Bad luck and bad decision keep Friedman from seeking regular employment
“The best plans for mice and humans. A-gley rear gang, ”wrote Robert Burns. No matter how much people plan, things often go wrong. For Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman, his plans to land a training camp job were scuttled in part by doing the right things… then doing the wrong thing.
Burns’ poem made its way into Of Mice and Men. Friedman may not be so lucky with the formation of the Penguins.
The Penguins had two potential defenders for the position on the right side of the third defensive duo. You could increase the number of contestants to three if PO Joseph performed well enough in camp to dislodge one of the defenders on the left side. Maybe even four if Juuso Riikola has played well enough to force the coaches to reassess his organizational status.
Instead, the battle for the place was reduced to Chad Ruhwedel against Mark Friedman. However, Friedman had bad luck doing the right thing on Tuesday night and bad luck doing the wrong thing on Saturday night.
The Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime, but did so mostly without Friedman, who received a gross misconduct penalty in the first period.
Much like Juuso Riikola’s bad luck last season when injuries opened the door to his best chance of winning playing time to be hampered by his own injury, Friedman’s bad luck has also hampered his success.
On Tuesday night, Friedman was shot dead when he blocked a shot. His teammates helped him out of the ice, but he came back in the second period. He was sore and missed practice the next day and did not make the Penguins preseason game Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Head coach Mike Sullivan admitted it was a setback for Friedman’s pursuit for a regular role.
“… We intended to put him in the game in Detroit. When he took that hit, it delayed us a bit, ”Sullivan said. “He would have had another game there. So it would have been nice to see ‘Freeds’ a bit more in a few other games… ”
Bad luck Tuesday and Thursday.
Bad decision on Saturday.
Friedman was defending goaltender Tristan Jarry, who received a good hump from Sean Kuraly, but instead of brutalizing Kuraly in return, Friedman speared him. The referees assessed a major and game misconduct of five minutes.
“… The explanation was that it’s pretty self-explanatory. It was what it was, ”Sullivan said. “I certainly appreciate that we stand together in these kinds of cases, but I think we need to do it in a smarter way.
After Friedman missed Thursday, hit Tuesday, he only played more than three minutes on Saturday. This isn’t the end of the camp Friedman needed to get past starter Chad Ruhwedel.
In addition to Friedan’s “bad luck”, Ruhwedel scored the Penguins’ first goal on Saturday.
“For the most part, they’ve had pretty solid camps. I think Chad Ruhwedel has a lot of work with our team. And we know his game very well and what he brings, ”said Sullivan. “Chad is a big pro when he brings it in regularly. You know, ‘Freeds’, it was unfortunate that he was out of the game so early tonight …”
No, it’s decision time for Sullivan.
The Penguins coach was often slow to comment on upcoming decisions throughout training camp, preferring to wait until the end. We are now at the end of training camp. Sunday is a day off. The team will likely take off on Sunday or Monday to begin their season Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
That means the Pittsburgh Penguins’ finals will likely take place on Sunday.
Friedman is at least the Penguins’ seventh defenseman, as the team sent Juuso Riikola to the AHL on Saturday. But Friedman was perpetually on the cusp of a regular place in Philadelphia before the Penguins claimed him on waivers last season. Friedman was set to race in the Penguins’ starting lineup until he too got injured in a wild game against Philadelphia soon after his acquisition.
Friedman scored, was tackled by Nolan Patrick, and ultimately left the game after colliding with a freight train with Patrick later in the game. He was out for weeks afterwards.
No more bad luck for the 25-year-old defender.
In August, Penguins general manager Ron Hextall conceded, in response to a question from PHN, that he would need to get creative to add additional talent to the Penguins’ blue line. Considering the high salaries rival GMs lavished on the rearguards during the offseason, Hextall’s job to add is more difficult today than it was in July.
There aren’t many defensemen burning the NHL trade block this weekend. They have become a scarce commodity.
And by default, Ruhwedel apparently won the job. Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ruhwedel was solid on Saturday night after a poor run on Thursday.
Maybe someone lucky will be a good thing for the Penguins. Luck certainly did not fall on the Ruhwedel’s competitors for the job.