Generational talents such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin come around ever so rarely and to have one of them playing for your club is exceptional. To have both is something Pens fans have cherished since both debuts, especially after they helped return the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh in 2009. While the acquisitions they made last season have left the squad, (F) Jarome Iginla, (F) Brandon Morrow and (D) Douglas Murray, the roster has kept its core and that core is strong enough to maintain its presence as an offensive juggernaut with their top 6.
Needless to say, although the consistent elite levels of point production come from Crosby and Malkin, the Pens need to address the rest of their forward group with complementary talent. James Neal is highly talented and playing him along side Malkin makes them a deadly threat. Retaining Chris Kunitz to play along the top line with Crosby keeps the chemistry the duo has developed over the years. Former 1st round selection Brandon Sutter highlights the bottom 6 for the pens as the 3rd line C and has the ability to provide 40 pts playing in the role. A young talent such as prospect (F) Beau Bennet could surprise a few. He had a chance to play last season as a 20 year old and recorded respectable numbers logging in 11 assists in 26 games. He could provide great value since he is still on his ELC for 2 more seasons.
The old saying goes, “Defense Wins Championships.” and while they allowed Douglas Murray to walk they did acquire the services of former penguin Rob Scuderi, 2 time cup winner, ( Pitt, LA) GM Ray Shero hopes that Scuderi can provide the Penguins with a good shield for their goaltending, an issue that surfaced during their playoff run last season. The remainder of their D core consists of a key offensive talent in Kris Letang and core talent in Paul Martin. Along with the signing of Scuderi comes an addition behind the bench, strongly defensive tactician Jacques Martin makes his return to the NHL as an assistant coach to help Head Coach Dan Bylsma establish an effective lineup on both ends of the ice.
Between the pipes Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun remains the tandem for the Pens. Both goalies provide effectiveness for the team during the regular season. While some will question who should be the starter, the question is only relevant in the Pens case, come playoffs. For the regular season both will perform well, and one can expect Marc-Andre to continue his 5 year trend and put up at least another 35 win season ( last season he was on pace to log around 46 wins, assuming 66 starts).
There shouldn’t be much of an issue with Pittsburgh unless they lose both their stars to significant long term injuries, during the regular season, they will likely be the team to beat in the eastern conferences and should comfortably place in the top tier of playoff seating by April.