Pittsburgh Penguins

(Also posted at The Devils Advocate)

What they lost: The stigma of being a losing team. The only players they lost are Kris Beech, Matt Bradley, Michal Roszival, and J.G. Aubin. Hardly the kind of players who would be considered monumental losses.

What they gained: Hope… and a ton of it. The most notable addition to this team is Sidney Crosby. While it remains to be seen just how much of an impact he will have on the ice, it is hard to imagine this kid being a flop. The future of the NHL is a Penguin. Aside from him, Pittsburgh has completely re-tooled their team. Adding firepower are Mark Recchi, John LeClair, and Ziggy Palffy. Recchi is a leader and a terrific playoff performer. LeClair’s physical brand of hockey has taken a toll on his body, but he will be influential nonetheless. Ziggy Palffy has always been among my favorite players, right from his days with the Islanders. On defense, Pitt has added the offensive-minded Sergei Gonchar and the defensive stalwart Lyle Odelein. Providing a veteran presence in net will be Jocelyn Thibault.

Staying at home: This is Mario’s team, and he’s lacing up the skates for one more run at the Cup. Most of the other players returning are top draft picks from years past. Ryan Malone and Marc-Andre Fleury headline this group. These guys have had to wait an additional year to make a bang in the NHL… look for them to explode.

Bottom line: The Penguins will win the Atlantic. They’ll be the Cinderella story of the year. With new rules that will only make Mario’s curtain call an easier one, he will be among the league leaders in all offensive categories. This season, Crosby may not be the dominant scorer that he will one day become, but he will be very good. I can’t think of a team in the entire NHL that has done as much to improve their roster as the Pens. If Fleury isn’t spectacular in net, Thibault is right behind him and more than capable of carrying the starting load. Their mix of stunningly promising young talent and grizzly seasoned vets make this team dangerous. A dynasty could be born, or at least conceived, this season.

This article has 4 Comments

  1. Wow. That’s a pretty optimistic outlook. To win the Atlantic, Pittsburgh would need to beat both Philadelphia and New Jersey. I personally have them placed behind those two.
    Why, you ask? Simply put, Pittsburgh’s off-season additions do not adequately fill their holes. Up front, they are drastically improved, no doubt, but question marks surround Recchi, LeClair and Palffy. Recchi is two years older, and aside from an excellent 2003/04 season, has generally looked to be on the decline. LeClair is a complete question mark given his wonky back, as well as deteriorating foot speed and defensive play. When healthy, Palffy is among the best pure scorers in the league, but he hasn’t played a complete season since 97/98. Likewise, Mario Lemieux, amongst the most brilliant hockey players ever, is a constant injury risk. If these players can all avoid injury/age concerns, than Pittsburgh will be excellent up front, with Crosby and Malone also contributing on offense. Inconsistent centre Milan Kraft will be missed.
    On defense, the Penguins frighten me, and not in a good way. Gonchar and Tarnstrom both provide a fantastic offensive element, but who’s going to stop people from scoring on Thibault/Fleury? Odelein was lead-footed before the lockout, and age will continue to limit him. Ric Jackman, Brooks Orpik, Steve Poapst and Josef Melichar, although all bringing certain strengths to the blueline, don’t really look like a first-rate shutdown crew.
    In net, the situation is better. Thibault, hopefully recovered from his injury, will team with Fleury to form one of the better tandems in the league. Caron and Chiodo are both capable of NHL duty.

    With all that said, going from 15th to top three in the East will be very hard for Pittsburgh. I see them fighting for one of the final playoff spots, rather than contending for the cup.

  2. Did I go out on a limb with this pick? You bet… but I stand by it. I think the Flyers are going to disappoint a lot of people this year. Too slow, too injury-prone, and not enough talent in net. I think NJ will finish second, and I still think Pittsburgh will take the Atlantic. No one in the NHL will benefit from the new rules more than Mario, and any team with him will be immeasurably better for it. This team will win a lot of high scoring games.

    Could they miss the playoffs? Sure… their veterans are pretty old and their goaltending and defense situations are not ideal. I’m betting that their goaltending will be good enough, Palffy will have a great season, and LeClair and Recchi will be great in their roles. Craig Patrick has plenty of cap space to add another veteran D man if need be. One way or another, this will be a very fun team to watch this year.

  3. I’ll agree with you there- Pittsburgh will be a fun team to watch this season. No fans in the NHL deserved an infusion of talent more than the ones watching this team last year, and Patrick delivered. I still don’t like their d, and if Mario plays wing (or is injured), I’m not amazed with their depth at centre, but if their free agent signings play to potential, you could very well be right. I just wouldn’t bet on this team 😉

  4. Hi Everyone,

    This is Michel Dion, Former AllStar NHL Hockey player from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Played in the NHL for 12 years. Even though I am original from Canada, my Hockey Home was Pittsburgh.

    I’d just like to thank my old fans and even alot of new fans for standing behind me all of these years. You have no idea how you kept me going!

    I’d love to share with you as to what I am up to these days. I am in a business venture that has changed my entire life. No, you don’t just roll over and play dead, you go out and find something truly SPECIAL to change people’s lives. You give back to the fans, you enlighten the world.

    Don’t ever count us out.

    If you want to know what I am doing now, and how you can be a big part of it, as I have alot of interest from young and old athletes, shoot me an email, BUT GO EASY ON THE PUCK, at michelsmiraclegoji@yahoo.com

    Looking foward to hearing from ya’ll..


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