In case you have not been following the Pittsburgh Penguins during the offseason and missed it, center Brandon Sutter was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. The timing of the deal surprised most, but the transaction itself was inevitable.
Sutter’s perceived value was higher than his actual value and if the Penguins had let him play out the final year of his two-year/$6.6 million dollar contract, they more than likely would have lost him as an unrestricted-free agent. Many teams had held Sutter in high regard as a potential number two center who was simply buried behind superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. To say that most Penguin fans had a different opinion is a huge understatement.
Brandon Sutter’s Time With the Penguins
He was acquired in the trade that sent two-way center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes and he was a Penguin for three seasons. At the time, general manager Ray Shero saw Sutter as a player who could soften the loss of Staal by providing offensive production and shutdown opposing top lines. Well, Sutter’s best season as a Penguin was the one that just finished, as he was able to net 21 goals, 12 helpers for a total of 33 points and was a +6 skater.
One the surface, those are adequate numbers for a third line player, but when you have talents like Crosby and Malkin drawing the tougher opposition, it didn’t cut it for Pittsburgh. In those three seasons he also failed to perform as a shutdown center and he was simply an average player.
Why Sutter Won’t Be Missed
There has always been a divided opinion about Sutter. As an observer you either loved him for the “old-school” factors or you hated him because of his failure to live up to expectations and deplorable advanced metrics. The later of those two will not miss Sutter one bit.
Personally I will not miss Sutter, he’s always been an overpaid player. He’s weak on the boards, couldn’t create his own offense and in essence was Maxim Lapierre with a good wrist shot. That’s not the type of player the Penguins needed on their third line, especially at $3.3 million per season.
That cap hit, combined with the underwhelming advanced stats is a great reason to not miss Sutter as a player. It’s not like 20 goal scorers grow on trees, there were only 92 of them last season. Doing some basic math, that’s about three per team and guess what, the Penguins got Nick Bonino from Vancouver who just had a 20 goal season back in 2013-14.
It’s easy to see that Sutter’s production was not worth his paycheck and his contributions on the ice will not be missed.
Why Sutter Will Be Missed
Now before I begin this, there are always fans who loved Sutter, despite his poor possession stats and they will miss him regardless.
The biggest reason why Sutter will be missed on the Penguins during the 2015-16 season is the intangibles he brought to the table. Show me a statistic that can quantify leadership, being a positive influence in the locker room or even just being a good teammate.
Sutter was all of those things for the Penguins and more. Rob Rossi, the controversial columnist from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a great piece on Sutter as a “hockey guy” and you can find that right here. Here’s the most moving part of his piece.
To watch Sutter was to witness an exceptionally smart player, somebody who could simplify a complex coaching adjustment for a rookie and point out details that a superstar might ignore. His voice was soft, but it carried among a group of Penguins veterans who have tuned out coaches, frozen out incoming superstars and flamed out at almost every opportunity.
Sure, it’s easy to say that a player who performed poorly on the ice won’t be missed, but the truth is that he will. Sutter was a leader in the Penguins locker room, he worked harder than most and was always trying to help.
These traits while noble, aren’t enough to keep a sub-par player around, but it at least is worth noting the good that he did. Sutter’s mediocre play on the ice won’t be missed, but his presence on the team will and that’s not something you can say about every player.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers