With the Penguins training camp set to open on September 16, Pens' head coach Michel Therrien arrived back in Pittsburgh this week.
Therrien spent Wednesday afternoon at Robert Morris University's Pittsburgh Penguins Youth Hockey School. Therrien was joined by Penguins' assistant coach, Mike Yeo, Penguins' defense man Rob Scuderi, and former Penguin player/current radio broadcaster, Phil Borque.
After the workout, Therrien took some time out to talk to the media about the upcoming opening of training camp.
The first issue Therrien addressed was that of losing Ryan Whitney to injury. Therrien stressed that Whitney will indeed be missed on the blue line, but added that injuries are far from abnormal for a team that lost their captain and starting goaltender for extended periods of time last season.
"We heard last year and he had to finish the year with his injury. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to start the season with us, but I think it’s a good thing that they were able to find what was going on with his foot.
"They tried different things. Our medical staff, with Ryan, decided the only way for him to get better this year—and the future—was to have that operation. We support that. He’ll be ready in November or December, somewhere around there.
"Yes, we’re going to miss him, but in the meantime, we faced so many injuries last year that this is not something brand new for us. It gives a good opportunity to different players to show what they are capable of doing.”
In Whitney's absence, Therrien stressed that the Penguins' depth at the defense man position is vital. He commented that Alex Goligoski will get an opportunity to prove himself worthy of playing time during training camp, but didn't say for sure who Whitney's replacement would be.
While Therrien didn't deny that Hossa, Malone, and Ruutu were key elements of the Penguins' team, he seemed happy with the players brought in to replace them.
“They were important parts of our team, that’s for sure. On the other hand, we got a guy like Matt Cooke. I like his intensity and he’s a hard guy to play against.
"We got Satan and Fedotenko and they will give us a chance to keep on going where we’re trying to go. It’s a fresh start for those guys; it’s a great opportunity to play with our team and we’re excited about having those guys in our lineup," Therrien said.
Finally, what would the start of a new season be without a new set of team goals? Therrien, like every other coach in the history of the NHL said that the Penguins' ultimate goal is winning the Stanley Cup.
Therrien added that the experience his team has gained during the past two playoff seasons can only benefit them.
He also commented on the so called "Cup curse," or the idea that in recent history, the two teams that reached the Stanley Cup Finals usually don't follow up with a similar performance.
"It’s going to be a good challenge, though, because when you look at the last two years, the team that won the Stanley Cup or been a part of the Finals, didn’t have such a great year. It’ll be a challenge for us to prove we are able to have a good season this year.”
Michel Therrien, like every Penguin fan, player, coach, and executive is excited about the upcoming season. Will Crosby and Malkin prove to be the most dynamic duo in the NHL? Can Crosby regain the scoring crown from Ovechkin?
Will the Penguins be able to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in two consecutive years? Has Marc-Andre Fleury finally blossomed into an elite NHL goaltender? How will the Penguins' new acquisitions fare in filling the shoes of the recently departed Penguins?
All these questions and more will begin to be answered starting on Oct. 4, when the Pens open their regular season schedule with back-to-back games against the Ottawa Senators in Stockholm, Sweden.
Bring on September, and Let's Go Pens.