Let me start this post by stating that I am a die hard Pens fan, a season ticket holder in fact, and I love this team. The positives are well known, and predictions are just that, but in my opinion the Pens are not built to win the Cup this year. The variables are impossible to predict, and who wins it all certainly can have an element of luck to it, especially if (in this case) the team from the West just happens to be a great match-up. But, in these quiet dog days, and with the Pens opening day roster fairly well settled, except for maybe 2-3 spots, let me venture these observations as to why we won't win it this year, despite what will likely even be a better year by Sidney and Geno, and that fact that we look to have as solid a group of Centers and Wingers as any team out there.
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FLEURY. There is no denying his talent, OR the fact of his 14-26 approx. 4+ GAA and at best .860 S% in the playoffs (incl Juniors). Can he overcome that? Of course--will he all in one year? Highly unlikely. Aside from Cam Ward (who didnt follow up his meteoric rise with a good regular season last year) the only goalies who won the Cup and were younger than Fleury will be next spring were Dryden and Roy--while I hope to include Fleury in that pantheon of goalies someday, nobody could do it with a straight face now. With his history of underachievement in the playoffs (whatever the reason), I expect (hope) that he can chip away and win at least one series this year, maybe two.
Relatedly, THE DEFENSE. While I like the signing of Sydor alright, and am excited to see what Letang can do, it is not even a given that he will make the team, and even if he does, the Pens did nothing to address the lack of grit on the blueline. This D-group gets a B+/A for offense, and a C/C- for defense, which basically means lots of regular season points, and a short playoff run. Although I thought the draft went well, and I do like the additions of Sykora and Sydor, every team that doesnt have Lidstrom or Niedermeyer has to have a good mixture of O and D in their D-corps, and this team doesnt. (Pens fans: would we have those two Cups if Coffey had been our main guy back there? Now, add Ulfie, and it's a whole other story). Obviously there are many variables--the cap, the Pens personal cap, unreasonable demands, etc. but the failure to add anyone that cd be called a gritty d-man with a straight face is going to be a problem. Obviously, this can be solved any time between now and the trade deadline...but it IS a problem.
Of course, on the other hand, The Kid by all appearances is far more centered and mature that Mario was at the same age (Mario has said as much) and his team is much better than the one Mario had the first 4-5 years of his career. So, fa be it for me to say "never".
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