With a roster as experienced and exciting as the Penguins have this year, a championship is not only a prediction, but an expectation.
That being said, I'm predicting that this year's Penguins will live up to that expectation.
First of all, as I stated on a previous slide, the Pens have a group of talented young players entering the prime years of their career.
Crosby is 24. Malkin is 25. Fleury is 26. Staal, Kennedy, Letang, and Neal are all under the age of 25.
Kennedy, Fleury, and Letang (despite an awful second half last season) are coming off the best statistical season of their respective careers.
Crosby put up insane numbers before his season-ending injury. How insane? He was 14th in the league in goals despite only playing 41 games.
Not to mention that the team, as a whole, captured the President's Cup despite injuries to the Big Two. This shows that the team has some quality depth underneath the star power.
On the flip side, the 2011-2012 Penguins also have older, more experienced players who know how to win in the NHL. Brooks Orpik, Craig Adams, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and many others were members of the 2009 Stanley Cup Championship team. Steve Sullivan, who was signed July 1, helped the Predators to the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Tying it all together is Dan Bylsma, who is coming off a season in which he won Coach of the Year honors.
It makes me wonder how other coaches would have fared last season if they had lost their two best players to injury. How would Guy Boucher have done without Stamkos and St. Louis? What about Alain Vigneault without Sedin and, well, Sedin?
Methinks not too well.
The Penguins' time is now. They have three of the most physically-gifted centers in the league, a Hart Trophy candidate between the pipes, a brigade of wily veterans and a proven winner manning the wheel from behind the bench.