Welcome to part two of the prelude to the THW Penguins’ season preview. Last time we covered the continued viability of Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust as top-six (or nine) forwards. Now as training camp has opened, we will discuss a number of topics.
The Legacy of the Penguins’ Core
After the Penguins built their young core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal, they were expected to string off championships at a rate not seen since Gretzky’s Oilers. In 2009, they won a Cup before they were supposed to. In 2016 they won another after years of not meeting expectations.
In the time between Penguins’ Cups, the Chicago Blackhawks owned the NHL. The team led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane won championships in 2010, 2013, and 2015. To many, the Blackhawks were what the Penguins were supposed to have been.
Blackhawks, Penguins listed as co-favorites to win 2017 Stanley Cup https://t.co/lHQ7jKuFco
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) September 14, 2016
Now that the Penguins’ core can call themselves multiple Cup winners, how does that change their legacy? For the most part, their failures are all in the past. After Crosby and company’s second Cup, they could be poised for more. No, Toews and Kane are not as good as Crosby and Malkin. Yes, there are a lot of “what ifs” that could be brought up, but they don’t matter. “Sid” and “Geno” will be in the Hall of Fame, and have their names on the Stanley Cup twice (so far), not to mention a ton of NHL and international awards.
Twenty years from now, when people talk about the current generation of Penguins’ stars, they won’t be talking about missed opportunities. They will be remembering where they were when they watched an amazing play by 87, 71, 58, and 29. Ask fans from other markets that have not seen even a fraction of as much success. I’d bet that they would take all of those “disappointing” seasons in a heartbeat.
Rest and Recovery
The World Cup of Hockey has been entertaining, but it has already taken a toll on the Penguins. Matt Murray will miss 3-to-6 weeks due to a broken hand that occurred during the tournament.
Pittsburgh played a ton of hockey last season, and will have to do the same again in order to repeat as champions. We all know that the Penguins have a fair amount of players that are injury-prone, but potential man-games lost aside, they simply needed as much rest as they could possibly get.
Can anyone really be upset with G Matt Murray (broken hand) for embracing the honor of playing for his, uh, continent?
— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) September 24, 2016
So extremely, deeply happy that Matt Murray broke his hand in a meaningful, significant hockey tournament.
— Chris Mueller (@ChrisMuellerPGH) September 24, 2016
Letang said recently that he took a full month off after the season ended, which is exactly what the entire team should have done, and more. Guys like Olli Maatta, and Malkin who had injury issues that plagued them last season played in the tournament. Given the amount of hockey played last year, fatigue would be a concern anyway, but the World Cup will exasperate the issue.
Mario Lemieux once told Ron Francis that his offseason training included not ordering fries with his club sandwich. Those days are gone. For the most part, modern athletes train year round and maintain a high level of fitness. So this may be a moot point. We all should have our fingers crossed that this is the case.
- The Murray injury reaffirms that the team needs to hold onto Fleury for as long as possible. But the Penguins are between a rock and a hard place with this. The expansion draft protection list must be submitted to the NHL by 5:00 P.M. EST on June 17, 2017, which would be just days after the Finals. So they would have no choice but to trade Fleury due to his “no-trade clause” prior to this deadline or risk losing Murray.
- This was truly the “Summer of Phil”. From flaunting the Stanley Cup in Toronto to his epic Tweet throwing shade at team USA. Don’t listen to his critics, the NHL needs more unique personalities, and Kessel certainly is that. Well done, Phil. They are just jealous.
Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.
— Phil Kessel (@PKessel81) September 21, 2016
Don Cherry on Kessel Tweet: “This is why they didn’t want him in Boston and why we got rid of him in Toronto.” No mention of Pittsburgh.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) September 22, 2016
- I’m not sure where he would fit right away, but I would love to see Jake Guentzel get an extended look with the big club. From the late season production in Wilkes-Barre to being a stand-out in the rookie camp and tournament, there is a lot to be excited about with this young forward.
- Even though the Penguins’ defense remains essentially the same, I like their potential better than last year. Justin Schultz has acclimated himself to the team’s system. Derrick Pouliot could, and should start realizing his potential. In free agency, Pittsburgh signed a lot of quality depth with guys like Stuart Percy, and David Warsofsky. The only concern is Maatta, as he has not quite been himself since coming back from his second shoulder surgery.
There is no reason to believe that the Penguins are not poised for another deep playoff run. It is definitely going to be fun to watch. How great would a Penguins vs. Blackhawks Finals be?
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.