Free Agency was not particularly kind to the Penguins this season. Realistically though, that is to be expected. When you spend time near the top, the other teams are going to want to poach from your success.
As I wrote earlier in the week, the Pens are better off without Jaromir Jagr. The same cannot be said of losing Mike Rupp and Max Talbot. Also, as of July 3rd, tough guy Eric Godard had not re-signed and does not appear to be on the radar currently.
Heading in to last season, the Penguins took on the look of a very gritty team. Some, including myself, wondered if there was too much grits. "Fights aren't goals" was my motto for the 2010-11 campaign.
That should not be misconstrued as the opinion of someone who thinks fighting has no place in the sport. Nothing could be further from the truth. The right to bare knuckles is one of the most important sideshow aspects of the game, yet it does not generally affect the outcome.
Last season there were a few too many third period leads blown by the Penguins to the Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Bruins for anyone to think otherwise. If fighting and scrums were so important, they team would have scrapped their way back to a win.
Now as we head in to the 2011-12 schedule, a complete 180-degree turn has taken place. At this point, I now wonder if the Penguins have enough grit and toughness to make it through the regular season, let alone make a deep run in to the playoffs.
To say that I have mixed feelings on the matter is an understatement. Goals win hockey games. But if you do not have the right mix of grit to go along with those goals, you get the Sedin twins. There has to be a balance.
As a long time fan, I think back to the day where the most recent turnaround of the franchise began. The coach at the time was Michel Therrien. In January of 2006, he lost it on the defense in a postgame rant (malapropisms included for affect).
"They soff like I've never see a bunch of defenseman soff like dis. So,there you put the two combination and...well obviously, hey there's a lot of guy don't care. They pretend to care but I know they don't care."
The reason why this quote still resonates among the fanbase aside from the language barrier is that when a player is not "soff", you know he is giving it his all.
Even if the team gets blown out of a building, you know the players who care when guys are still finishing their checks, getting in opponent's faces, and dropping the mitts.
At this point, the team has lost some key sandpaper guys. Will the 2011-12 be too soft? The slides will tell the story.