Before the season started, we published four bold predictions about the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2020-21, which included an Art Ross Trophy, player development and a timely trade. While predicting the future is tough, two of the four are on pace and could come to fruition.
Here’s a look at the four predictions that were published on Jan. 4, and where they stand now:
Prediction: Sidney Crosby Wins the Art Ross Trophy
Update: Not Going to Happen
Crosby has appeared in 26 games and is averaging a point per game. It’s solid production for any player, but, unfortunately, not enough for one who was ‘supposed’ to win the scoring race. Connor McDavid doesn’t care about the prediction and is running away with the title with 52 points.
This prediction was bold because Crosby hasn’t won the trophy since 2013-14, and given the level that McDavid can reach, there was a slim chance this would happen. However, Crosby leads the Penguins in both goals and assists.
Crosby hasn’t slowed down even in his 16th season, and the Penguins have a 17-9-1 record, good for 11th in the league and 3rd in the East Division. There’s a chance he can pick up his scoring pace in the second half, but he will need a small miracle to catch McDavid or anyone in the top-5. If you ask Crosby, he’ll tell you 10 times out of 10 he’d rather win another Stanley Cup than another Art Ross, but let’s hold off on making any new predictions today.
Prediction: John Marino Will Finish the Season on the Top Defense Pair
Update: Kris Letang is Still Very Good at Hockey
While Marino has been good at times, this wasn’t the season the 23-year-old defenseman expected. The sophomore is ranked second on the team in ice-time; however, he has one goal and three assists in 25 games. He will be the first to tell you he expects more from himself, and after a 26-point rookie season, the coaching staff would like to see more offense as well.
Another reason this prediction isn’t going to happen is that defenseman Kris Letang is having a fine season and has cemented himself on the right side of the top pair. This prediction was made thinking Marino would take a big step forward and Letang a big step back, and, frankly, neither has happened.
As for Marino, he’s been as stable as ever for head coach Mike Sullivan and the Pens. He plays smart, and his ability to make the right play at the right time is impressive for a young defenseman in his second NHL season. It’s going to be fun to watch Marino get another crack at the postseason, where he can take his game to another level.
Prediction: Bryan Rust Will Score 20 Goals
Update: Rust is Still on Pace….Barely!
Finally, a prediction that might actually come true. Rust scored 27 goals in 55 games in 2019-20, so a prediction of 20 goals seemed reasonable in January. Turns out, Rust has kept up the great work and has earned top-line minutes, which will help the chances of this prediction coming true.
In 27 games this season, Rust has nine goals, so this one will come down to the wire in a 56-game season.
Rust ranks third on the Penguins in ice time for forwards with 1:03 more than Evgeni Malkin per game. Playing with Malkin last season, he seemed to score at will, and this season, he’s found himself with Crosby more often, especially lately. As long as the 28-year-old stays healthy down the stretch, he’ll be able to reach the 20-goal mark and, considering the short season, that would be a fine season for the former third-round pick.
Prediction: Penguins Will Acquire Another Goalie
Update: Jarry Stays, DeSmith Still a Potential for Upgrade
When the predictions were released in January, we assumed that Jim Rutherford would still be the general manager, but that’s no longer the case. Brian Burke and Ron Hextall have made a waiver claim or two, but to this point, no trades. With less than a month before the trade deadline, there’s still a chance we see this prediction come true.
Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith went into this season as the starting tandem with the least amount of combined experience in the NHL, and it’s been rocky at times. However, lately, the duo has been solid, so with the new regime in town and a chance to make another first impression, it’s possible Burke and Hextall like what they see.
Jarry has an 11-7-1 record, while DeSmith is 6-2-0 this season. The Penguins’ salary cap issues will play a part in whether this prediction comes true, as management will need a money in/money out deal. Jarry is signed for the next two seasons at $3.5 million annually against the cap, while DeSmith is signed for $1.25 million next season. It’s going to be tough to find a team whose goalies collectively make less than $5 million, so Burke and Hextall may want to use this to their advantage.
It also doesn’t sound like there are a ton of available goalies on the market as we approach the April 12 trade deadline. Devan Dubnyk of the San Jose Sharks or Jonathan Bernier from the Detroit Red Wings could be snatched from their struggling teams, but at what cost? Would either be an upgrade over DeSmith? It’s hard to say, but considering their options, management may want to focus on other things.
Predictions are fun but not worth quitting your day job to focus on. What should have been predicted back in January was that the Penguins would be a streaky team that would battle injuries and receive some surprise production from some unlikely names. At least we know for next season.