Sooner or later you had to figure Darryl Sydor would be waived or traded. Sydor wants to play, and unfortunately for him with the emergence of young defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski over the past two seasons the reality was clear: Sydor just isn’t among the top 6 defensemen the Penguins have anymore. To his credit Sydor was the ultimate professional while going through this frustrating time. While others in his shoes coughMark Recchicough often loudly voiced displeasure and anger at having a diminished role; Sydor kept quiet and continued to be a positive example to the boys in the room. The leadership he brought off the ice, especially lately, was very commendable and he deserves much respect for that and we wish him well in Dallas.
On the other hand, we welcome Phillipe Boucher. This is an interesting acquisition; right handed defensemen are in short supply and Boucher did score 19 goals two season ago before battling all sorts of injuries. If nothing else, Boucher should provide a little more “oomph” on the power-play than say, Brooks Orpik, and hopefully steady what’s been, at times a shaky unit on the man advantage. If Boucher can remain healthy (and obviously that’s a big if) he could be a key player down the stretch.
Our forward thinking mind though can’t help but wonder what will happen when Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar return. Whitney is already practicing and should be back sometime in December—though it is too early to say if that will be in the earlier or later part of the month. Gonchar is still in a sling and no where close to coming back, but he should be around come March. It’s a great thing to have a surplus of defensemen at the NHL, especially given the injuries that can happen at any given moment. But having too many NHL caliber players could poison the drinking water—like it may have if Sydor wasn’t such a good sport—and that would be a terrible thing. Boucher, for instance, has said that he is playing for a contract next year and we can’t imagine him being happy or quiet if he’s the odd man out. A lot of the logjam has been created by Goligoski establishing himself as a full-time NHL defenseman right off the bat. If his play wasn’t at such a high level it would be easy to demote him to the minors for further work. But that probably isn’t an option at this point.
So which two of the eight defensemen (this includes Whitney) are the odd men out? Surely not a healthy Whitney or Orpik. Letang’s played well in an expanded role, and as mentioned, Goligoski has been awesome. The team has been very high on Gill (remember Therrien called him a top 4 guy a couple weeks ago) so seemingly he’s in too. This would leave one playing spot for three veteran defensemen: Boucher, Rob Scuderi and Mark Eaton. Eaton’s had a rough season so far and Scuderi, though a solid shot-blocker and reliable guy, is a 5/6 guy that could be replaceable.
If all are healthy, would another trade be coming? In that case it would seem that Eaton or Scuderi would be the most likely candidates.
That’s probably how we would line them up, provided Boucher plays well. We realize the risks in looking even that far down the line, but what do you think? Sooner or later when reinforcements trickle back in the Penguins are going to have some decisions to make.