One came up and one went down. It’s amazing what can happen through the course of one day. For a couple of young defenseman in the Penguins organization one day brought both reward and disappointment. One player was given a chance in the ‘big leagues,’ while the another was reminded what exactly it takes to be present on NHL ice.
Sven Butenschon had 9 goals and 10 assists in 34 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, earning the respect of both his peers and the Penguins organization. It is for this reason that General Manager Craig Patrick decided to pull him up for a game. In order to do so however, Pittsburgh had to first ship Andrew Ference down to the American Hockey League to clear a spot on the NHL roster. As odd as that may seem, Ference’s relocation to the minors was anticipated anyway. Why not give another prospect the chance to shine, even if it was for just one night?
Sven welcomed the opportunity, logging 18 minutes of ice time and finishing with a plus minus rating of plus – 1 against the Flyers, despite a 6-2 Penguin’s loss that evening (Jan. 8th). Both the coaching staff and management alike admitted to being impressed by his performance.
D -Sven Butenschon
Born: March 22, 1976; Itzehoe, West Germany
Acquired: Pittsburgh’s third choice (57th overall) in 1994 Entry Draft.
Boy oh boy is Milan Kraft looking like a draft jewel! He shows up at the World Junior Championship and dominates. Kraft ended the tourney with 5 goals 7 assists in 6 games. He helped the Czech Republic win gold, and he is a major piece in the building of the future for the Pittsburgh Penguins who seem to be rejuvenated with new coach Herb Brooks. Jaromir Jagr loves the offensive freedom. Kraft can be the total package when he adds weight to his frame, and a little knowledge defensively. Other than that, he is one year away from playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL for a few games before a call up to play with the best there is, Jagr. Alexander Zevakhin has been playing superb hockey also, collecting 5 points in 5 games, with fairly limited ice time. Alexander needs to mature up and play harder, he seems out of shape at times gasping for air after a bad shift. He plays like Pavel Bure at times, and Andrei Kovalenko at others.
It seems as though Craig Hillier is never going to get his chance like J-S Aubin. He needs more confidence and ice time in the parent league. Hillier plays like Martin Brodeur when he is confident, but most of the time no one has confidence in him, thus leaving him no confidence in himself. He can be a regular goalie when and if he is called on. Hillier should just wear number 13, because that is how his career has turned out to be. Lucky at times and unlucky at times sums it up nicely.
The year 2000 is quickly approaching. By any definition, a new millennium symbolizes abundant change. What does the future hold? Some predict it will bring the end of the world, while others, more optimistic in outlook, believe 2000 will herald the beginning of a technological golden age, the beginning of a glorious new era. For sports fans it is a chance to fondly reflect on the past, dynasties and heroes alike, and move towards a brighter tomorrow. If the legends of yesterday have been surpassed in terms of skill, imagine the significance and impact of those yet to come. Who will they be?
Michael Jordan will forever be remembered as one of the finest and fiercest competitors in basketball history. The symbol of pure brilliance and centerpiece of 6 NBA crowns, his legend will live on for an eternity. Sadly however, interest in basketball has plummeted since Jordan announced his retirement. Superstar talent still exists, but it is hard to determine who exactly caught the torch.
Kevin Constantine is an incredible coach. Few would disagree. Unfortunately, even great coaches reach a point where their words no longer effect the team. Like any other job, doing the same drill day in and day out wears on the players. They grow tired of a particular system and cry out for change. That was the case in Pittsburgh. It’s not because KC was horrible. It was simply the right time for change. Herb Brooks is offering exactly that. Labeled the “Miracle Man” for his efforts in coaching the 1980 US Olympic Team and leading them to gold, Brooks is anxious to see what he can do with a potentially explosive Penguins squad. Whether it’s a long-term solution, or not, remains to be seen, but for now it’s nice to see the Pens having fun again. And by fun I don’t mean the practices … Brooks is determined to give these guys a good workout. He would like to see them cover 100% of the ice, with quicker, shorter shifts. What I am referring to is feeling confident and feeling inspired. Removing the harnesses from players such as Darius Kasparaitis and Mathew Barnaby , who are known for their aggressive style, is a good start. They won’t only turn up the intensity, but also make room a potent offense.
A string of injuries, a struggling defense and a tremendous amount of “bad luck” tie the Pens and their affiliates together with inconsistent success. Each of them desperately needs to improve their records if they hope to make it to post season play.
The latest example of bad luck came when goaltender Tom Barrasso was handed a 4 game suspension by the NHL, for carelessly using his stick and breaking the forearm of center Yanic Perreault. Jean-Sebastien Aubin was called up from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to fill the void.
Aubin has been rather impressive this season, but is no match for Barrasso in terms of puck-handling skills. When you’re a team who struggles in the defensive zone, it’s nice to have a goalie that can play the puck. On the bright side however, Aubin did prove himself with 5 solid outings prior to being sent down to the American Hockey League.
It’s uncertain whether Aubin or Skudra will put in the most ice time during Barrasso’s absence, but Aubin is by far the favored candidate.
Pittsburgh’s loss, is now also Wilkes-Barre’s loss. They too have been left without a preferred number one. Statistically speaking however, Aubin has struggled in the American Hockey League this season. Prior to December 1st, he was 0-4. Thankfully, hard work did not go unmerited that evening as 27 saves and a team full of determination inevitably led to an overtime victory.