Matt Cullen Looks Fucking Old


It is truly impossible to objectively say that Jim Rutherford has done a bad job as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team has won a playoff series in three of the four seasons he has been at the helm, which includes back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. I'm not going to list every move he's made as GM, but the good far outweighs the bad. The last two off seasons though, his magic has started to waver a bit. Last summer he signed Matt Hunwick, a player who hardly ever played, was crucified when he did, and was traded in a throw-away trade for cap space this summer. He also traded out of the first round of the NHL draft to acquire goon Ryan Reaves, who was then traded at the deadline to get Derrick Brassard.

So that was an 0-2 on free-agent signings last year.
So far it looks Rutherford is on pace to match that record this season as well.

The Penguins made two "big" signings this off-season, defenseman Jack Johnson to a huge five-year deal and bringing back forward Matt Cullen to a small one-year deal. Cullen was an integral role player on the back-to-back cup teams. Cullen gave the Penguins four complete lines, giving them third-line level production on the fourth line, making the Penguins a ferocious team to play against. Everything about Cullen was awesome and positive for the franchise. His teammates, coaches, management, and the fans adored him, even giving him the kind of creepy nickname of "Dad" because of his age.

In two seasons, Cullen was in the top-nine among Pens' forwards in points-per-60, Corsi For, and Fenwick. He was a legit third-line level player that the Pens basically had on the fourth line as a luxury. His production was equally impressive in the postseason where he came in the clutch multiple times.

After winning two cups, Cullen debated re-signing with the Pens, retiring, or going to his home state of Minnesota. Cullen and his family chose the latter, signing a one-year deal with the Wild.

A lot of Pens' fans wanted Cullen to return. I mean why wouldn't they? He helped the team win, the team seemed to love having him as the father-figure type locker room guy. Everything seemed so perfect. As we learn in life and especially in sports is that father time is undefeated. Cullen is 41 freaking years old.

You can easily see the trend with Cullen's decline as a regular NHL player.







Cullen's possession numbers are sinking like the fucking Titanic. 48.04 CF in the second cup season with the Pens all the way down to 40.93 last season with the Wild. Cullen played almost 100 more minutes of even strength hockey last season with the Wild and only managed two more points and five fewer goals than he did in the previous season with the Pens. Cullen was looked so old and bad last year at times that the Wild actually made him a healthy scratch.

The Wild moved on from the aging Cullen this summer, and the Pens courted him to return in a low-risk move to try to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. We've seen Pittsburgh teams do this before, and it almost never works. See Rob Scuderi for your most recent example.

Cullen is rocking a goose-egg in goals, assists, and points through five games. On top of that, he is the second worst forward on the team in terms of shot differential and possession. The fourth line, which was a strength the last few seasons, is now once again liability. They offer almost nothing in terms of production and constantly get buried in their own zone.

One can't help looking at young players like Teddy Blueger who is buried in the minors and Jean-Sebastian Dea, a guy the Pens lost via waivers to New Jersey, and think that the Pens would have been better off adding more speed and youth into their lineup. Instead, they signed a guy that looks as old and slow as his metrics would lead you to believe. By the way, Dea has three goals in four games, leads all Devils' forwards in points-per-60, and has a 51.44 CF%.

Again, I like Cullen, it's easy to see the appeal and why he's so well liked and respected. He was a big part of those cup teams and he seems like a great father and human being. But like I said before, Father Time is undefeated. It's not the biggest deal in the world if Cullen doesn't work out. He signed for the league minimum, but the Pens should at least throw Derek Grant or Blueger in there and use the older-slower-Cullen as sparingly as possible.

Follow me on Twitter @MadChad412 

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