Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gonchar out "indefinitely"

From the main page:

"Sergei will continue to be evaluated as our team medical personnel consider several treatment options," Shero said. “In the meantime, we will look for our other defensemen to step up and fill the void created by his absence.”

Gonch went down on September 20th, so even if he would be out for eight weeks that would mean missing 13 regular season games, only three of them against divisional opponents. But that eight week period is totally arbitrary, indefinite could mean shorter, could mean longer.

Now the Pens are looking at starting the season without their top two point scorers on the blueline, and perhaps more importantly guy in Gonchar who's served admirably all-around. Don't sleep on the fact he was 4th in the Norris Trophy voting last season, and if it weren't for biases in preconceived notions on how he's a more "offensive" defenseman it could have been higher.

This opens up not just a huge opportunity for Kris Letang (6 goals and 11 assists in 63 NHL games last season) and Alex Goligoski (28 points in 23 AHL playoff games) but a responsibility to step in and produce. Goligoski has just three NHL games under his belt but is now 23 years old and has the seasoning to be able to play at this level. You can never be sure if a young defenseman will sink or swim at the NHL level (hello Noah Welch) but Goose has the track record to do well.

Surely it's better to be without key players at the beginning of the season rather than at the end of it--provided the choice is given, but all the same it's best not to be in that situation in the first place. Perhaps this early season adversity will help the Penguins get over whatever sense of entitlement they may have carried in attitude for thinking this year's journey deep into the playoffs will be as deep or as inevitable as the talent they have. It will make them work, and at the end that could pay off.

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