on a couple of Patrick-esque patented deadline day gambles.

Craig Patrick had a tough economic climate to deal with pre-2005, there's no doubt. But he wasn't able to parlay established star players like Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev, Martin Straka, Robert Lang and Darius Kasparaitis into much anything of long term value, which is a huge negative. Then his lockout signings went bust and it became apparent it was time to go a different direction. CP got lucky to be in a position to get to draft Malkin and Crosby but what he did in drafts from about 2002-2005 really laid the ground-work for where the Penguins are now. And he deserves a lot of credit for that.

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