The Penguins have had one of the better bottom six forward groups in the league for the past two years. This year’s bottom six is not that.
Let’s just state the obvious, this bottom six could use some work.
Losing Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen definitely takes a hit on your center depth chart. They also lost the occasional fourth line Chris Kunitz but I’m fine with Ryan Reaves taking his place as far as physicality goes.
Yes, they did acquire center Riley Sheahan from Detroit (see my article on that) but he’s not Bonino or Cullen. I’m not saying that these guys are awful, but should we expect more from them?
Let’s just look at the third line center position for the last couple of years starting with Brandon Sutter. Sutter’s tenure with the Penguins was from 2012 to 2015. Every year he was the third line center and surpassed 10 goals each year. He wasn’t fantastic but he was good enough to make a difference even while being in that bottom six.
After that there was Bonino who centered the third line for two seasons in Pittsburgh from 2015 to 2017. Bonino didn’t score a lot of goals but had over 20 points both seasons. Other than the drop off at center, the wingers are either the same or have been in the system like Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Carter Rowney and Carl Hagelin. If it feels like we should be seeing more from these players, it’s because we’re used to a higher standard of offense in Pittsburgh.
We’ve had two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Not to mention American hero Phil Kessel on the wing. So this bottom six isn’t exactly a spitting image of last year’s, but they still produce opportunities and really their job is more of a shut down defensive style of game but scoring would help from time to time.
Also a side note: Prayers to Ryan Shazier.