Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Q: I'm really getting sick and tired of Ryan Whitney's nonphysical play. Here's a guy who's got great size and whimpers in the presence of smaller players. I know not all guys are physical, per se, but you have to clear the net, period.
MOLINARI: Whitney is having a disappointing season -- he's been pretty ordinary offensively for a guy coming off a 59-point season, and ineffective around his own net much of the time -- but anyone who expects him to play a physical game simply hasn't been paying attention. He's got good offensive skills, and those were the reasons the Penguins invested a first-round draft choice in him and gave him a six-year, $24 million contract last summer. Whitney's size (6 foot 4, 219 pounds) aside, he never had been one to play the body, and probably never will be.
That doesn't absolve him of responsibility for contributing in his own zone, however, whether he does it primarily with positioning or anticipation or reach or whatever. After all, a defenseman doesn't have to crush people to be an asset in the defensive end, and that is the primary responsibility for someone playing that position.
Still, it was an interesting decision by coach Michel Therrien to single out Whitney for criticism after the Penguins allowed a 3-1 lead to become a 4-3 defeat in New Jersey Monday. No question Whitney was guilty of a few lapses, but he hardly was the only one who sputtered after the Penguins appeared to take control of the game.
Therrien hardly is the first coach to publicly call out a prominent player but, assuming his comments after the game were premeditated, it wasn't clear if he was hoping to motivate Whitney by publicly embarrassing him or attempting to galvanize his players by getting them to rally behind Whitney after he was subjected to such a harsh public tongue-lashing.