1. 03-04 was easier to watch because there were no expectations at all.
2. The most frustrating thing to me is the sense of indifference on the part of some of the players, particularly the veterans. Case in point...Hurt or not, Gonchar has too many instances where it just looks like his loafing, especially with loose pucks. I know he might be playing hurt, but you can play hurt and still play with a sense of urgency at the same time. I've seen the same sort of thing from Recchi in the defensive zone all year. What happened to accountability with some of these guys?
3. I don't mind seeing them lose games because we all kidded ourselves into thinking this team was ready for bigger things. And they clearly are not.
4. This was a team that finished with 58 points in 2003-04. I remember criticizing some of the preseason predictions that said the Pens wouldn't make the playoffs this year because that would represent nearly a 35-point jump in the standings, and the team as constituted wasn't capable of that, especially defensively. Apparently, they were right. This team needs to come up with 24 points just to match its 03-04 point totals, and there are only 58 standings points remaining.
5. I can't, however, get down on too many of the players. Most of the guys playing integral roles on this team are skating each game against oppoents who are 8-10 years their superior. Some of them just aren't ready for that, and it shows.
6. The other sobering thing to me is to look at this and realize how far away they are from competing. Malkin will help next year, but this team still needs players who can dent the twine with some degree of regularity. Malkin and Crosby can't do it all themselves. And I hate to say it, but I'm not sure Phil Kessel is ready for the NHL next year. I like what he could bring, but I'm not sure his game is dynamic enough at this point.
7. And like some other posters alluded here, I wouldn't even know where to start with the defense. I know as much as the next fan that we need to find Chara and Redden types, but therein lies the problem. I hate to break it to some of you folks, but the reason everyone wants a d-man like Chara or Redden is because they're rare. Teams that have them aren't really rushing to put them out on the market. And if they were, they sure as hell are gonna want a lot more than Ric Jackman and Konstantin Koltsov for them. And as is the case with Kessel, I don't think Erik Johnson is ready for the NHL yet, so I don't expect the draft to yield much in terms of immediate help here either.
In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and enjoy watching Crosby, Orpik, Fleury and Whitney in Pens' jerseys. I may only have one more year to be able to do that.