Brandon Sutter has been in a very difficult position over the last few weeks.
Almost every trade rumor that came from the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ front office involved Sutter being the main piece shipped out of town. It had to have been disgruntling for Sutter to be constantly reminded that if the Penguins were going to improve their roster, he would be the expendable piece.
Sutter came to Pittsburgh from the Carolina Hurricanes as a part of the trade that allowed Jordan Staal to go play with his brother Eric. No one expected Sutter to have the same presence as Staal, but the main struggle for the Penguins since the trade has been their lack of scoring prowess from their bottom-six forwards.
Staal was a player that did it all for the Penguins – he scored, killed penalties, played the power play and blocked shots. Sutter is a solid penalty killer and excels in the defensive zone, but his lack of offense has placed a heavier burden on Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Evgeni Malkin to produce.
If you compare Staal’s and Sutter’s production in Pittsburgh, the difference offensively isn’t even close. Sutter has played 109 regular season games with the Penguins since coming over from Carolina and has 40 points with a plus-5 rating, which isn’t terrible for a third line player.
Compared to Staal however, it is. Staal played 102 regular season games (shortened due to injury) in his last two seasons with the Penguins. In those games, he had 36 goals, 44 assists and a plus-18 rating. He had exactly double the points of Sutter in seven less games — the point being that in 2009 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, a huge reason was because of the depth they had at the center position.
With the trade deadline passed and Sutter still in Pittsburgh, he has now been given the opportunity to prove himself with the organization. Sutter’s contract expires at the end of this season, and his play from here on out will really determine whether or not GM Ray Shero wants to try and re-sign him in the offseason. Hopefully, Sutter uses the recent adversity as motivation and he hits the ice harder than ever.
To be clear, the last thing I’m saying is that Sutter is not important to the winning equation for the Penguins; he’s far from it. He’s a main reason why the Penguins’ penalty kill is one of the best units in the NHL, and his goals always seem to be timely. Last season, five of his 11 goals in the regular season were game-winners.
Sutter is only 25-years old and has yet to peak, but he can’t take all the trade rumors personally. Coming from someone who was a part of trade talks throughout junior hockey, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but you just can’t let it get to you. You have to keep playing for your teammates.