It’s a good thing the City of Pittsburgh has some of the best hospitals in the nation. Both the Steelers and Penguins have seen some of its biggest contributors suffer major injuries that could have devastating consequences on their respective seasons.
The losses of Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad have completely devastated the team’s once impressive depth at center, leaving Sidney Crosby as the only reliable man in the middle for a team looking to make its 14th straight trip to the postseason. Both players are expected to be out indefinitely and with no time table for either player’s return, that can’t make planning for the future any easier on the team’s management.
Forwards Sam Lafferty and Andrew Agozzino have been called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to help fill the void. Lafferty, a Pennsylvania native, looks NHL-ready after leading the Baby Penguins with a team-high 36 assists. He also finished second on the squad with 49 total points. Agozzino, who came to Pittsburgh from Colorado, saw action in 11 games this past season. He had a goal and an assist over his time in the league, while also setting team highs in goals, assists and total points for the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League.
Lafferty is more of a true center, so look for him to see more time in the middle of the line. However, if Malkin and Bjugstad are out for an extended period of time, the Pens may be forced to look outside the organization for some help.
Speaking of bringing in outside help, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be doing just that to bring in a backup to the backup quarterback thanks to a head injury suffered by Mason Rudolph. For a team that was still learning to live without the services of Ben Roethlisberger, the noticeable improvements of the second-year signal caller were more than encouraging. To have him go down for an extended amount of time would be devastating to the team and its fans.
To be fair, rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges was pretty low on the totem pole in terms of reasons for the Steelers falling to Baltimore and seeing their playoff plans take another shot to the gut. He completed seven-of-nine passes for 68 yards and ran the ball twice for 20 yards after taking over for Rudolph.
Veterans like Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan and Tom Savage are out there and could see a tryout or two soon. Much like Malkin and Bjugstad with the Penguins, just how many of these signings get made will be tied to the length of Rudolph’s head injury.
Even the Pirates, who are once again watching the Major League Baseball postseason at home, are seeing some surgery taking place on the management side of things. After Clint Hurdle’s dismissal, perhaps the most beloved member of his staff, pitching coach Ray Searage, was shown his walking papers.
For a few years, Searage was seen as a sort of pitcher whisperer who could reclaim and reinvigorate the careers of some of the most promising arms in the world. Searage’s work with AJ Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez made him famous leaguewide and seemingly bulletproof in the eyes of Pirates fans.
However, he has developed more of a reputation on the other end of the spectrum in recent years. While being able to work miracles with older players, Searage never seemed to get the most out of his youthful studs. Highly touted pitchers like Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham have all left the team following underwhelming showings in Black and Gold and seemingly reaching their potential.
Cole, the most ballyhooed of those names, just may fulfill his Hall of Fame potential. He could hit the jackpot with a World Series title and Cy Young award by the time this season comes to a close.
These are some rough days for the Black and Gold for sure. Hopefully those injuries on the field and ice won’t linger for too long a period of time. When it comes to the Pirates, even more heads could be rolling before spring training comes around again.