Going along with my previous article wrapping the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2009-2010 season , I decided there was no better way to sum up the team's performance than an end of season grade for each player.
I am taking into account both the regular season and playoffs and I'm judging them on how well they executed their respective jobs on the ice.
Marc-Andre Fleury: B
Not a bad season for Fleury, but unfortunately, people are going to remember his lacking performance in the playoffs rather than his relatively strong season. With that said, a goalie needs to be there for his team when it matters the most and Fleury wasn't able to get it done.
Brent Johnson: B+
Johnson was there for Fleury when he let in a couple of softies and did his job when Fleury was given a game off. Most impressive was his skill in the shootouts, allowing no pucks to go by his huge frame.
Mart Eaton: B+
Eaton is the true blue collar defenseman on the team, silently doing his job while putting up the numbers. He was second on the team in blocked shots with 135.
Alex Goligoski: C+
Started off the season well, but Goligoski seemed to lose his confidence as the season wore on and the team needed him the most. That confidence was regained at the end of the season which gives me hope that this upcoming season will be a big improvement.
Sergei Gonchar: B
The backbone of the Pens defense has started showing his age. Gonchar has played almost 90 games the last two seasons, but he's the best quarterback on the power play in the NHL. His defensive game has whithered but there is no doubt that Gonchar has been key in the Pens' success this season.
Jordan Leopold: B
The late acquisition made a good impact on the team despite only playing 20 regular season games with the Pens. Smart on both ends, put decent time on the power play, and even netted some OT goals. If Gonchar leaves the Pens, Leopold must stay.
Kris Letang: B
Expectations for Letang have been high since wearing the Penguin logo, but there was a dip in his production, only scoring three goals in the season (and three in the shootout). He did vamp up his game in the playoffs with an impressive five goals and some of his work on defense has been nothing short of stunning. A good season for a player who's looking more and more like Paul Coffey.
Jay McKee: B-
My favorite player at the beginning of the season, McKee was doing it all on defense, blocking shots—he lead the team with 137—defending teammates, and playing smart in his own end. But after a finger infection left him sidelined, his game never recovered and he was benched for the end of the season and most of the playoffs.
Brooks Orpik: A
The Pens best defenseman on the team, Orpik brings it every night and lead the team in hits, putting him sixth overall in the NHL. His physical presence makes opposing players think twice about battling him in the corners. Most importantly, his leadership on and off the ice make Orpik an irreplaceable facet to this team.
Craig Adams: A-
Adams has slowly become a fan favorite, playing on the grinder line and laying out his fair share of big hits. Other than Jordan Staal, he was the only player to play in all 82 games, making him a dependable guy who perfectly fits the mold for Bylsma's aggressive system.
Matt Cooke: A-
Cooke showed his worth this season not in the points department, but everything else. Solid penalty killer, dishes out the big hits, agitator, and is always there for his teammates. And he can score the big goals when they're needed.
There's nothing Crosby can't do. He led the NHL in goals to win the Rocket Richard Trophy and was second in points all while mastering the art of the faceoff and shootout. Undoubtedly the Pens' MVP of the season.
Pascal Dupuis: B+
A pleasant surprise, Dupuis was on fire following the Olympic break. His overall point totals were second best in his career. Most impressive was that a majority of his goals were dirty goals, not his usual bullet of a slap shot. His penalty killing was top notch as well.
Ruslan Fedotenko: D
A non-factor in the season and playoffs, especially since Shero got him to perform in the playoffs. He did not so he only dressed in four playoff games. Don't expect him in black and gold this upcoming season.
Eric Godard: B
The Pens wanted an enforcer after losing Georges Laraque and they got one in Godard. This guy knows how to fight and hit, but unfortunately, that's pretty much all he can do.
Bill Guerin: B
Guerin probably has the best chemistry with Crosby, which is worrying considering his age. What fans love about Guerin is that he's the total package who will lead with his words and fists and then beat your goalie glove side with a wicked wrist shot. Like Gonchar, his age is starting to show as his speed and decision-making have slowed significantly.
Tyler Kennedy: B-
Not his best season, but Kennedy plays with a jump in his skating that can be lethal if he catches you flat footed. However, there were times when Kennedy left that jump in the dressing room which brings down his game significantly, making him seem like a below-average winger.
Chris Kunitz: B+
Kunitz is a good first-line winger for Crosby who balances gritty skill with gritty hitting. If his point production was more consistent, there's no doubt he would be in the "need to sign" group among the FAs. With that said, I do hope he can remain on the team.
Evgeni Malkin: B
Many would consider this season a disappointment for Malkin after the previous two. An injury disrupted Malkin's season and he wasn't executing his offensive and defensive game as well. I consider it a flukey year for Malkin who is still working out the kinks in his game. No one can deny what he can do when his game is on.
Alexei Ponikarovsky: C
Shero made a gamble trading away top prospect Luca Caputi for Ponikarovsky and it looks like Toronto got the better end of the deal thus far. Ponikarovsky scored in his second game as a Penguin and managed one other goal for nine points in sixteen games. However, he didn't seem to pick up on Bylsma's system and performed rather poorly in the playoffs.
Mike Rupp: B+
Rupp had a remarkable year for the Pens, scoring more goals this season than the previous three in New Jersey combined. For an enforcer-like player, Rupp netted 13 goals, including his first career hat trick, all while maintaining the physical play that made Shero sign him in the first place.
Jordan Staal: A-
Easily Staal's best season with the team, it looks like he's found his place. His offensive game grows just as quickly as his defensive game, earning him his first of many Selke Trophy nominations. Staal led the team in +/- with a +19 and was the best penalty killer. And we can't forget Staal's ironman abilities (excluding the playoffs).
Max Talbot: C+
Talbot will always be the superstar of the team, but his impact was definitely not as great as the 08-09 season/playoffs. Talbot really never found his footing after started the season late when a surgery over the summer sent him into months of rehab, yet he's still a high-energy player that is needed in the dressing room. I expect a better season from him now that he has an entire summer to relax and get into hockey form.
Overall performance: B-
All that needs to be said about the Pens overall performance is that the skills are there, they just need to find a way to turn on the fire when a win is staring at their faces.
They won the Cup in 2009 because they were able to come back from behind with ten minutes left in the game. If they can pace themselves so as to avoid what happened to the Washington Capitals, the Pens will have great results in the season.
Include a few viewings of Game Seven highlights against Montreal and a bounce-back from this resilient group is inevitable.