From the New York Post's Larry Brooks:
A year ago at the top of Entry Draft week, Phil Kessel was a Maple Leaf, Nick Bonino a Duck and Carl Hagelin a Ranger. Which is to say that in a league in which trades have become tools of last resort, Gentleman Jim Rutherford was able to pull off three of them over the course of seven months to construct what became the most dynamic line in hockey.
The Pittsburgh general manager remade his team and organization on the fly in a process that began with the July 1 acquisition of Kessel, included a coaching change in mid-December, and culminated with a Stanley Cup victory that proves championship windows that seem shut can reopen darn quickly, even in a cap world.
Going into last June’s Entry Draft, Brandon Sutter, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Nick Spaling, David Perron, Daniel Winnik, Rob Scuderi, Ian Lapierre and Steve Downie were still Penguins a couple of months removed from a first-round defeat to the Rangers. So was Mike Johnston. None was with the team by the end of January.
The Penguins did not create a template to follow on the ice as much as they perfected the one adopted by teams throughout the league that want to play with speed and with the puck. It is not just one-way speed or north-south speed on the rush. It is speed on the backcheck to negate attacks as much as speed on the forecheck to create turnovers. It is speed to the puck in both end zones to create battles to be won.
The Penguins-Sharks Stanley Cup final was all but devoid of drama. Never truly caught anyone’s imagination. Never was as competitive as the scoreboard connoted. Was not able to carve a niche in the national profile. The modicum of suspense in the series — through which Pittsburgh’s three-zone speed made San Jose look clunky, bad and out of place — was created singularly by the brilliance of Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones.
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