Opinion: Penguins’ many struggles may go well beyond on-ice performance

I am sure that most Penguin fans can agree that the team’s play has been uninspired lately, to say the least.

Watching most of the team seem as if they are just going through the motions game after game has really started to grind my gears.

Sure, you can blame the offensive struggles on Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin being injured.

Heck, I agree with that 100 percent.

Evgeni Malkin is a huge part of the team’s offense, and any game he misses really hurts the Penguins.

Letang’s injury means that defensemen such as Derrick Pouliot and Rob Scuderi must play more minutes.

Pouliot is young, and his workload shouldn’t be increased, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Ditto for Scuderi, who is up there in age and seeing an increase in ice time as well.

But I want to focus on something that isn’t being talked about.

Who is the leader of this Penguin team?

This team is playing lackluster hockey as of late.

But who is firing up that team in the locker room?

Who’s the player getting the team fired up, letting everyone know how bad their play is and telling them to pick it up?

I’ve never been in the locker room, but I can speculate that nobody on that roster is a locker room leader.

In the past, veterans such as Gary Roberts and Bill Guerin have been those fiery guys who have gotten the team to rally around them and pick themselves up.

I just don’t see such a presence on this year’s team.

Sure, you can say Sidney Crosby is the leader of the team, but he leads more by example on the ice and through his play.

He’s never been a vocal kind of guy, and I don’t see that changing in the future.

Scuderi is really the only “veteran” kind of player who could qualify as a leader.

Scuderi is a good locker room guy, but you can tell by his play on the ice that he’s not a fiery player.

He’s not the player who will rally the team.

As I look up and down this team’s roster, I can only surmise of one player who could fit that role of a leader: Pascal Dupuis.

Unfortunately, Dupuis is out for the year with a blood clot.

This doesn’t mean that he’s still not involved and isn’t a leader, but he obviously cannot rally the troops on the ice or in between periods.

This lack of leadership extends well beyond the locker room too.

When Mike Johnston was hired as head coach this past summer, most people had no idea who he was.

He was never a head coach in the NHL, and never played in the NHL either.

He was head coach of the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

One of the main questions critics had was this: Could he garner respect in the locker room?

As the season has gone on, I believe that those critics have a legitimate argument.

This Penguin team has arguably been highly undisciplined this year.

As a team, they have lost their cool numerous times, and have taken some untimely penalties this year (mostly Steve Downie).

Coaches such as Claude Julien and Mike Babcock would call their teams out and publicly let them know.

Has there been a time that Mike Johnston has done that?

Has he been able to light a fire under this team?

I can tell you that it sure doesn’t look like it.

The loss to the Flyers on April 1 was flat out embarrassing.

I have never seen a team play as flat as they did for most of that hockey game.

The Penguins should honestly be totally ashamed by that performance.

What makes it even worse is that this team seems to be falling flat on its face right before the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It is inexcusable for a head coach to let his team play with such lackluster motivation as this Penguin team has started to do.

Injuries have taken a toll on this team and played a key factor in their struggling offense.

But that isn’t an excuse for a team to be playing with an attitude where it looks like they are just going through the motions.

It is time for somebody in that locker room to step up and take control.

My biggest fear is that player might not exist on the current roster.

And in fact, that coach may not exist either.

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