Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-2009: The Dawning of the Age of Experience

Hard to believe the offseason is over already. Seems like just yesterday the Penguins were two games away from The Cup.

A lot happened during the off season. A lot can be expected this year. The kids are growing up. Let’s break it down:

Ins and Outs

Gone Baby Gone

  • During the offseason we said goodbye to long time favorite and hometown boy Ryan Malone.
  • Marian Hossa pissed everyone off by signing with the Red Wings.
  • Goalie Ty Conklin follows Hossa to Detroit.
  • Up and coming Adam Hall follows Malone down to Florida.
  • Fighter George Laraque says good bye to the ‘burgh and hello to Montreal.
  • Crowd pleaser Jarko Rutuu finds a new home with the Senators.
25 to Life
  • Big contract for Malkin. Geno followed in Sid’s footsteps and kept it affordable.
  • Big contract for Fluery. Get used to seeing Flower in between the pipes.
  • Big contract for Brooks Orpik. There was some debate if Orpik would stay or go. We’re pumped he stayed : )
Still Hangin’ Round
  • Crosby (duh)
  • Pascal Dupuis (remember the Pens got him as part of the Hossa deal last year)
  • Tyler Kennedy (who just signed a contract extension)
  • Jordan Staal (contract is up next year – he needs to prove himself again)
  • Petr Sykora (good news for Geno)
  • Jeff Taffe (a pleasant surprise brought up from the Baby Pens last year)
  • Max Talbot (someone’s gotta keep the locker room entertaining)
  • Mark Eaton (back from two injuries, let’s see how long he stays healthy)
  • Hal Gill (a nice addition from last season’s trade deadline)
  • Sergei Gonchar (he’s hurt already – damn!)
  • Kris Letang (another pleasant surprise from last year)
  • Rob Scuderi (Scuds! Quiet, but plays a key role)
  • Darryl Sydor (oldest on the team – lets see how much ice time he gets this season)
  • Ryan Whitney (another defensemen on the IR list)
New Kids on the Block
  • From the Washington Caps comes winger Matt Cooke.
  • Realizing we gave up two instigators, GM Ray Shero brings on board Eric Godard.
  • From the New York Islanders comes Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan.
  • Hometown boy Bill Thomas makes it through the cuts to find a place on the 4th line. It’s been fun watching him, as my boss used to coach him : )
  • Paul Bissonnette also makes the cut to help out on the D.
Projected Line-Ups

This is year of the Sykora – Malkin – Staal line. Get ready folks, once they all get on the same page, this line is going to produce. Sykora and Malkin had a good run this year. Staal and Malkin clicked well their first year with the Pens. This will be a great chance for Malkin unite this line and start working towards that alternate captain’s spot.

What about poor Sid? Did GM Ray Shero ever find him someone to take Hossa spot? We’re hoping the combo of Satan and Crosby can make some moves this year.

Third and fourth lines? Talbot usually plays a key role here, but we could see him moving up to the first and second lines more. Eric Godard will need to fill the shoes of Rutuu and Laraque. Tyler Kennedy looks to prove he was worth a contract extension. Pens pride themselves on playing a four line system. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Troubled Times Already?

A big sore spot this year is the power play. With the loss of Gonchar and Whitney to injuries, Pens will be looking for the right combo for their power play unit. As I sit here watching the Pens vs. Sens game in Sweden, it looks like their throwing pretty much anyone out there.

We had some trouble at the beginning of last year with the power play, so this isn’t something the Pens haven’t gone through before. It’s just going to take some time to work out. We’re hoping Gonchar gets back sooner rather than later as he really is the focal point of our power plays.

Is This The Year?

As I mention in the title, this is the start of a new time for the Penguins. We’re not looking at teenagers that are new to the league anymore. We’re looking at guys who now have an idea of what it’s going to take to get back to the Stanley Cup finals.

The core of the team is locked up for the next few years. Sure they still have a lot of stuff to learn, but it’s looking more like junior year of college rather than freshman year. We’re getting more comfortable with who we are and what we are capable of.

I think this commercial sums it up nicely:

Although history is against us, don’t write off the Pens for another Cup run just yet.

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