Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

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Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby Bowser on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:11 pm

As the world of NHL hockey reacts to the news of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has been agreed to in principle, it is time to ditch the lawyers and empty suits for real hockey discussion. In Pittsburgh, the excitement of Sidney Crosby returning after a short-lived playoff appearance at the hands of the cross-state rivals in Philadelphia is the biggest question heading into the season. Can Crosby stay healthy for a full season? Can he go into the corners with the same ferocity as he did pre-concussion? Can he return to the same player who was producing 1.61 points per game during the 2010-11 season or last season's 1.68 points per game?

Over Crosby's last 63 regular games and 6 playoff games, he's scored 43 goals and assisted on 68. That's a 1.61 points per game. If the Penguins can get that same production, it will go a long way towards helping cover up other deficiences on the team.

How does Head Coach Dan Bylsma adjust with no longer being able to instinctively call Jordan Staal's number for the top penalty-killing unit, top even-stregnth matchups and getting those important game-changing goals? General Manager Ray Shero believes he's addressed the third line checking cente position by acquiring Brandon Sutter from Carolina as part of the Staal trade. Sutter's hockey card wouldn't exactly lead to think he's going to be the same goal scorer as Staal but in Pittsburgh with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the top two lines, Sutter just has to maintain his career norms around 17 goals per season.

Sutter's most important role is helping the Penguins fix a penalty-kill unit that really struggled and were exposed by the Flyers in the playoffs, some of which the team didn't think Staal did very well in the playoffs. Sutter averaged 2:20 short-handed minutes per game last season for Carolina, while Staal averaged 2:38 for the Penguins. Another aspect the Penguins hope to see improvement should be in the faceoff circle as Staal won 51% in 1,158 attempts, while Sutter won 50.5% in 1,295 faceoffs but the Penguins feel Sutter's ability to handle a bigger workload should help late in games matching up with Crosby on defensive zone faceoffs as Sutter is a right-handed shot and Crosby a lefty.

The Penguins should have a more effective role player on the fourth line with the free agent acquisition of former Winnipeg Jets left-wing Tanner Glass. He averaged 1:47 short-handed time on ice per game last season, which the team should see immediate depth as guys like Arron Asham and Eric Tangradi received no time on the penalty-kill in the playoffs or regular sesaon. Glass led the Jets with 246 hits, tenth in the NHL. The 246 hits would have been the top forward on the Penguins as Chris Kunitz led the forwards with 180 and second on the team behind defenseman Brooks Orpik's 259.

Glass' acquisition could be more valuable if the team decides to use him on the third line and give left wing Matt Cooke an opportunity to show what he can do on a line with Crosby or Malkin. Cooke played well with Crosby and Pascal Dupuis during a brief stretch of games during Crosby's return from his concussion. Cooke had a career high 19 goals last season and with the team looking for someone who can skate, score some goals, and provide a little jam in the corners retrieving the puck for the more skilled forwards, it isn't out of the question for Bylsma to at least try Cooke in a top six role, especially if Tangradi, Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey, or Beau Bennett can't secure the job at the start of the season.

The early favorite would appear to be Kennedy as an off-wing shooter but due to his lack of play-making skills as a passer and size, there are many doubters as to whether Kennedy can do the job on a line with Crosby or Malkin. As the season winded down, Jeffrey was a curious occupier of Bylsma's doghouse and it isn't like Jeffrey has the veteran experience to be able to get off to a slow start.

If few expect much production from Kennedy or chances for Jeffrey, you have to wonder what Tangradi is going to do with what is likely his final opportunity as a top line winger with the Penguins. He started off the season in the AHL on a mission to prove he is still a prospect but slowly since November, he's doing the same things that have many fans and scouts questioning whether he'll ever realize he must use his size to forecheck in the corners and win the battles around the net. He'll never score goals from the top of the circles or fly around the ice but when you get in close as a power forward, you don't peel off the hit. I suspect Tangradi gets a quick look and see at the start of the season and if he fails to change his ways, he'll be pushed to the press box or back to the AHL, waivers, or trade candidate.

