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Pittsburgh Penguins: 10 Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios in 2012-13

Thomas BonifaceCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins: 10 Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios in 2012-13

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    With the NHL season supposed to be upon us, it is time to take a look at possible best- and worst-case scenarios for one of the best teams in the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Since the acquisition of Sidney Crosby, the Pens have been consistently one of the best teams in the league.  They have made the playoffs in six out of the seven seasons he has been in the league.

    Not only do they have Crosby, arguably the best player in the league, but they also have another superstar in Evgeni Malkin.

    As a result, the Pens are consistently one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

    I will give you a list of possible best- and worst-case scenarios for the Penguins heading into the 2012-2013 season.

Best-Case Scenario: There Is an NHL Season This Year and the Pens Win The Cup

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    Obviously, this has to be one of the best-case scenarios for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The Pens consistently have one of the best teams in the league and have made the playoffs each of the past six seasons.  In three of those seasons, they made it past the first round and in two of those seasons, they went to the Stanley Cup Finals, winning once and losing once.

    The best thing that could happen for the Pens would be the NHL lockout ending.

    Lockout ends.  Pens play hockey.  Pens make playoffs.  Pens win the Cup.  Simple.

Worst-Case Scenario: The NHL Lockout Forces the Cancellation of the Season

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    Contrary to the first slide, the absolute worst-case scenario for the Penguins would be the cancellation of the NHL season.

    Without an NHL season, the Pens can't play and, thus, cannot compete for a second Stanley Cup title in the last five years.

    But that isn't the only thing that could go bad for the Pens because of the lockout.

    With the players locked out from the NHL, several players like Evgeni Malkin have gone on to sign contracts with teams in other leagues outside the U.S.

    With players deciding to play abroad for other teams, the NHL teams' staffs and doctors cannot ensure that their players are getting top-notch medical treatment in the event of an injury.

    Without this, the Penguins can't ensure that their players will be fully ready to play NHL hockey (whenever that may be).

Best-Case Scenario: Sidney Crosby Shakes off His Concussion Problems

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    Of course, this scenario is only possible if the NHL season isn't cancelled.

    Assuming the NHL does have hockey this year, nothing could possibly be better for the Pens than having their star player fully recover from his concussion problems and play a full season.

    Crosby is arguably the best player in the league, and when he is on the ice, he makes everyone on the team better, especially Evgeni Malkin.  When the two of them play on different lines, which they often do, teams are forced with the tough decision of which player to focus their efforts on.

    And that tough decision they force upon opposing teams only helps the Pens score goals and win games.

Worst-Case Scenario: Crosby's Concussion Symptoms Resurface

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    This scenario could happen with or without the lockout.

    It is no secret that Sidney Crosby has had problems the past couple of seasons fighting off concussion symptoms.  It has kept him off the ice for the better part of two seasons.

    After a failed attempt to come back full-time last November, Crosby finally returned later in the year, as the Pens made their usual late-season playoff push.  He appeared to have shaken off his concussion problems through the playoffs.

    However, one awkward hit to his head and Sid the Kid could be done forever.

    I don't need to tell you how bad that could be for Pittsburgh.

Best-Case Scenario: Evgeni Malkin Can Opt out of His KHL Contract

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    Evgeni Malkin is one of the best hockey players in the world and could make the case for being the best player on his team.

    However, with the NHL season in question, Malkin went out and signed a contract with the KHL (Russian) team Metallurg for the upcoming season.

    If there is an NHL season this year, Malkin's ability to opt out of his contract in Russia only benefits the Penguins.

    His presence makes the Pittsburgh Penguins a much better team.  Having Malkin and Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the world, in the fold on different lines gives opposing teams matchup nightmares.

Worst-Case Scenario: Evgeni Malkin Decides to Play in Russia

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    Contrary to the previous slide, one of the worst things that could happen to the Pittsburgh Penguins this year would be Evgeni Malkin deciding to play in Russia instead of the NHL.

    If the NHL has hockey this year, Pittsburgh's success as a team is predicated on having Malkin as a part of the team.

    Without Geno, opposing teams can focus their best line on stopping Sidney Crosby. 

    In previous years, this wouldn't completely stop the Pens from winning games.  However, with the departure of Jordan Staal this offseason, a lack of Malkin in the lineup could create serious problems for the Pens.

Best-Case Scenario: The Jordan Staal Trade Pays off

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    At the NHL Draft this year, the Pittsburgh Penguins traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for the No. 8 pick in the NHL draft, Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin (via Yahoo! Sports).

    Staal was one of the biggest difference-makers for the Penguins over the past few seasons.  When teams would find a way to limit both Crosby and Malkin, the Pens relied on Staal and the other third-liners for the offense.

    Staal would produce, and the team would win.

    So one of the best things that could happen for the Penguins this year would be not to have a production drop-off in terms of wins without Jordan Staal.

Worst-Case Scenario: The Jordan Staal Trade Fails Miserably

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    One of the worst things that could happen to the Pittsburgh Penguins this year would be losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Finals of Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    And Jordan Staal scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7.

    And the Hurricanes going on to win the Cup.

    As mentioned on the previous slide, the Pens traded Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for the No. 8 overall pick in the NHL Draft and two other players.

    Staal had been a pillar of the Penguins' success in their playoff runs over the past six years.

    Thus, the worst thing that could happen to them would be having Staal beat them in the playoffs and then win the Stanley Cup.

Best-Case Scenario: The Rangers and Flyers Do Not Gel Like They Did Last Year

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    The two biggest rivals for the Pittsburgh Penguins are the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers.

    The Penguins hate them, and they hate the Penguins.

    Both the Rangers and Flyers gelled last year and made deep playoff runs.  The Flyers' run was at the expense of the Penguins.

    Thus, I cannot imagine many things better for the Pittsburgh Penguins than having both the Flyers and the Rangers fail to play well throughout the season and miss the playoffs as a result.

    Wait, I can imagine something better.

    The Pens beating both the Rangers and Flyers en route to winning another Stanley Cup.

    That sounds a lot better.

Worst-Case Scenario: The Flyers or Rangers Win the Stanley Cup

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    As good as it would be for the Penguins to beat both the Flyers and Rangers en route to winning the Stanley Cup, it would be that bad if either team beat the Penguins en route to winning The Cup.

    As I described in the last slide, these two teams hate the Pens, and the Pens hate them.  They are all bitter rivals who want nothing more than to knock the living snot out of one another.

    For the Penguins, that would mean losing the division to the Rangers for the second straight year and then promptly losing to the Flyers or Rangers in the playoffs.

    And there is nothing worse for a team than getting beat in the playoffs by their rival.

    Unless, of course, your rival beats you en route to winning a championship.

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