A couple of seasons ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins were a team filled with potential.
They had young talented players who were learning the ropes in the NHL. What they lacked in experience they made up for in desire and hard work.
Almost every game, you could see them gaining confidence...realizing with each day that they could compete and be successful in the NHL.
The Penguins had a reputation for being a team that was not fun to play against. A reputation that was well earned. They did not win every game they played, but they certainly worked hard enough to win every game.
They made the playoffs 2 years ago but they simply could not match the experience of the Ottawa Senators. They lost in 5 games to a team that would make it all the way to the cup finals before losing to a very strong Ducks team.
Last year, the Penguins entered the season with more to prove...to themselves and to the hockey world.
After a slow start, and some prodding from their coach, they hit the midway point of the season in stride and never looked back.
That same work ethic was there. That same team that other teams didn't like to play against was on the ice every night. But now, there was the experience of the previous playoff season to help make the team even more confident. They seemed more determined than the year before to prove themselves.
A trip the to Stanley Cup Finals, something that even the most optimistic of fans could not have REALLY thought was possible 2 years before, was their reward.
They faught hard against a superior Detroit team and made some noise before losing the series in 6 games.
Entering this season the team lost some "glue" players through trades (Armstrong) and free agency (Malone, Ruutu, Hall) .
They also had some key injuries to their defensive core as their top 2 defenders, Gonchar and Whitney, were out at the start of the season with long term injuries.
Even so, they started the season in a decent enough fashion and in the month of November, they posted a 9-2-1 record and appeared to be getting on a roll again like they had in the second half of the season before.
In December, the Penguins fell apart, going 5-7-1.
The trend has continued into the new year. So far in 2009, the Penguins are 1-5 and it looks like things might get worse before they get better.
When I watch them play now, I see almost no resemblence of the team that faught the Red Wings for the Cup last year.
I see a team in complete disarray.
They have no confidence.
They have no determination.
They have no will to win.
They are easy to play against because they no longer outwork other teams...they are routinely outworked by other teams.
They seem to have lost their desire to prove anything.
They seem to have lost their identity.
Who are these guys?
What do they want to do with what's left of this season?
I wish SOMEBODY had an answer...
P.S. In all seriousness, they need to find answers right now because the next 5 games before the All Star break will likely decide if they have any hopes at all of making the playoffs this year. And you can bet your last nickle that the Flyers, Capitals, Rangers, Ducks and Hurricanes are just licking their chops looking at the upcoming games against THESE Penguins.