Identifying Priorities – The Pens Offseason Plan
Following a disappointing first round exit in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers, it was clear that the Pens front office was not happy with their defensive performance, having given up record numbers of goals in that series. Recognizing that defense was going to be the priority for the Penguins, they acted quickly
Working their way from the back forward, the first move made by the front office was to acquire veteran netminder Tomas Vokoun from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a seventh round draft selection. Coming off a down season in the capital, what he represents is a veteran presence who can come in seamlessly for Marc-Andre Fleury when required, who should play at least twenty games during the regular season, and who will be able to play if Fleury fails.
Statistically speaking, Fleury had a terrible playoffs for the Penguins with a .834 save percentage and allowing an average of nearly five goals per game, but he was allowed to continue starting because Brent Johnson was playing even worse, as illustrated by his brief appearances in relief of the Penguins starter. With Vokoun, the Penguins have a legitimate plan B, and while some people question whether the $2 million per season price tag is a good value, what is apparent is that the Penguins have been knocked out of the playoffs the last few years because of having given up too many goals.
While part of the criticism should be placed on the defense, and also on the high tempo transition game employed by Dan Bylsma which maximizes opportunity but increases risks, with the signing of Vokoun, Ray Shero has someone who can support Fleury when he plays well, and who is capable of replacing him if he should have another difficult playoff campaign.
The next article will review the draft where the Penguins went heavy on defense and made a blockbuster trade.