There are 29 teams in the NHL that spent their summers wondering "What went wrong last year?"
The Pittsburgh Penguins were not one of them.
Instead, the Penguins spent the summer celebrating all over the world with the Stanley Cup and savoring the achievement of finally being on top of the league. The ending however, seemed far too good to be true.
In February, the Penguins suffered a Valentine's Day massacre at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs that essentially cost Michel Therrien his job. Replaced by a relative unknown, Disco Dan Byslma had only coached 50 minor league hockey games.
But despite the unsure outlook, the Penguins closed out the regular season with an absurd 18-3-2 mark, flying from 10th place in the Eastern Conference to home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
The too-good-to-be-true Penguins disposed of arch-rivals Philadelphia and Washington before sweeping away Carolina. A few weeks later, they were guzzling champagne from the Cup.
But what can this still very young team do for an encore? Let's take a look.
You were born to play on a fourth line. You play better hockey along the boards than a lot of guys do in the open ice. I have absolutely no idea where Brunei is, or how exactly you made it to the NHL, but keep up the dirty work.
You are the definition of a "behind the scenes" guy. Let's keep it that way.
Three months ago, your Hurricanes were swept out of the playoffs by the Penguins. Now, you've earned a contract with the Mighty 'Guins.
"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
Marian Hossa, Part Two? Wear the No.37 with pride and don't try to do anything incredibly stupid. At least you aren't the only defector to Pittsburgh, however. A point guard from Detroit just accepted a scholarship to play basketball at Duquesne.
Welcome to Hockeytahn!
You're shorter than me, but still in the NHL. That makes me sad. But Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma obviously see something productive in those 68 inches of fury. We'd love to see it too.
Well, you came here to replace one Jarkko Ruutu. And you have succeeded in that regard quite well. However, when Bill Guerin describes your passing abilities as "Oh God", you should probably stick to scrapping.
You won't amaze anybody with scoring numbers. But for what you bring to the table on a nightly basis, there aren't many better third line wingers out there. Huzzah, Cookie Monster.
Another triple-digit point season, another handful of accomplishments in your bag. The youngest Captain to hoist the Stanley Cup. You're only 22 and you're already a legend in Pittsburgh.
Not really a whole lot more to ask.
But I never want to hear the words "Sidney Crosby" and "groin injury" in the same sentence again. Put it on the black list. It doesn't help either one of us. While you're on the ice, I know you have a 40-goal season in you.
Don't worry Billy, we'll make Doofy stick.
You are in essence, the table scraps from the Marian Hossa deal. But as it is, you're the one who's still here. I haven't figured out an appropriate use for you and I don't think the Penguins have either.
You've seen time on the top line, on the fourth line, and as a healthy scratch. Make up your mind.
But you are one of the fastest skaters on the team without much doubt. You've had two consecutive 12-goal seasons? Let's go for that all-elusive 13th one then.
Almost all of last season, I hoped you would be traded, released or sent to Wilkes-Barre.
Almost all of the playoffs, I found myself wondering who was really wearing that No.7 jersey.
I have no idea where that scoring outburst came from or if you were actually just possessed by a greater being. But I'll take a double dip with some sprinkles on top, please.
You're probably my favorite Ukrainian. While that isn't saying a whole lot, you've been a great fit so far with Evgeni Malkin on the 1B line.
You didn't score the series winning goal in Game Seven, but I think we'll forgive you because Mad Max picked up the slack. Playing with Mr. Conn Smythe, a 30-goal season isn't impossible. Shoot for the moon, just don't miss and land on the IR with a broken hand.
It's time for a Vezina Trophy.
I know the Flyers take a ton of undisciplined penalties. But let's not try to out-do them, alright?
Fight when you have to, but you need to cut down on the undisciplined two minutes.
We know you can put the puck in the net. That's nice. But can you play defense well enough too? You face similar challenges as Kris Letang did a few seasons ago.
It's not about what you do on the score sheet or how many fantasy points you accumulate. It's about what you do on the ice. Get it done.
You've always been one of my favorites, and not just because you share my name. The difference it made when you were out of the lineup was incredible.
You made it through the preseason unscathed this time, so already a great start to the season.
But it's about time you won the Norris, don't you think? Another 60-point season would be phenomenal. At this point though, just having you on the ice as much as possible to run the powerplay is a great addition.
Who says old men can't still play hockey? You're 38 going on 19. Your scoring prowess is still terrific, as you can release a powerful shot from just about anywhere on the ice.
Sid will need that to help his assist totals this year.
You're a great leader and keep smiling. Just don't forget to take your dentures.
You are one of the most underrated players in the entire league. While you play for a team that fields Jordan Staal, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin, you will always be overshadowed.
But no more. It looks like you'll finally get to play on a true scoring line, much unlike last year. With your impressive work ethic, you could easily be in line for a 25-30 goal season. Why not? You're more willing to shoot the puck than most guys on the team.
I'd like to here "Heeeeeee shoots and scores! Mr. Kennedddyyyyy!" a lot more often this year.
For the first time in his career, Sidney Crosby will have the same linemates two seasons in a row. But you're also with Bill Guerin, a great shooting presence that will free up space for you to take someone's head off.
You hardly look the part of a hitting machine, but you could also be a scoring machine this year. Taking your 17 points as a Penguin in the regular season, you could be looking at a 75-point season with Sid.
While I won't bank on that happening, you're very capable.
You're another young player that has seen his point totals double from first year to second year. You even led all Penguin defensemen in points last year, although I hardly expect you to do so again.
You've never been an imposing defensive force, but that doesn't mean you can't be a great defenseman. Show us how great you can be.
50 goals and 130 points, how about those apples?
No, really. I think it's possible. You showed everyone how truly dominant you can be during the playoffs last year when you averaged a point and a half per game. Your 12 multi-point games in the playoffs is unheard of in the post-lockout era.
The more you play, the happier Penguin fans are.
And on a side note, please come back with a gold medal from Vancouver in February.
Block 200 or more shots. That's why you're here, right?
But at least beat Brooks in points. First to ten wins.
If you had a theme song, it would definitely be "Boom" by P.O.D.
You are the most feared hitter in the NHL. Getting 300 hits is no problem for you. So play that tune again.
But at least beat McKee in points. First to ten wins.
Prove to me and everyone else that you aren't just a big body to take up space like Hal Gill.
Ask Philippe Boucher.
After you scored 29 goals in your first NHL season, almost everyone expected you to become the power forward that your brother Eric is. But then you fell off in 2007-08 with only 12 goals and those same critics labeled you as a bust.
But now, you have a clearly defined role on the team as a third-line shutdown center, who often gets matched up with the best forwards from the other team.
Just keep adding elements to your game.
Thank God for Max Talbot.
You single-handedly disposed of Detroit in Game Seven and proved that there might not be a better big-game player out there.
But for whatever reason, your play has been somewhat lackluster in the regular season. While you won't have the ability to change that for another few months, I'd like to see some improvement with those bad hands.
Keep eating at Qdoba!