Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason: 5 Steps to Bring Stanley Back to Steel City
During the offseason, every team experiences changes that help or hurt their team, and every team has questions that need to be answered.
Whether it's injured players, possible retirements, or contracts coming to an end, every team has decisions to make on how to improve during the offseason in order to bring home Lord Stanley.
With that it mind, let's look at the Penguins five steps to bring the Cup back to Pittsburgh.
1. Sidney Crosby's Recovery
We still don't exactly know what happened to Sidney Crosby or when it happened. We know for sure that Crosby suffered at least one concussion, but some people speculate that Crosby also suffered Second-Impact Syndrome from a hit delivered by the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman.
Since Crosby's hit, rumors have swirled that he may retire from hockey, all of which have been quickly disregarded by those close to him. Whether Crosby will ever be the same remains to be seen, but I can guarantee that he won't quit hockey without at least trying to make a comeback.
That said, in order for the Penguins to win a Cup, Crosby has to return to the shape he was in before he was injured. Crosby was on pace for a career season, with 66 points in 41 games, he led the Penguins in points despite only playing half the season.
Not only is he valuable as a player, but also as a leader, being the Captain of the Penguins.
2. Evgeni Malkin's Recovery and Return to 2009 Form
While Evgeni Malkin's nagging knee injuries leading up to his torn ACL didn't help his play, the fact of the matter is the Russian superstar hasn't been playing great since he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2009.
Malkin went from being considered as one of the NHL's greatest players to just another star in the league. Some people even thought he was better than Sidney Crosby, but now you will hear none of that. Of course, some of that has to do with Crosby's continuous improvement, but it also relates to Malkin's regression.
In Malkin's last two seasons combined (110 games), he has only registered one more point that his 2008-2009 performance. (113 points) He had a combined plus-minus of minus-10, compared to the plus-17 of 2008-2009. Last season also marked the first season that Malkin has failed to register a PPG average (37 points in 43 games).
In order for the Penguins to reclaim Lord Stanley, Malkin must become the player he used to be in 2009.
3. Improve the Power Play
The fact of the matter is the Penguin's power play was downright awful this year. Ranked 25th in the league converting 15.8 percent of your chances on the man advantaged is not Stanley Cup worthy.
The Vancouver Canucks (leading the Stanley Cup Final 3-2 as of this writing) were ranked first in the league on the Power Play during the regular season.
If the Penguins want to see another Cup in their near future they need to take a serious look at their power play and do what they can to improve their play with a man advantage.
4. Finish Finish Finish
Something the flightless birds weren't very good at this season: Winning games in regulation.
The funny thing is, excluding the Vancouver Canucks, the Penguins had more wins that any other team this year. Sounds great right? Not when 10 of them are in a shootout.
The NHL modified the tie-breaker for seeding before the beginning of the 2010-2011 season so that only regulation wins counted in tie-breakers. Pittsburgh had just as many points and more wins than the Philadelphia Flyers, but due to the lack of regulation wins, the Penguins were pushed down into the fourth seed.
The fifth seed Lightning and sixth seed Canadiens both had more regulation wins that the Penguins. To make matters even worse, from the beginning of February to the end of March, Pittsburgh had just five regulation wins. That's 26 games with only five wins outside of the shootout.
A win is worth two points regardless of when you win, but shootouts wont carry Pittsburgh to the Cup. After all, they become extinct once the regular season ends.
5. Sign a Good Winger
I know, I know. They have James Neal. Guess what, Neal isn't the type of player that makes the difference of whether you win a Cup or not.
This is something Pittsburgh has lacked for awhile. They're stacked down the middle with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal, but for the most part they've got bums flanking them.
In today's NHL you need depth to win. Pittsburgh was dismantled by Montreal in the 2009-2010 playoffs because they were a one dimensional team. Put somebody dangerous on Crosby's line with him, and suddenly shutting them down isn't so easy.