While Tangradi is on the edge of his final opportunity, fans are excited to see what Bennett, a former first round pick in 2010, can do as a rookie. In fact, Bennett could be the team's lone top line forward prospect at any level. He's a shifty right-handed shooting left-winger that plays well with the puck as a shooter. The knock on Bennett has been lack of size and strength, which might lead to being injured more than the team might want in a short season. You have to expect Bennett with his early pro success in the AHL, especially on the power play, and the offseason comments by Bylsma about Bennett getting a chance to win the job, is a good bet as any to have the job come the start of the season.

As Bylsma hopes for one player to take the bull by the horns and take the final top six position at forward, he has to feel much better about his forwards overall than what he's been given by Shero to start the season on the blue line. The Penguins defensemen were a worn out, beaten, and defeated group after the playoff loss to the Flyers as not one of the defensemen played up to their ability.

Shero traded Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix for defense prospect Harrison Ruopp, goaltender Marc Cheverie and the 81st overall draft pick, which they selected center Oskar Sundqvist. After the draft, some were hopeful the Penguins would go after Nashville defensemen Ryan Suter via free agency and though the Penguins attempted to sign both Suter and former Devils forward Zach Parise, both opted to play in Minnesota.

That leaves a late season unit that struggled relatively intact and heavily reliant on Paul Martin to rebound from his season long slump and a few younger players to step up. Martin will be joined by Orpik, Kris Letang, Matt Niskanen, Ben Lovejoy, Deryk Engelland and Brian Strait. If Martin is not moved, the final three spots are opened for competition with Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres ready to push their way to the NHL.

Unfortunately, Despres hasn't separated himself from the pack as he's struggled for the past two months in the AHL, so it is possible that he starts the season in the AHL.

If Shero feels like many of the fans, it is very possible the team uses their excess youth on the blue line and cap space to go get a veteran defenseman that can play in a top four role. One of the names already attached to the team via a trade is Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar. If Ottawa decides this season is a rebuilding year and Gonchar in the final season of his contract, they might opt to move Gonchar for a younger defenseman.

Acquiring Gonchar could address the need to have an option on the power play as the team was unable to find the right mix between Malkin and Crosby, some of which could have been related to the inconsistency of Letang at the point. Even if Gonchar is acquired, he doesn't exactly address the team's need to fix a penalty-kill unit that couldn't block shots, clear the net for the goaltenders to see the puck or win the battles along the board, especially behind the goal line.

The hope to see an improved penalty-kill could be traced to the belief your number one penalty-killer is your goaltender and in the playoffs, Fleury was nowhere near a brick wall.

I expect a bounce back performance for Fleury and that's due Shero's decision to go get Tomas Vokoun, a veteran goalie capable of being a starter in the NHL. The competition should be healthy and in a short season, a 30-20 split just the right mix to have Fleury primed and ready for a long playoff run.

Finally, Bylsma has spoken about making some adjustments in the way the team plays in different situations and after a few disappointing finishes, if the team struggles, the coaches seat might be a little warm this season. Expectations are what they are in Pittsburgh, Stanley Cup or bust. This season is no different and with a strong cast of superstars, it is Cup or bust.

------------

Projected training camp roster

Forwards
1st: Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
2nd: Beau Bennett - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
3rd: Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
4th: Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Bench: Eric Tangradi - Dustin Jeffrey

Defensemen
DP: Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
DP: Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
DP: Matt Niskanen - Ben Lovejoy
Bench: Brian Strait - Simon Despres - Robert Bortuzzo

Goaltender
Starter: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Tomas Vokoun
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby FreeCandy44 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:16 pm

Very good read....
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby DudeMan2766 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:36 pm

I didnt read thru it, I will when I have time tmw, but I'm of the belief its not so much this season, but we MUST win at least one more Cup while we have Sid, Geno, Letang, Neal, Fleury, Orpik all together at once or it will be an insane waste.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby Coy and Vance on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:37 pm

:thumb: Great Job!
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby Bowser on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:41 pm

FreeCandy44, Coy and Vance - thanks

I'm efforting to get the home schedule...
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby offsides on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:45 pm

Coy and Vance wrote::thumb: Great Job!


