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There's always something to criticize, so let's agree no one's perfect and neither is RS. And, a million things could go wrong (Ziggy Palffy, anyone?). But let's also start with the premise that in the new cap era long term thinking is critical, and that all a GM can do at this time of year is assemble a team that can do well during the regular season, and then take stock of things like injuries, under achievement, etc., in February and March and, if possible, pull something off at the deadline.

So, assuming anyone still agrees with me, there's no way this team is better set up to have an even better year, for the following reasons:

CROSBY GOT THIS CLOSE. No way that isnt driving him to be even better, if that's possible.

FLEURY BECAME A MAN. The playoffs in general, but especially Game 5 against Detroit, is the kind of experience that changes someone forever and that, combined with having his contract done makes me think his game will finally be solid and preditable night in and night out.

MALKIN'S HAPPY. Call me an armchair psychologist, but I think it mattered alot to Malkin to know the Pens wanted him as something more than just trade bait. And, his tendency to wear down at the end of the season (fist year 60 games in, last year 95 games in) will not be an issue this year.

MORE MINUTES FOR STAAL AND TALBOT. RS already said Staal will get a shot at Malone's minutes. Who knows, but he's on the verge on being a top shelf shut down center who shd get his points. And, Max on the ice more can only be good.

ORPIK (and likely soon Staal) ARE HERE FOR A LONG TIME. The already frequently commented on core group that is loscked in for the next 4-5 years. As others have said, in the cap-era NHL, having the core set and adjusting to having the role players come and go is just a fact of life it seems (except if you're the frickin Wings!! Why cant we do that?). Which brings me to...

SATAN, FETOTENKO, COOKE, GODARD. No one (available this year) replaces Hossa all by himself but getting Satan for one year is brilliant since it gives him a chance to beef up his numbers and get one last decent contract next year. I have to believe this is HIS plan, since I cant imagine he couldn't have gotten a longer term somewhere else (see, Micheal Ryder). So, fine, Miro--you show us and go get 30 gaols this year...Cooke is an ample replacement for Jarkko's role, and probably more than that. Tank is another huy with something to prove and cd make us forget Malone (along w Cooke). Godard cant actually play like Laraque but BGL only ever got 6-7 mins game anyway.

It's a team process--so it remains to be seen whether this team can bond the way last year's team did. Malone, Roberts and Laraque are big losses on this score, but now that they've shown the kids the way, it's time to do it on their own. And every guy they got via FAgency is a top notch character guy (especially Cooke--I have been hoping, for no particular reason since I never even heard a rumor, that we'd get him).

And finally, NO ONE ELSE GOT BETTER IN THE EAST.I just dont see what anybody on our side did to vastly improve. No disrespect to anyone else's team, really, but other than the Devils I dont think anyone in the East really addressed the weaknesses that were exposed by last season. And, Washington might have been able to carry what I think was one of last year's most passionate playoff perfomances into this year but now that hinges on Theodore, and getting Federov signed. I think Thedore's a bad bet on that...

So, we're better, and no one else is. That's my premise. The conclusion: Pens vs. Wings again next year ("Hossa with the puck, brings it across the blueline...holy cow, he's laid out by Cooke with a huge hit!!". A man's gotta dream.
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