Nope, we’re not talking Tom Cruise here, just the fact that the opening week of the NHL free agent frenzy was about as good for the Pens as “Rock of Ages” was for our eyes…and ears. With Zach Parise letting Paul Martin’s recruitment call go to voicemail and opting for Miko Koivu over Sidney Crosby, Ray Shero is still looking for winger for Sid. Right now, the job is Tyler Kennedy’s to lose. Something must be done. The “trade for Bobby Ryan or Rick Nash” campaigns have quieted and it looks like the only shot Sid has at passing to someone who knows what to do with the puck once they get it is for Shero to go after what’s left on the free agent market…that’s not a lot.
Shane Doan would look damn good in Black & Gold but he’s still waiting around on the Coyotes to figure some things out. There are two guys the Jags are split on right now: Lazy Russian Alex Semin and Concussion Crazy Peter Mueller. Either one would be better than TK, right?
RETO: I’ve been saying all along that Mueller is the perfect low risk, high reward signing. If he stays healthy, he could return to the kid that put up 90 points in his first two years in the league. He’s got good vision and a rocket shot that Sid would love to set up. And if he end up with another C-word, so what, you send him and his $2 mil deal packing just like the Pens did with Mike Comrie - Semin is going to cost the Pens close to three times what Mueller would and what happens when that falls apart?
HOETZ: Wow. I thought Ronald Reagan and Rocky teamed up to end the Cold War a few years back - you need to calm down the Anti-Russia propaganda. I want to start off by saying I’m not anti-Mueller as much as I’m pro-Semin…wait that doesn’t sound right. I don’t view them as one or the other and would love to see Mueller as a high upside third liner. Playing with Sid, that’s a different story. Semin is the stone cold sniper that Sid has never had and immediately gives the Pens a shot at have four 40-goal scorers. My dream scenario would be for Semin to have an Allen Iverson-like meltdown when Rob Rossi asks him about back checking in a game after he scored his 30th goal on a sick one timer from Sid.
RETO: Hey, I’m like Rick Grimes and zombies; as long as there are Lazy Russians around that need to be dealt with, I’m going to do my damndest to keep Pens fans safe. How can you call Mueller a third liner and retain that Semin is a top winger when Semin barely outscored Jordan Staal, who did his work on the THIRD LINE? And, Sid would shatter your dream before Rob Rossi and Joseph Gordon-Levitt even got into your head, because Sid will knock Semin out the minute the minute he takes a shift off. How are these two going to co-exist when Semin thinks Sid is nothing special? Mueller is an American that understands Sid’s style of play – he just needs a chance on a real offense for once. Semin had his chance. How well did he do playing in Dale Hunter’s defensive-minded system? It’s no coincidence his ice time and goal production has declined…just like your argument.
HOETZ: Wow, your xenophobia is palpable. Did you answer that while Hulk Hogan’s “I am a Real American” and Bill Pullman’s “Independence Day” speech played on a continuous loop? Russians have had a little bit of success at hockey - their style of play can’t be that wrong. Comparing Dan Bylsma’s system to Dale Hunter’s is insane. Hunter practically castrated any and all offensive talent and creativity from the Caps. It worked so well that he will be watching the NHL on TV next year instead of coaching. Comparing Semin’s last year (his worst) to Staal’s (his best) seems reasonable. Surely Semin’s defensive liabilities would be dominated by the supreme defensive machine that is Staal in the plus/minus category, but I think +9 on bad team is a lot more impressive than +11 on a great one. You know what style of play trumps all others? Talent. Semin has it and Sid is smart enough to see that and get past old comments that were more anti NHL promoting Crosby than anti Crosby. Mueller isn’t in the same talent ZIP code as Sid and thus far is a poor man’s Pascal Dupuis. So you basically want Sid’s wingers to be a bearded French Canadian that you and most yinzers hate seeing with Sid and a player who at is best would equal him?
RETO: Woah, let’s not get crazy; no one compared Bylsma and Hunter. Just that Semin couldn’t play defense in a system that was designed around it. How is he going to be able to rush back and help “Poor Paul Martin” in a run-and-gun system when he couldn’t do it in a scheme designed for it? You can throw Semin’s plus/minus and takeaway numbers in my face all day – stats on paper are much different than evidence on film. And when did the Caps become a bad team? Last I checked, they made it further than the Pens…by your logic, the Kings are a bad team. You’re like a politician, using your big words and hollow statistics to run a smear campaign on Mueller. Mueller is comparable to Duper though…as long as we don’t account for stickhandling ability and sniping, and I’ll take Mueller’s awesome goatee over Duper’s Taliban beard any day. This kid is an unfinished story – no one knows what he’s capable of – but he showed enough promise to be taken 8th overall in the talent-heavy ’06 draft. Let Sid be his Atreyu (yea, that’s a NeverEnding Story reference – that’s how invested I am in this) and they could end up as happy as Geno and Neal.
But you’re missing my point; I won’t have a problem if the Pens do sign Semin. Hell, if it happens, I’ll be the one handing out ”Sid loves Semin” signs before Philthy fans can claim it as their own. The book is already out on Semin. Yea, he can score nasty goals but he also likes to disappear sometimes – especially in the playoffs – and that’s not something I want Shero to spend more than $6 million on.
HOETZ: If Mueller turns out to be the mix of Duper’s work ethic and Brett Hull’s scoring ability that will be a tremendous value for a third-liner contract. The Pens aren’t the Pirates; they can’t waste their stars’ primes hoping for injury-prone underachieving high draft picks to develop into elite scorers. They have the cash to grab the proven sniper on a 1- to 3-year deal without effecting their ability to maintain their core. Signing a $2-mil per winger to play with Sid leaves a lot of unused cap space. In case you were confused, money unspent can’t be used next year and can’t be traded in at the end of the night like Chuck E Cheese tickets to get a frisbee that looks like a pizza. They have the cap space. Take the chance on the guy who could fill the net. Disappearing isn’t an issue playing with Sid, he won’t allow it.