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The Confluence

Penguins ‘13-‘14:  Hell If I Know

I have a confession to make.

We're 11 days from the opening of training camp, and I haven't even remotely started to "get into" the start of hockey season.

Can you blame me?  The Pirates are finally at the very least not only going to have a winning season for the first time in 21 years, but have a legitimate shot at earning either a Wild Card or even a Division champtionship.  I mean, I have a sophomore in college who's never seen the Bucs go above .500, for cripes sakes.

And yeah, the Steelers are getting ready to start another season, although I would be shocked if they had a winning season.  9-7, at the very best.

So how will the Penguins fare this upcoming season?  Like the title says, hell if I know.

But read on, I'll at least throw out some half-assed bullets at ya. 

Just like last season as we ventured towards the playoffs, the "experts" are once again vaulting the Penguins high atop the odds to either win the Stanley Cup, or at least come close to it.

My question immediately became, how?

I'm not saying it's out of the realm of possibility that the Pens can't win the Cup this season.  Of course not.  They've got a plethora of horses that most teams would drool for, the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, and Letang.  That combination alone gives them a legitimate shot at a Cup.

But as we all know, the Cup isn't won with just a few players.  Your Pittsburgh Penguins prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Moreover, because of the offseason contract extensions of Malkin, Dupuis, Kunitz and Letang, the Pens' forward lineup is quickly becoming two extremely solid lines and two lines of cheap fill-ins.  And it's those peripheral players that are some of the Penguins' impediments towards winning another Cup.  But there are others, such as:

  • The very top of the list must be Marc-Andre Fleury.  I'll predict right off the bat, Fleury will come close to winning another 40-some games in the regular season, followed by yet another playoff collapse.  That may seem harsh, but is it inaccurate?  Fleury has two seasons left at $5 million per year.  He'd better get his ass in gear, and quickly.
  • The pleasant surprise free agent signing of former Penguin Rob Scuderi does help in shoring up the Pens defense, but the defensive corps as a whole is still rated as average by most hockey pundits.  Moreover, the aforementioned re-signings has now resulted in the Penguins currently being nearly $1.1 million over the salary cap.  The fans and Penguins beat writers have all surmised that this means that D-man Matt Niskanen and his $2.3 million salary are all but gone.  While I don't necessarily disagree with that, I've learned never to be surprised at moves that GMRS may or may not make.  If Niskanen is indeed dealt away, that may create a roster spot for D-men such as Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin or Scott Harrington.
  • As mentioned, who's going to fill the bottom two lines?  Matt D'Agostini?  Harry Zolnierczyk?  Chris Conner (again)? Tanner Glass?  Secondary scoring is critical, and I don't see it, at least right now.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is Head Coach Dan Bylsma.  After leading the Penguins to their fourth consecutive disappointing playoff exit, GMRS quieted those calling for Bylsma's pink card and re-signed him to a two-year contract extension.  While the extension certainly gave Bylsma a certain job security, his "system" continues to raise questions throughout the press and fanbase.

 

We'll see how the roster is pared down in the coming weeks, but I can't give an honest assessment of this year's Penguins.  Hell if I know.

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Comments

Evilpens's avatar

call me in May & I will tell ya how they did, Because the Regular season is just the preseason for them & LETS GO BUCS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Evilpens on 08/31/13 at 10:33 AM ET

Avatar

As mentioned, who’s going to fill the bottom two lines?  Matt D’Agostini?  Harry Zolnierczyk?  Chris Conner (again)? Tanner Glass?

If Fleury is problem #1, this is #1B. The bottom six on this team is the weakest it’s been since the Patrick era. I don’t really see any way to do anything about that, either, given the cap situation.

I had hoped Fleury would be bought out to give the Pens some room to maneuver, but that didn’t happen.

Eh, whatever. Worry about it later. The Pirates are good right now. Who knows if that’ll happen again in the next 20 years.

Posted by larry on 08/31/13 at 03:12 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Justin Morneau is now a Pirate too

Posted by Evilpens on 08/31/13 at 03:22 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

I am thinking the lack of depth this year will lead to a lesser season than the Pens have been accustomed to the past few years (although they’ll still be in the playoffs), but I’m hoping the cap going up a lot next year will return things to normal. If not, some major changes will be needed to allow for the quality depth they’ve had for the past few years.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 09/01/13 at 01:49 PM ET

Tony's avatar

@Larry - IMO, Fleury is a clear-cut #1….

Let’s not forget, if not for Vokoun, the Pens get bounced out of Round 1 as the #1 seed….

That said, the depth as I opined is a significant issue, and may be for the foreseeable future….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 09/01/13 at 04:05 PM ET

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About The Confluence

Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

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.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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