Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Okay to Like Rob Scuderi Again

When "The Piece" was re-signed two years ago people rejoiced.  A cared of figure in the Penguins Cup run of '09 was returning!  Unfortunately, after an injury derailed his season, he became a lightning rod of criticism and the face of what was wrong with the Shero/Bylsma era.  It's time for that to change.

Last year for Rob Scuderi was not what you'd call a good one.  Not by any means.  A liability when ever on the ice after a broken ankle, it seemed his already questionable contract had become a full blown albatross.  The adored Penguin quickly saw his popularity drop faster than the Penguins dropped his contract signee, Ray Shero.

Everyone hoped that a new change in front office or head coaches meant a one-way ticket to literally anywhere but here for Scuderi.  A new coach?  A new GM?  No ties to the beleaguered blue liner?  Ship him to the lowest bidder!

Instead Rob Scuderi was kept.  It could have been a lack of of offers.  It could have been a new General Manager waiting to take stock of his new team before making any decisions.  Either way fans grumbled and groused as opening day came around with an older Rob Scuderi taking up well over $3 million of a cash strapped and cap close contender.

It was quite easy to be down on Scuderi.  By any metric, advanced or eye test, he had an awful season.  A fresh start, however, has benefitted him.  A new coach, one who knows how to use and insulate Scuderi, has done him wonders.  Fewer offensive zone starts, a focus on the penalty kill, and some sheltering has "Scuds" playing his best hockey since the Kings Cup run.

Mike Johnston has helped turned Rob Scuderi from an overpriced liability to an effective, though highly paid, third pairing defenseman who can be counted on for some leadership.  While experience can be overrated two Stanley Cups rings can be nothing to scoff at.  Far from irreplaceable in the line
up with the depth behind him in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he is now a solid place holder while youth continues to grow.

Still a pricy part of the team, still signed for too long.  Rob Scuderi is once again earning his keep as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It may not be 2008-09 Rob Scuderi.  It may not be Los Angeles Kings Cup Rob Scuderi.  He is, however, decent.  And given last year's results decent is a big step forward.

Perhaps it's a player fully healed.  Maybe it's a system that puts less pressure on him.  It could be a coach who knows how to accurately use him.  Either way, the days of Rob Scuderi being an outright liability are, so far, left behind with last year's dust.  He may no longer be "The Piece" but Rob Scuderi is, one again, part of the puzzle.
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