The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most talented teams in the league right now, but unlike the hype that has led them into the playoffs the last two seasons, they haven't made it past the second round in the two years since their last Stanley Cup win.
While it looks like the team will be back up to full power at the beginning of next season with the return of Evgeni Malkin and possibly Sidney Crosby, what are five other ways the Pens can return to their Cup winning ways in 2011-12?
Players such as Tyler Kennedy (21 goals for 45 points), Pascal Dupuis (17 goals for 37 points), and other top players are on the free agent list for this year.
Resigning the top players is a step in the right direction towards the Cup Final instead of bringing in a totally new lineup of players for next season.
There are some nice, big time players on the free agent list this year.
While the Pens should resign their big players, they should also find a select few outsiders (such as the Hurricanes Erik Cole if they can steal him away from his team, especially) that fit their plan to find some new player chemistry, especially on Sidney Crosby's line.
The Penguins won eight of their last 10 games during the regular season, looking like they could be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. However, they were eliminated in the first round, losing the series by a combined 14 points in seven games.
The Penguins need to find a way to keep their confidence up in the playoffs to propel them through the rounds.
While this isn't something that can be overly controlled by the team, just keeping the whole team healthy could be the difference between winning or losing the Cup.
At one point, half the team on the bench looked to be the Penguins' AHL team. Keeping their regular NHL players healthy and on the bench all season could make the difference between winning and losing the Cup.
While they do have the highest penalty kill percentage in the league with an 86.1 percent kill rate, it is so much easier to just stay out of the box.
This may even be the most important step in a Cup run since they can usually control it while playing. Just taking more steps to be careful can keep them from being at a one or even two man disadvantage on the ice.