Due to numerous injuries the Pittsburgh Penguins were forced to callup three defensemen from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The trio is Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin and Taylor Chorney. Harrington has yet to see action, as it has been Dumoulin and Chorney who have occupied the third pairing.
The duo had a strong season down in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Mike Johnston was hoping that their chemistry would transfer to the NHL. While the pair has been adequate, the younger of the two, Dumoulin, has struggled at times. The 23-year-old prospect has 14 career regular season games played on the big stage and these two playoff games have been his first. Statistically, nothing jumps off the paper as he is struggling, but watching film, you can see it. He’s hesitant, he doesn’t trust his instincts yet and has had a serious issues clearing the defensive zone.
That’s where the Pittsburgh Penguins miss Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot the most. All three of these injured defenders are great puck movers and excel at transitions.
Dumoulin’s stat line looks like this:
- 8 regular season games played, 1 goal, 0 plus/minus and 2 PIM
- 2 playoff games played, 0 points, +1 skater and 0 PIM
Nothing looks troubling for a defender whose game isn’t focused on contributing offensively, but Chorney, has performed much better. Yet the stats don’t quite support that at first glance.
Chorney’s stat line looks like this:
- 7 regular season games played, 0 points, -1 skater, 0 PIM
- 2 playoff games played, 0 points, 0 plus/minus, 2 PIM
While there’s nothing really there, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Chorney has been a calming presence and has bailed out Dumoulin countless times. You can’t fault him for being shaky in his first two career playoff games.
It was actually Chorney’s first two playoff games in his seven-year career. Many individuals have been impressed with his performance and Pittsburgh’s management might be taking notice.
They shouldn’t be though.
While he’s a seasoned veteran and could be re-signed for very little salary cap space, Chorney not an NHL player. The former second-round pick has proven to be a serviceable callup for short bursts, but not for the entire season. Look back to 2009-10 when Chorney played in 42 regular season games, the highest of his career; he netted 3 assists and was a minus-21 skater.
He has only been asked to play at the NHL for a few games at a time and it’s worked. Management needs to look back on his track record and realize that his strong performance now can not be counted on for next season.
The Penguins have perpetually had salary cap issues and a big way to address this issue is by playing their young defenders who are on entry-level contracts. Guys like Pouliot, Ollia Maatta, Harrington and Dumoulin, all should be given a chance to earn a starting spot before the (soon to be) 28-year-old defender.
With veterans Paul Martin and Ehrhoff potentially leaving via free agency, there is a huge hole on the blue line. It is unwise to begin playing all of your defensive prospects at the same time and with Letang recovering from the fourth concussion of his career and having no timetable for recovering, who will mentor the young guns? It certainly won’t be Ben Lovejoy, Ian Cole or Chorney.
Martin must not be allowed to leave Pittsburgh. He’s the catalyst for Letang and the blueline. This offseason the best course of action is to let Ehrhoff and Chorney leave as free agents. If for some reason management wants to keep Chorney, he needs to be on a veteran minimum two-way contract and spend the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
There simply isn’t room on the NHL roster and blue line for Chorney to be given a starting spot in the lineup. He can’t maintain this level of play for an entire campaign. He’s doing the best he can and Pittsburgh needs it now, but not moving forward.