Mark Madden: Fenway Sports Group can now act pragmatically with Penguins’ roster

The ending is just a beginning. The closer you get to the meaning, the sooner you’ll know that you’re dreaming. So, it’s on and on and on, it’s refreshing Penguins notes. (Look for the answer.)

• Sidney Crosby was 100% not cleared to play Game 6. Reports that he was, but GM Ron Hextall kept him out, are false. Why would Hextall keep his top player out of a crucial game if doctors OK’d his participation? That decision gets made by medical staff and Crosby, not Hextall.

• The Penguins winning a playoff series is the worst thing that could have happened. It would have kept the idea of “one more run” alive. But that notion’s been dead since 2018. Fenway Sports Group can now act pragmatically and decisively, with no logical pushback. (Be prepared for illogical pushback.)

• Change for the sake of change is usually ill-advised. But not in the case of these Penguins. They’re stale. It’s the same players getting the same result over and over.

• The Penguins didn’t own the loss like they should. Too much talk about the helmet rule. That moment was a mere fraction of a series that saw the Penguins blow lead after lead, make stupid plays, take dumb penalties and not play winning hockey. (By the way, the helmet rule does not mandate John Marino giving away the puck.)

• Kris Letang said, “It’s a special group. It’s a group that can win anything.” Yeah, except a playoff series in the last four years. Ding dong, hello!

• Coach Mike Sullivan often talks about “playing the game the right way.” On the play that decided the series, bottom-six forward Brock McGinn had the puck. He was the last man. He turned it over. Both defensemen were lower in New York’s zone than he was. McGinn took a penalty. Not one thing in that sequence involves “playing the game the right way.” It’s flunking Hockey 101 again and again. You can’t play that stupidly, let alone in overtime.

• If the Penguins lose Bryan Rust to free agency but keep Rickard Rakell, that might be an even swap. Rust is a Crosby creation. If he goes to, say, Detroit, he might not net 20 goals.

• If the Penguins lose Evgeni Malkin to free agency but sign Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck, they would be a better team five-on-five.

• Whenever a pending free agent in big-time sports says “I’d love to stay in (insert city’s name)” and babbles about said city being his second hometown, so many friends, great teammates, terrific fans, etc., keep in mind three words unspoken: AT MY PRICE. “I’d love to stay in (insert city’s name) AT MY PRICE.” That’s all that matters. The rest is horse manure. Malkin, Letang, Rust, Rakell, all of them would love to stay in Pittsburgh…AT THEIR PRICE.

• Danton Heinen scored three goals in the playoffs, and they were all big. But you’re in trouble when you’re counting on Heinen.

• Jake Guentzel was the Penguins’ second-best player this season.

• Mike Matheson is a great talent. But he’s also a human hand grenade. He needs to make the simple play more and stick his neck out less. Pairing him and Letang after Brian Dumoulin got hurt worked out terribly. They kept getting in each other’s way.

• Don’t blame Matheson for his three own-goals in the Rangers series. That’s just bad luck.

• Marino was a sixth-round pick. The Penguins used a sixth-round pick to acquire him from Edmonton. He had a great rookie year. But before and since that rookie season, he displayed the pedigree of a sixth-round pick. That rookie season was an outlier. The Penguins need to understand what Marino is, and so does he. Marino needs humility.

• So does Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen said he needs to get his “swagger” back. Actually, he needs to score. Kapanen had 11 goals in 79 games. Babbling intangibles that can’t be quantified is the worst kind of excuse-making. There’s no guarantee that Kapanen will get a job in the NHL next season, But, if he does, his employer wants goals. Not swagger.

• Brian Burke is unlikely to be back as president of hockey ops. Fenway Sports Group is weary of him, not least his loud and profane decorum in the general manager’s box during games. What’s Burke’s job, anyway? Besides doing interviews, which Hextall hates.

• Outside of illogically extending Jeff Carter’s contract in mid-season, Hextall hasn’t done anything to merit much criticism. The notion of big roster adjustments has, to this point, been kiboshed by the Penguins’ salary cap situation. But is Hextall good enough, or will Fenway Sports Group feel they can do better? Fenway Sports Group targets elite management as a primary building block.

• Sullivan will be back, and should be. He’s one of hockey’s best coaches. But he needs a Plan B, and needs to prove he can coach lesser talent and talent that isn’t as fast as he prefers.

• Fenway Sports Group will attempt a fast makeover by being aggressive in free agency, not tank for better draft picks. They didn’t spend $900 million to own a bad hockey team. It’s possible to quickly rebuild around Crosby.

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