The Pittsburgh Penguins made an amazing run to last year's Stanley Cup Finals.
This was done without their captain Sidney Crosby, and emerging netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury.
This year they have had Crosby the whole time, and Fleury for a good chunk, but are now falling in the East.
Why, you may ask?
It's because of key offseason loses that were not replaced. You can have the great talent, but without the role players, a team just won't make it far.
The Penguins lost some key players this off season such as Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Georges Laraque, and Jarkko Ruutu.
These players had key roles on the team that were not filled by the players brought in.
The Penguins lost the presence in front of the net with the loss of Malone. Jordan Staal is the closest thing the Penguins have had to replacing him, but he does not have the presence in front that Malone had.
They also brought in Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko to replace Marian Hossa. Satan is not nearly as gifted of a scorer, and just not physical enough to replace Hossa. The same goes for Fedotenko.
Georges Laraque was the most replaceable member of the staff. He did bring a physical presence to the 'Guins, but never used it enough to be a threat to others.
Jarkko Ruutu was one of the key losses to the squad. he had the ability to get in the most mentally secure player and break them down. From the chatter on the ice, to the fights he would instigate with only a smile, he is one of the players that should have been held on to.
The most irreplaceable player that was let go was Ty Conklin. Great backup goalies are as rare as anything in this world. When Fleury went down last year, we saw what Danny Sabourin was made of. He is good for about three games, then will have a bad one. Conklin was the solid force in the lineup that was the concrete of the team.
This year, the Penguins got off to the second-best start in team history. This can be attributed to the greatness of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But the team can't ride them forever.
Fleury and the return of Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney will bolster the defense. Whitney, even though he is not all that physical, has great defensive abilities. Gonchar is even more important. he has the ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone better than any player on the team.
Once Fleury returns, the team will have a solid net minder, but those key players must start doing things they need to do, like taking the body, attacking the net, and working to get the puck out of the zone.