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Penguins

Shea-ved Ice: Did Tangradi Get A Fair Chance This Year?

By: Casey Shea
Eric Tangradi

Forward Eric Tangradi, who skated briefly with the big club in 2011-12, registered 18 goals in the AHL with the Baby Pens last season. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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It’s been a busy week for the Pittsburgh Penguins hasn’t it?

After getting swept in a home-and-home series with the Devils last weekend, the Penguins got right back on track with wins over the Senators, Jets and Sabres.

Amidst all that, the Penguins traded Eric Tangradi to the Jets for a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft. Less than 24 hours later, the Penguins called up Beau Bennett.

Given how Tangradi was handled this season, I really hope the Penguins don’t hold a short leash on every young forward they call up.

While he may not have helped himself a whole lot, part of me feels bad for Tangradi.

I remember feeling like the Penguins just completely ripped off the Anaheim Ducks when they acquired Chris Kunitz and Tangradi for Ryan Whitney in 2009.

Honestly, it has still been a great trade for the Penguins even without Tangradi.

There was always the hope that Tangradi would flourish alongside either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. For whatever reason, that never happened.

In 45 games with the Penguins, Tangradi only registered one goal and four assists.

You can make excuses for his first three years in the organization – maturity, skating or just not being ready for the NHL level.

However, I don’t feel like Tangradi was ever given the proper chance to succeed this season. By many accounts, Tangradi worked hard this past summer to improve his skating in order to better compete at the NHL level.

He started the season on the second line with Malkin and James Neal, but he barely got to break a sweat before he was either benched or relegated to the fourth line.

I’m not saying he was doing wonderful things on the ice, but it’s not like he was a complete disaster out there either. My biggest complaint with him was his inability to stay upright after hitting someone in the corner.

He simply looked like a guy who had no confidence. A guy who knew that one small mistake was going to have him yanked off the line or out of the lineup entirely.

Here’s a quick look at his ice time this season:

Game 1 vs. Philadelphia: 11:24 – Only forward with less time was Dustin Jeffrey (8:49)

Game 2 vs. NYR – 9:32 – Only player on the entire roster with less was Tanner Glass (9:02)

Game 3 vs. Toronto – 4:27 – Lowest on the team

Game 4 vs. Winnipeg – 9:00 – Lowest on team

Game 5 vs. Ottawa – 8:18 – Only one lower was Matt Niskanen (6:39) due to injury.

Now, special teams obviously played a small role in these low times. However, do those times look like a fair shot was given to Tangradi this season?

It’s hard to build any sort of chemistry when the thought is constantly in his head that any mistake will see his time cut.

It seems like the organizational focus on wingers shifted a long time ago from Tangradi to any number of players.

The Penguins have been looking to fill the vacant left wing spot on the second line all year. Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Zach Boychuk, Glass, Tangradi and more have moonlighted on that line.

With Tangradi relegated to the press box, the Penguins finally cut ties with him. The seventh-round pick they received for him is literally a step above a bag of pucks.

Then, the Penguins called up Bennett from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Bennett made his NHL debut against Tangradi and the Jets on Friday and looked solid. After a couple of shifts, he seemed to settle in and helped to generate some scoring chances.

However, he started the game on the third line.

If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone. Cooke started the game up front with Malkin and Neal. However, Bennett and Cooke flip-flopped lines all night long.

For the record, Bennett played 11:37 in his debut, which is more than Tangradi got in any game this season. It’s also worth noting that Bennett missed a significant chunk of time in the second period after blocking a shot to help the Penguins clear the zone amidst a pressure-filled shift from the Jets.

Bennett has also seen time on the second power play unit, which is something Tangradi did not see either.

Like I said at the start of the season, the leash was going to be short on Tangradi. It was pretty evident that it was put up or shut up time for the big winger, but the actions of the coaching staff and front office suggest his future in Pittsburgh was basically sealed before the puck dropped in Philadelphia on opening night.

Maybe a change of scenery is what Tangradi needs. Time will tell, but I just hope the Penguins are more patient with Bennett.

Through two games, Bennett has shown he has the raw potential to be a top six forward on this team. While I don’t agree with him being on the third line with Brandon Sutter and Tyler Kennedy, he seems to be taking it in stride and has had a couple of scoring opportunities that just missed.

It may not have ever panned out for Tangradi on this team, but hopefully the Penguins won’t be so quick to shuffle Bennett or other young players around in the future.

Everything takes time and it is apparent Tangradi’s ran out.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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