The Pittsburgh Penguins season ended in a rather lackluster fashion.
When you look around the league, if you take the top two players off each team, it would not be a thrilling result and it's fair to say that team would not go very far into the playoffs.
The Penguins should be proud of what they did throughout the season with so many injuries. With how the team finished this season, missing two of the top players in the NHL, there is much to look forward to next season.
Before he went down to injury, Crosby was on pace for the best season of his career. That wasn't just an anomaly either. Crosby has been getting better and better with each passing season, due to his strong work ethic and desire to better himself.
While Malkin had a slumping season and never quite took full flight, look for a lengthy time away from hockey to reignite the passion inside him.
You can count on Crosby and Malkin returning healthy for the start of next season and lighting the lamp often.
Moving further down the depth chart, winger James Neal failed to impress in his time with the Penguins this season. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski, Neal has shown before he can put the puck in the net.
Neal has not yet got a fair shot at proving himself with Crosby and Malkin being sidelined. Neal has never been mistaken for a playmaker. Instead he possesses a monster shot and can finish well alongside a center.
Neal flourished with Brad Richards, so it's not a stretch to think he will do so playing with Crosby.
The two defenseman, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek now have a full season in the Penguins organization under their belt. These two are a formidable pairing and can shut down a top line with relative ease.
With the team built the way it is, the Penguins do not need to bring many new faces at all in. Signing a few of our current free agents, such as Kennedy, Jeffrey, Rupp, Asham and Adams should suffice.
The one area the Penguins could move out of the organization to fill is for the bottom pair on defense. Bringing in one shut down, veteran defenseman would be able to teach and guide Lovejoy or Engelland, whichever makes the team.
So with a fresh season ahead, hopefully filled with less grueling injuries, the Penguins are going to storm out of the gate with a hunger.
A hunger that was fueled by the thought of what could have been will no doubt make the second season at Consol Energy Center, one to remember.
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