Yeah, thanks Bowser.......good read.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby danish_penguin on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:50 pm

Exellent post! :thumb:
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby netwolf on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:52 pm

Excellent read. Too bad I'm going to have to delete it, then suspend you for outdoing me. :twisted:
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby Bowser on Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:58 pm

Net - Sorry, I've been like a caged animal with this lockout.

danish, offsides - Thanks
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby ulf on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:00 pm

Nice write up. I didn't realize Bennett had that great of a chance this year. Looking forward to seeing who takes that top 6 spot.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby stopper40 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:00 pm

Great read.

It's so nice to be reading about what's going to happen during the season instead of everything about the lockout. I, for one, am giddy
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby Sarcastic on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:12 pm

Yeah, nice posts, Bowser and netwolf. A little long, but both went well with my banana cake.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby pcm on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:12 pm

Great preview. A couple thoughts:

1. I wonder if Adams doesn't lose his job this season.

2. I would guess that Kennedy gets "upgraded" this season (ie. replaced with a 2nd line winger, and Jeffrey or Tangradi takes his spot on the 3rd.)

3. I really hope Shero / Blysma give ice time to the rookie dmen. If they don't start getting NHL ice time, then this organization is going to have a serious backlog on defense developmentally, which nullifies their whole drafting philosophy.

4. Everyone's praising Vokoun's addition for this shortened season, but it seems to me that his value would be greater in a full year, when Fluery needs more rest. Am I missing something?

5. Play Malkin on the PK. I bet he beats Jagr's 78 pts in '94.

6. The Penguins are just another contender. Cup or bust should be the mentality for the lockerroom, but its really all about continuing to develop the players in the organization so that the team is improving its position as a contender for the next decade with Sid and Malkin on this team. They should have a shot every year with those two.

My guess is, this year is a transition year. They've lost Staal and added Neal. Sid 2.0 is here (hopefully to stay). They need to develop their organizational depth at defense into an asset at the NHL level. They're just at the beginning of that this year. The supporting cast is getting old. New players will need to take significant roles there. Of course, they've got a shot, especially in a shortened season. But I guess that next year will be a better one for these Penguins.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby KG on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:23 pm

Trade deadline April 5th! let's roll...

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl-lock ... _deadline/
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby Bowser on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:30 pm

hopefully they stick to April 5 and not 6th or 7th...
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby BigMcK on Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:49 pm

Seems so strange not seeing Staal's name as the third line center on any of these roster posts.

:-(
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby beLIEve on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:02 pm

pcm wrote:4. Everyone's praising Vokoun's addition for this shortened season, but it seems to me that his value would be greater in a full year, when Fluery needs more rest. Am I missing something?


Yes, there are less games, but even in a full season, this is the part of the schedule where you need your backup goalie to steal games. In a full season, October/November/December aren't particularly heavily scheduled months. Sure, there are anomolies, but by and large, the majority of the games are played in the latter half of the year. Several 3 game in 4 night scenarios, 4 games in 6 nights, etc. The amount of those is only going to increase given that they're going to have to add additional games to what was already a packed schedule. A quality backup becomes more valuable as the amount of 3 games in 4 nights situations increase.

Here are some examples of rough stretches from the schedule as it stood prior to the lockout (defined as 3 games in 4 nights or 4 games in 6 nights). You can imagine a lot of these dates will stay similar, even if the opponents changes.

