With Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney both out of the Penguins’ lineup for an uncertain amount of time, you have to wonder the affect it will have on the defense, but also on the team as a whole. As we all know by now, Gonchar dislocated his left shoulder and currently is out indefinitely. Surgery remains on option for the 34-year-old defensemen, which could extend his absence for a few months. Whitney is still recovering from foot surgery and is not expected to return until December. With both men missing from the lineup, the defense will undoubtedly be weaker, leading to more pressure on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Gonchar is not only a team leader, but he is one of the most offensively productive defensemen in the last decade. He also plays a vital role as quarterback on the power play. Ryan Whitney is a young and talented multi-skilled player with the potential to be a long-time all-star. These two men lead a defense that continues to grow stronger. But for an undetermined amount of time, the Penguins’ defense will lack two of its greatest supports.
Looking at last years’ defensive roster, this leaves Hal Gill, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Darryl Sydor, the new-look #7 Mark Eaton, and the 22.5 million dollar man Brooks Orpik. Okay, take a minute to breathe….we have a few other options. Danny Richmond was brought over in an off-season trade with Chicago for my boy Tim Brent…damn you Shero. But I have faith in Danny Boy. In addition, Baby Pen Alex Goligoski seems to be making himself comfortable behind the blue line as well. These two young guns may find themselves filling in for some big roles.
Gonchar and Whitney combined for 105 points last season while playing in 78 and 76 games, respectively. Richmond and Goligoski combined for 2 points (both by Goligoski) and played in 10 NHL games combined….go ahead, take another deep breath.
Whether it been Richmond and Goligoski, a veteran free-agent signing (I wonder what Kevin Hatcher is up to), or any combination of Baby Pens, whoever fills in for the two missing defensive links will have some big shoes to fill. Now as fans, we cannot expect the same numbers that Sarge and Whit produced, and understand that Flower might be a little fluttered at first. But with time, like all great teams, chemistry will develop and greatness will be achieved.
~Dan @ Pittsburgh Puck Talk
UPDATE: Gonchar has elected to have shoulder surgery and will be out 4-6 months.