Penguins general manager Craig Patrick has been watching training camp unfold with a close eye on all things new.
He’s had plenty to choose from: New coaches, new players, new system.
With just one game left to play in the preseason tonight in Columbus, Patrick rates this year’s camp as very competitive and upbeat.
“I think the guys themselves are very excited about not only this coming year, but the future,” Patrick said. “They can see they’re surrounded by guys that are pretty talented and they know they’re going to grow as a group.”
This is Patrick’s first experience with rebuilding a franchise, although he says that the Penguins are already well along the path. Part of the process this offseason included hiring new coaches for both the NHL and AHL levels and an additional assistant at the NHL level. Patrick said he is impressed with the way new hires Eddie Olczyk, Lorne Molleken and Michel Therrien have taken over both the Penguins and the Baby Penguins.
“They run it. I stand back and watch,” he said. “I don’t pull any strings; I’m not a puppet master. I just stand back and watch. They’re running it and they’re doing a great job. They communicate very well. l I think they’ve done an excellent job.”
While there have been some pleasant surprises at this year’s camp – 18-year-old defenseman Paul Bissonnette, who was reassigned on Wednesday, and forward Ryan Malone are just two examples – there have been some unpleasant surprises as well. Patrick refused to single anyone out, however, and apparently hasn’t given up hope, either.
“There are some people that I expected more out of that we haven’t seen yet, but it’s still not over yet,” he said.
AGED TO MATURITY
Ryan Malone is five years older than most first-timers at training camp, but the seasoning has served him well. Despite this being his first NHL camp, Malone is still with the team and played in his fifth preseason game last night against Washington.
“I think it’s kind of funny because I’m really good friends with (Colby Armstrong) and this is his third camp and he’s 20, and this is my first camp and I’m 23,” Malone said. “So the experience goes a little way. Keeps your nerves calm before the game and I’m learning that.”
RATING THE OWNER
Mario Lemieux played 20 minutes in what will be his only preseason appearance on Saturday night, which was more than enough time to lead Olczyk to an opinion of the captain’s readiness for the season.
“Absolutely,” Olczyk answered, when asked if he thought Lemieux was ready to go.
“He leads by example. When you have your best player and the best player in the world, and he works as hard as he does in practice, it becomes a domino effect for everybody. I think it was the same way (Friday) night.”
Konstantin Koltsov is the Penguins’ leading goal scorer in the preseason after Saturday night’s hat trick (4 goals, 0 assists). He’s also one of the league’s shots leaders with 15, tied with Carolina’s Jeff O’Neill and New York Rangers’ Alexei Kovalev. … The Penguins wrap up the preseason tonight in a 5 p.m. game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.