Sat, Jan 19th, 2013 at Minnesota 09:00 PM Xcel Energy Center
Mon, Jan 21st, 2013 Calgary 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Jan 29th, 2013 at NY_Islanders 07:00 PM Nassau Veterans Memorial Colis
Thu, Jan 31st, 2013 at NY_Rangers 07:00 PM Madison Square Garden
Sat, Feb 2nd, 2013 Ottawa 01:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Feb 5th, 2013 New_Jersey 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Fri, Feb 8th, 2013 Montreal 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Sun, Feb 10th, 2013 Los_Angeles 07:30 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Feb 12th, 2013 Philadelphia 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center

Fri, Feb 15th, 2013 at Winnipeg 07:00 PM MTS Centre
Sun, Feb 17th, 2013 at Buffalo 12:30 PM First Niagara Center
Mon, Feb 18th, 2013 at Carolina 07:00 PM PNC Arena
Wed, Feb 20th, 2013 Philadelphia 07:30 PM CONSOL Energy Center


Sat, Feb 23rd, 2013 at Montreal 07:00 PM Bell Centre
Sun, Feb 24th, 2013 Tampa_Bay 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Feb 26th, 2013 at Florida 07:30 PM BankAtlantic Center
Thu, Feb 28th, 2013 at Tampa_Bay 07:30 PM Tampa Bay Times Forum


Sun, Mar 3rd, 2013 at St._Louis 07:30 PM Scottrade Center
Tue, Mar 5th, 2013 at NY_Rangers 07:00 PM Madison Square Garden

Thu, Mar 7th, 2013 at Carolina 07:00 PM PNC Arena
Sat, Mar 9th, 2013 at Toronto 07:00 PM Air Canada Centre
Sun, Mar 10th, 2013 Buffalo 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Mar 12th, 2013 NY_Rangers 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center


Sat, Mar 16th, 2013 Buffalo 01:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Sun, Mar 17th, 2013 Boston 07:30 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Mar 19th, 2013 Florida 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center


Fri, Mar 22nd, 2013 NY_Islanders 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Sun, Mar 24th, 2013 Philadelphia 07:30 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Mar 26th, 2013 at Philadelphia 07:00 PM Wells Fargo Center
Thu, Mar 28th, 2013 NY_Rangers 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Sat, Mar 30th, 2013 NY_Islanders 01:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Mon, Apr 1st, 2013 Toronto 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Wed, Apr 3rd, 2013 at NY_Rangers 07:30 PM Madison Square Garden
Fri, Apr 5th, 2013 Boston 07:00 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Sun, Apr 7th, 2013 Washington 07:30 PM CONSOL Energy Center
Tue, Apr 9th, 2013 at Philadelphia 07:00 PM Wells Fargo Center
Thu, Apr 11th, 2013 at Tampa_Bay 07:30 PM Tampa Bay Times Forum
Sat, Apr 13th, 2013 at Florida 07:30 PM BankAtlantic Center

Plus, again, add in 10 more games to make it 48. Even if you put some of those over what should have been the allstar break, and you tack a few on at the end, you still have to add some into the middle of that schedule, making more required Vokoun starts.
Last edited by beLIEve on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby relantel on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:20 pm

Much easier to read here than on the twitter link on the phone ;)

Great read though, Bowser - appreciate your sharing. It is great to be able to talk about these aspects of hockey again!
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby DelPen on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:49 pm

I have no expectations except making the playoffs this year. There are some serious questions with the coaching staff and some current players on the roster. There are also big holes that need filled hopefully by some younger players. This will, for me, be an extended camp. If some players can prove their worth and youn g guys step up then I think Shero can contrinue forward with his plan and make tweaks for next year and then with good planning 2015 will be a must win year when the cap proabbly goes down to where good teams need to scramble and make hard cuts.

If our vets continue to decline and we get no improvement in youth we will have serious problems for several years.
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Re: Is it Cup or Bust (Season Preview)

Postby thepittman on Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:26 pm

DelPen wrote:I have no expectations except making the playoffs this year. There are some serious questions with the coaching staff and some current players on the roster. There are also big holes that need filled hopefully by some younger players. This will, for me, be an extended camp. If some players can prove their worth and youn g guys step up then I think Shero can contrinue forward with his plan and make tweaks for next year and then with good planning 2015 will be a must win year when the cap proabbly goes down to where good teams need to scramble and make hard cuts.

If our vets continue to decline and we get no improvement in youth we will have serious problems for several years.

I think we are in a great position this year, as well as the rest of the hockey community. I hope were not all wrong :pop:
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