Here are your 2013 Penguins
With a new CBA finally reached the NHL season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to take a look at what the Pittsburgh Penguins will look like when the Puck is dropped in just about a week. I will be going through Goaltending, Defense and Offense giving them a rating between 1 and 10 with 10 obviously being top notch in the NHL.
2011-2012 Goalie Stats
Marc-Andre Fleury : 42-17-4, 2.36 GAA, .913 Save% and 3 Shutouts
*Tomas Vokoun : 25-17-2, 2.51 GAA, .917 Save% and 4 Shutouts
Brad Thiessen : 3-1-0, 3.72 GAA, .858 Save%
Starting in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins is Marc-Andre Fleury who I believe will be able to bounce back after an early playoff exit against the Flyers last season. Fleury has always been a stellar Goalie when he plays less games and has a solid backup. In the back to back runs to the Cup finals Fleury played 20 games and 24 games respectively and because of that he was one of the best players on the ice night in and night out. Now with a shortened season Fleury will see close to that amount which could bode well for the team come Playoff time. Shockingly On June 4, 2012 the Penguins acquired Tomas Vokoun from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 7th round draft pick, Ray Shero quickly signed him to a 2 year deal as a backup to Fleury. Adding Vokoun helps solidify the goalie position for the Penguins, it’s going to be exciting to see how Vokoun pushes Fleury and vice versa. Brad Thiessen will undoubtedly be starting in Wilkes-Barre for the Baby Penguins, But he is NHL ready and may be used at anytime as a piece in a trade to build up the club.
* – Denotes newly added player.
Kris Letang – Brooks Orpik
Matt Niskanen – Paul Martin
Ben Love-joy – Joe Morrow
Many believe this is the weakest part of the roster and on paper that may be true. Last season the Penguins had one of the best defenses in the first half of the season, only to fall apart in the second half which unfortunately carried into the playoffs. This defense is in need of, at the very least one more top 4 d-man, especially with a shortened camp/season the younger guys like Morrow and Despres may not get a fair shot to make the team and develop properly. With a move somewhat unexpected this off season Shero traded Zbynek Michalek to the Phoenix Coyotes. Michalek had struggled throughout his short career in a Penguin sweater but people as well as myself believed that Paul Martin would be the first to go, as he has continuously disappointed the fans and organization. With that said, this Defense could shock a lot of people, if Despres and Morrow are ready than the sky is the limit for this squad.
Centers- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, *Brandon Sutter, Joe Vitale, Tyler Kennedy
Left Wing- Matt Cooke, *Tanner Glass, Dustin Jeffery, Chris Kunitz, James Neal
Right Wing- Craig Adams, Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Eric Tangradi
As the season came to a close last year one thing was obvious, Sidney Crosby was back and playing as well as he ever has in his pro career. Add that with the current reigning scoring champion Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins will once again have the best one two punch in the league. Somewhat unexpectedly on June 22, 2012 day one of the NHL Draft held in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, the Penguins traded fan favorite Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Brandon Sutter, young D-man Brian Dumoulin and the number 8 overall draft pick. At a quick glance it appeared that Carolina won this deal, and possibly they have on an immediate basis,(that’s not to say that Sutter is not a good player, he’s just no Jordan Staal.)But Sutter will be able to slide right in with this team, being a skilled 3rd line center he will play against other team’s top units on a nightly basis and play a big role on the teams impressive Penalty kill unit much like Staal had.
Undoubtedly we will see the Malkin, Kunitz, Neal line again but who does that leave Crosby with? This is Tangradi’s chance to prove he is a top 6 forward, he needs to use his size and keep his stick on the ice so Crosby can get him the puck. Dupuis is a lock on Sid’s wing as he had a career year last season and is one of the few players that can keep up with Sidney’s speed. Now don’t be surprised if a young forward named Beau Bennett makes an impression and starts off on Crosby’s line, Bennett is a tenacious player with A LOT of skill, he is everything you want in a top 6 forward, the only worry is he may not be ready for NHL play just yet.
One thing everyone needs to remember is the Penguins were #1 in scoring last season, the hole left by Staal will be filled by Sutter as well as Crosby. Scoring should not be a problem for this team, although I would like to see a top notch winger with Crosby before his 12 year contract expires.
* – Denotes newly added player.
Rumors and Final Thoughts.
For about a week or so now many rumors started swirling around the possibility of Pittsburgh and Ottawa making a deal for Sergei Gonchar to make a return to the Black and Gold. As interesting as this may seem it would only benefit the Penguins at a very low cost, as the team needs more Defensive minded D-men than Offensive minded.
The Penguins were knowingly in the hunt for Zach Parise early in the summer, unfortunately Parise decided to sign with Minnesota, that didn’t help stop the “We need a winger for Crosby!” rumor mill to keep going. Names I have heard are Jarome Iginla and Bobby Ryan. Iginla would be a nice fit with Crosby as they showed they have some chemistry in the most recent Winter Olympics, yet I can’t get the idea of Bobby Ryan out of my head. I know the Penguins would have to give up a good bit to even attempt a trade to get Ryan, but I feel that his age and his skill would be something special to watch for the majority of both of their careers.
This team is healthy, healthier than it has been since before winning the Cup in 2009. If Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero can work out the kinks with the Defense we could have another banner year and bring the Cup home to the City of Pittsburgh.
“It’s a Great Day For Hockey!”