by Tony on 07/04/13 at 10:33 AM ET
Happy 4th of July to everyone out there. I'll be spending this afternoon hopefully watching Gerrit Cole mow down the Phillies for another win for the team with the best record in baseball, your Pittsburgh Pirates.
What a benchmark week for the Penguins. GM Ray Shero could've taken this club a completely different way. He could've traded multi-talented Kris Letang for a young D-man, top prospect and reacquire that 1st round pick that was traded to Calgary in the Iginla trade. He could have decided that the price for pending UFA Pascal Dupuis was going to be too high and elected to let Duper hit free agency.
Instead, he re-signs Letang for 8 years/$7.25 million per and Dupuis for 4 years/$15 million. He kept that core that is so often talked about together.
That's a good thing.
Well, one thing's for sure: As Capt. Jack Ross eloquently said in A Few Good Men, it's gonna be entertaining.
The Penguins are surely that. The high-flying Pens with their world-class talent pack hockey rinks around the NHL. Often times during games, you could swear you hear Sweet Georgia Brown playing in the background.
That's all fine and dandy.
The problem with all that is it doesn't guarantee a damn thing once the playoffs start. And the Penguins' fourth straight monumental playoff collapse, this time to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals, is merely the latest example of that.
So, I guess the primary question really is, what the hell is the problem?
To some, the mere fact that I'm even asking that question is a problem in itself. People love to say how spoiled Pittsburgh sports fans have become. Six Super Bowl titles in eight trips for the Steelers, three Stanley Cups for the Penguins since '91. And the Pirates. Well, we can see light at the end of the tunnel for them. I'm old enough to remember the '71 and '79 Championship teams, so there's that.
I've seen people I respect in the Twittersphere minimize the Penguins latest annual collapse, saying at least they made it to the ECF. Sure, there's some validity to that. Winning 16 games en route to the Stanley Cup is no piece of cake for anyone. Not just for the Penguins, for the other highly talented teams around the NHL on a yearly basis such as the Wings, Hawks, Bruins, Sharks, and a few others.
But therein lies one of the problems. In these last four years, you've seen the Penguins play down and lose to lesser opponents (Tampa, Montreal), lose their composure (Philly), and completely get dominated (Boston).
That leads back to the original question, is retaining the core a good thing? On sheer talent alone, sure, of course even. Moreover, these guys are still fairly young, so it's not a stretch of the imagination to see that there might still be some improvement coming in their games, no?
As we've seen though, it's crystal clear now that Pens fans must take the good with the bad with these guys. Geno Malkin and Kris Letang can be sensational one minute, and be turnover machines the next. Hell, even Sidney Crosby committed some blatant turnovers in this last playoff run.
Sounds simplistic to be sure, but the Penguins are gonna have to get back to playing a safer game without the horrible turnovers that have burned them so prominently in recent years.
Let's also throw out there that, especially in the Boston series, while the Bruins absolutely deserved the series victory, the Penguins got absolutely no breaks nor bounces. Whether that be in the way the games were officiated or the seemingly dozens of times Penguins' shots hit the post. And let's be honest, luck is a valid ingredient in winning the Stanley Cup, is it not?
So the "core" has been retained, and the complimentary pieces will start getting signed in the coming week or so. But with little cap space now available, you'd better believe those will be cheap complimentary pieces.
It doesn't appear that Matt Cooke will be retained, so does that really mean that Harry Zolnierczyk is the heir apparent pest? Really? Say what you will about Cooke's past transgressions, but the man has legitimate offensive ability. The Pens are gonna miss that.
Tyler Kennedy has been mercifully traded to San Jose. Does that mean that someone like Dustin Jeffrey will now get a legitimate chance at a roster spot? Frankly, I've never been that huge of a Jeffrey fan, especailly in HCDB's offense. I do like the fact that the Pens will have Jussi Jokinen for a full season, very underrated player. And I would also like to see what Brandon Sutter will do with a full NHL season with the Pens.
On defense, I have a feeling GMRS will attempt to add at least one veteran defenseman, I don't think he's happy with the bottom of the D-man part of the roster.
And you can't forget about the goaltending dilemna. It wouldn't surprise me if/when Marc-Andre Fleury wins another 40 games in the regular season. But as we've seen too many times now, that doesn't mean squat in the playoffs. Fleury now has two years remaining on his contract. It will get very interesting if Fleury starts to stumble this season, though.
Bylsma himself has heard a steady dose of criticism, especially after the debacle against Boston. But GMRS quickly gave Bylsma a two-year extension.
So for the most part, it's status quo for the Penguins.
The question is whether that status quo will result in the same old, same old in the playoffs. Will that be sufficient to hoist another Cup?
I just don't know.
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Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
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