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SEASON PREVIEW — Part 1: The Departed

We are previewing the 2011-2012 Penguins season all week. To move on, you have to first look back.
Today, we take a quick look at those who are not with us anymore.
 
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To put in perspective how long Max Talbot wore a Penguins uniform, he probably accepted a pass or two from Mario Lemieux during game action.  Talbot made the 2005-2006 opening-night roster and played 48 games, scoring 5G 3A.  The most memorable moment of that first season was his first career NHL goal:
 

 
He played the rest of that 2005-2006 season in Wilkes-Barre, but Pens fans knew he'd be back.  He was scrappy; he was little; you rooted for him.  A handful of games into the 2006-2007 season, he returned to Pittsburgh and didn't leave until July 1, 2011.  If we had to pinpoint something memorable he did during the 06-07 season, it was helping to ignite the furious comeback in Washington.  Interestingly enough, his 13 goals that season is his career-high.  Not kidding.
 

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Then came the 2007-2008 season.  We're guessing this is when that first A&L commercial came out.  His popularity among Pens fans exploded, and he was still committed to bringing everything he had, even though he was a victim of the High Ankle Sprain curse that swept throughout the Pens locker room. The playoffs came around, and the Pens rolled through the Eastern Conference.  In Game Two of the ECF against the Flyers, he scored a huge goal to put the Pens in front halfway through the third.  We remember this because, one, it was a huge goal, two, there's a great pic of it and, three, Gary Roberts assisted on it.
 
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As we all know, Talbot had one more trick up his sleeve that playoff year.  Late in regulation in Game 5 of the SCF in Detroit, Talbot was pegged to be the extra attacker when Fleury was pulled.  What Phil Bourque says after Lange's call was 100% true at the time:  Max Talbot was the heart and soul of the Penguins.  Therrien knew it; the fans knew it.  And that's why he was on the ice.
 

 
The following season brought the memories which will keep Max Talbot in Pens fans' minds forever.  And it was also the last time Max Talbot did anything that mattered.  After going 12G 10A in the regular season, he exploded in the playoffs.  His shush of the Philadelphia crowd became an iconic moment.  He found himself on a line with eventual Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin, and he took advantage of everything that came his way.  Every goal scored in a SCF is huge, and Talbot had 4 in the series.  He scored a big first goal five minutes into Game Three and sealed the deal with an empty netter.   In the couple days of buildup into Game 7 in Detroit, prognosticators everywhere were predicting which player was going to have a difference-maker of a game.  No one predicted Max Talbot. 
 

This goal prompted Pens fans everywhere to lovingly say Max Fucking Talbot while chuckling to themselves.
 
And from that point on, we've called him Fucking Max Talbot in a callous tone.  He was injured and played half a season the following year.  He was slowly becoming an empty-net specialist.  He played all 82 games last season, scoring 8 goals, which probably were all empty netters.  His hustle was gone.  We mentioned Phil Bourque saying he was the heart and soul of the team in 2008 Stanley Cup Finals to simply acknowledge the fact that, after the 2009 Cup win, the Pens were no longer a scrappy David team that needed a heart and soul.  They needed a solid salary:production ratio.  So, don't get us wrong.  We'd take Max Talbot back at like $750,000/year.  Since Game 7, there's been an obvious decline in Talbot's game.  He plays like he's drunk.  But he's also as dependable a penalty killer as you're gonna find.  So would your dog if you trained him.  
 
For us, our hate for Max Talbot gradually began growing once he became more of a celebrity than a hockey player.  If you're gonna run around like a frat boy on the Southside, you better score a goal the next day.  Prior to that Game 7 in Detroit, he had struck a happy balance with us.  Then he pretty much went into Operation Shutdown the past two seasons.  If you can't acknowledge that fact, then you obviously love Max Talbot.  And he's a Flyer now, so you really shouldn't.  Our prediction for Max Talbot this year is that he's going to score 10-15 goals.  He has something to prove; he's reinvigorated.  And you know there were certain Penguins in that locker room that dealt with Talbot every day and were like, "Dude, we get it," and they are waiting for their chance to give him a Rock Bottom in front of the net.   Every group of friends has that one person that people secretly hate.  It's probably you.
 
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SSSSSSUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKSSSSSSSS BAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLSSSSSSSSSS.  We thought this was a vintage Shero move, and at $500,000 for one year, it was a calculated risk.  But it turned out like the climax scene of Speed2 where that boat tears into that Jamaican village. Didn't even get to see much of Hillary Duff, either. Also, if you are making the "Well Comrie did do something joke," in response to him getting Hillary Duff pregnant, get over yourself.
 
 
This is the highlight of Comrie's season. ( First result on YouTube when searching "Mike Comrie Penguins."

 
Really forgettable.
 

 
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We honestly don't know what to say here.  We hear the name "Eric Godard," and the first thing that comes to mind is a red suit he wore all the time.   He was a healthy scratch every time the playoffs rolled around.  He seems like a decent-enough guy, but we're nowhere near his circle of friends in life, so that's a meaningless thing to say.  Enforcers pinball around the NHL anymore.  And name one person in your life who owns a red suit.  
 
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Then again, without Eric Godard, we would have never met Godard Guy™.
 
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Oh, no.  Chris Conner.  He was fast; he was small; he probably showed up in Dan Bylsma's dreams on a nightly basis.  He got a shitload of playing time down the stretch and into the playoffs last year.  He scored 7 goals, and if we recall correctly, most of them came at semi-big moments.  And then in Game 6 of the Tampa series, he faced the biggest moment of his career:
 

If you're in the least bit broken up about Chris Conner not returning to the Pens, you should take like a 10-minute break from the Internet and regroup. Maybe the worst penalty shot of all time.
 
 
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Late in the summer of 2009, with a Stanley Cup defense on the horizon, Ray Shero plucked Mike Rupp from the universe for $17.  Rupp exploded that season with a career high of 13 goals and 19 points.  His hat trick in MSG will still be talked about two generations from now.  And so will this photoshop depicting his return from a knee injury:
 
People wanted to call last season a disappointment for Rupp, even though his 9 goals were the second-most of his career.  He probably wanted a little more cash than Shero was looking to spend, so he peaced out.  There's nothing bad to say about Mike Rupp.  He drove some unreal truck, too. Man.
 
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With the right combination of players on his line, he would've put up some points.  But the Pens weren't afforded that luxury last season.  And it wasn't 2000 anymore.  Kovalev just didn't have the speed to carry a line. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Kovy was on the first line, and Tampa Bay was all over it. The Tampa Bay series was a quick microcosm of his return to Pittsburgh. He started out okay, big goal in Game 1. But by the end of the series, he was sent to the bench for almost the entire third period of Game 7. Still a very confusing decision. But whatev. Kovalev never mouthed off about it. Nothing else.
 
Tuesday, we take a look at this year's blue line.
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