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Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com

Counting The Days

November 30, 2001

Patience is a not an easy virtue. It takes work to acquire and discipline to implement. It usually isn't anybody's first option when it comes to a course of action and, in today's climate of instant gratification, it's rarely the desired approach, no matter how effective it is.

Just ask anybody who's ever counted the minutes to Christmas morning, a clock can move real slow when it wants to. This is precisely the problem, patience involves waiting and resolve. It requires determination, and many times, a staunch dedication to simply grit your teeth and see it through. In America, where accommodation and pacification are increasingly taken as somewhat of a birthright, the idea that patience still holds much value has taken quite a trampling of late. The signs are ubiquitous, 'there is no tomorrow,' 'the time is now;' even outside of gun country it's obvious this is a nation into reloading, not rebuilding.

Thus it probably shouldn't be much of a surprise that the Penguins find themselves flying under the radar screen lately. No more Jaromir Jagr, no Marty Straka, no Mario Lemieux; why go to the games, why pay them much mind, why wait for the new flock to take flight?

The reason, while not readily obvious, is that sometimes patience pays off, and that while the rest of hockey isn't paying attention, the next generation of Pittsburgh dominance could very well be forming right now.

Look at it like this, currently ten players on the Penguins are 25 or younger. Milan Kraft is 21, Kris Beech is 20, Dan LaCouture is 24 and Toby Petersen is 23. All are going through their growing pains before twenty-five. Behind them are Andrew Ference at 22 with Ross Lupaschuck at 20 and Brooks Orpik at 21 in the minors. Add to that Johan Hedberg who, while 28, should be in his prime as the above hit their stride and you've got four forwards, three defenseman and a solid netminder as a sound franchise foundation. This is without mentioning Alexei Kovalev or Marty Straka who are only 28 and 29 respectively.

In essence, it's there. Only no one is watching—at least not in person they're not, as the Penguins have only filled the Igloo to capacity twice this season.

But look at what's on the ice. This team goes down to Nashville and falls on their face only to turn right around, return home, beat the Sabres, and shellac the Devils. Toby Petersen starts off his season with a hat trick, then goes more than a week without a goal only to rebound with two in a single game. Johan Hedberg has a 39 save shutout on Tuesday and gives up five goals in less than two periods two days later. It's a lack of cohesion, a lack of confidence, and a lack of experience. All of which comes with time. All of which comes with patience.

Yes, at present, this team is leaderless, but it is not directionless. The case could—and perhaps should—be made that these are the awkward stages of adolescence for this team, where the highs are irrationally exuberant and the lows are demoralizing and devastating. Yet in every existence these are the very trials which build character and fortitude. Not every one of these youngsters will turn the league upside down, but at this stage the learning curve is great, the strides can come fast and furious, and between the tutorials of Kovalev, Straka, and Lemieux these kids certainly deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Strip it all away. Ignore the fact that the Penguins are one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL with only two more goals than Columbus (53 to 51 respectively through Thursday). Forget that their powerplay is ranked last in the league and that their former coach may take the team to court for near $1 million. Simply look at the talent and potential on the roster and in the system. Look at what this team is building, then ask yourself if, when it gels, this team be something worthwhile, maybe something even formidable.

Then ask yourself if now is when you should be paying attention, if now is perhaps the time when a little bit of patience might go a very long way.

Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and believes that right now, the Penguins really aren't very good, but the good news is that it's technically still November, and that this team is young. Brother Karsh wholeheartedly believes in the benefits of youth and he's paying attention.

Back to Karsh's Column List


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