Better luck next year: Ron Hextall's reign of error with the Pittsburgh Penguins was brief, but damaging
The Pittsburgh Penguins playoff streak is officially over.
Welcome to Better Luck Next Season. As each NHL team gets eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for them. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the 16th team on our list and it comes as the team saw its 16-year playoff streak come to an end.
When it comes to the disappointment that was the 2022-23 Pittsburgh Penguins, and the complete and total failure that was Ron Hextall’s brief time as the team’s general manager, I keep coming back to these facts.
This season was the first time in their entire careers that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both played a full 82-game schedule in the same season.
They did so while combining to cost just $14 million against the salary cap, a steal for what they were still able to produce.
Taking that one step further, the Penguins did not have a single player count more than $9 million against the salary cap. They only had one player (Crosby) count more than $7 million against the cap, and of the top 105 cap hits in the NHL the Penguins only had one player (also Crosby).
Despite their ages, Crosby and Malkin were still outrageously productive, both finishing among the top-25 scorers in the league.
Getting two players of that caliber, signed for that cheap of a price relative to their production, and having them both play a full schedule should be an enormous advantage when it comes to building a hockey team. There is no excuse to miss the playoffs with that foundation. Doing so means only thing: Your front office not only failed, but was completely incompetent in building around them.
What went wrong for the Penguins
It was a pretty extensive list.
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