I agree on there being no need to start this team over from scratch. To your points:
- Bylsma's a great coach. But one thing that Laviolette did that Bylsma didn't do was make minor adjustments as the series went on. When Philly's power play was beating the Pens' PK like a rag doll, I didn't see anything to suggest that Bylsma tweaked his system to combat what the Flyers were doing. He was rigid in his PK system and, given that the Flyers were admittedly a team built to beat Pittsburgh, some tweaks to the system were required since the Flyers' system was designed to attack what they perceived to be weaknesses in Pittsburgh's PK. Their perception was correct.
- Flower's fine. I don't buy that 64 games was too many for him, and I don't buy the fatigue thing. The big difference between the Fleury who ran off something-teen straight wins and the Fleury in these playoffs was that the team left him hanging out to dry countless times in the playoffs. Sure, he gave up a softie here and there, but guess what? Every goalie does. Brodeur did in these playoffs, so did Rinne, so did Quick, and so did Lundqvist. Fleury will win games, but he can't be a duck in a shooting gallery night in and night out.
- Staal's gonna have to make a decision. The $4M he makes now is high for a third-line center. The $5-6M he's expected to get on his next contract is WAY too much for a third line center. So his decision is this: does he want to be a top two line winger or does he want to be a top two line center. If he chooses center, he's gonna have to do it somewhere else. Does he want to leave this team? I have my doubts. I expect that he'll easily make the transition to Malkin's wing, where he showed good chemistry with Geno in years past.
- Martin, for what I've seen all year, is vastly overpaid. Michalek is a shut down guy who's an incredible shot blocker. Except he didn't block many shots in these playoffs, did he? Letang, while remaining a threat with the puck, needs to focus on the defensive side of his game this offseason, too. I was impressed with Orpik's positional play and pleasantly surprised with what Niskanen brought to the table. Thumbs up for Engelland, thumbs down to Lovejoy, esecially for that horrendous giveaway to Couturier that led directly to a goal. Despres is NHL-ready, and I think Strait is too. However, moving Martin and Michalek is going to be very difficult given their salaries and contract durations. I'd love to be able to free up cap space by moving Martin and Michalek, using Despres and Strait at a much cheaper price (don't forget Bortuzzo and Morrow), and maybe getting a winger for Crosby, but moving either one of those guys is going to be a lot easier said than done.
What I think this team lacked, more than anything else, was the will to compete. I think this team began to believe its own hype and thought they'd coast into the conference finals. They forgot they had to fight, scrap, and claw tooth and nail to beat a good Philadelphia team. Until it was too late. Combine that with Bylsma's lack of adjustments and the porous defense (part of the lack of compete level) and you're left with an opportunity squandered, a summer starting way too early, and a big letdown.
However, we're not posting on LetsGoFlyers.com or LetsGoWhoeverTheChampionIsThisYear.com. We're all Pens fans. And we're all gonna be Pens fans next year. I'm excited to see if this loss, which has to feel like a huge kick in the teeth, is enough to light a fire under their collective butt next season. I hope and expect that this team's gonna come in with a big chip on their shoulder next year, especially at playoff time, and have something to prove. Not only to the fans and the media, but to themselves.