The Pittsburgh Penguins finished last season first in the Metropolitan Division and second in the Eastern Conference. The offense, of course, was one of the strongest in the league, but their defense was still inconsistent. And it remains that way. Not only that, the offense looks like will be a little weaker. Also, they have an unproven coach and someone in the front office who has lost sight of the game. I know that just from experience. I believe they have some problems heading into this season.
First off, let me just say that firing Dan Bylsma was a bad move. He’s the winningest coach in Penguins history, and has lead them to two straight Cup appearances, winning one. They fire him because, what, they haven’t won it in five years? To me that makes no sense when they’ve made the playoffs for 7 straight seasons, being one of the top teams in the league. Take for instance the San Antonio Spurs, a model franchise. They have probably the best coach in sports. Until this past season, they hadn’t won the NBA Championship in six years. Did they fire Greg Popovich? No, because they always had a chance, winning 50+ games each season and being one of the top seeds. It’s difficult to win a championship, especially the Cup. I believe Bylsma was criticized too much. I guess we’ll see what this new coach can do.
A couple problems I see come from the losses of of Jokinen, Neal, and Niskanen. The Penguins lose a combined 60 goals without them. The Jokinen-Malkin-Neal line was one of the most lethal this past season. They want to make it to the Stanley Cup again, so securing Jokinen would’ve been step one. He’s a playoff performer, scoring big goals and leading the team in scoring during the playoffs. Now Hornqvist and Erhoff can give them 30 goals, but that still leaves a loss of 30, as well. That can make a huge difference. They were a +42 in goal differential; without those goals, that leaves them only a +12. Maybe add Spaling to the mix and they lose 20. They would lose 10 goals on the powerplay, which was the best in the league. That loss of scoring would possibly have them lose 10 points in the standings. The continued inconsistency of the defense doesn’t bode well, either. The loss of Orpik worsens it. Right now, they seem similar to the Washington Capitals of last year, just in a little better position. By that I mean they don’t have great defense, and have two big scorers, but not much else after that.
Another problem with losing Jokinen, as well as Vitale, is the loss of two good faceoff men and penalty killers. Along with scoring, they also lose a physical presence with Neal, although some say he is dirty. Anyone can turn dirty on Pittsburgh, though; he was still an important asset in physicality and scoring. The same with Orpik; he can be very undisciplined sometimes, but still brings a good physical presence. Acquiring Steve Downie brings back some physical play, but he doesn’t bring the same play he did with Tampa Bay. He also is injury prone, not playing a full 82 games once in his career.
The one very good move was re-signing Brandon Sutter. He is a very good face-off man and penalty killer. He can bring a good amount of scoring, especially for a third-line center. He was up there with Jokinen as the best player for them in the playoffs.
I don’t think they’ll be as strong, but with the way the Metropolitan division is, they will probably end up first. Depending on how the Rangers come out, though, they could find themselves in second. One question, though; if they turn out to be just as good or even better in the upcoming years, but don’t win the Cup, will this coach be fired?
5 questions for Sidney Crosby: