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Monday, December 2, 2013

A Letter to Santa by @ToonsBrian

Dear Santa,
    The past year has been really crazy, but I've been doing my best to be a good person, a better family man and the best Pens fan that I can be.

    As far as the Pens go, I've done all of the little things that can be expected of me. Things like watching nearly every game. Not giving in to the temptation to call for players/coaches/opponents' heads. Not allowing my kneejerk reactions to overcome my better sense.

    With that in mind, please consider bringing me some (or all) of the following:

Tomas Vokoun's Health

    When Tomas Vokoun underwent an emergency procedure to remove a blood clot from his hip, it really put the Pens in a bind. Jeff Zatkoff has performed better than expected, which has been a relief, but getting Vokoun back would be great. This weekend, while the team visited the Florida Panthers, Vokoun updated the Pittsburgh media on his recovery which mainly consisted of a "wait and see what the doctors say" approach.

     More importantly than whether or not he returns to the team, it would be nice knowing that he has fully recovered and is in no more danger from this recurring medical issue. Every account I've read of the veteran goaltender talks about what a great person he is and, really, that is far more important that what he does as a Penguin.

Jeff Zatkoff's Continued Development

    Speaking of Jeff Zatkoff, would it be wrong of me to say that he's been doing well? Sure he doesn't have elite stats, but he's not supposed to either. He's received a ton of back-handed criticism via social media for not being Tomas Vokoun and from the coaching staff who is giving Marc-Andre Fleury on a heavier-than-expected workload. But Z is 4-2 over 5 starts and is now carrying a save percentage of .901 with a 2.80 GAA.

    That's better than anybody, including myself, expected him to do.

An Injury-free Sidney Crosby
  This is the time of year that Pens fans like myself start to really appreciate just how good Sidney Crosby is. He leads the NHL in points, with 36. He reached milestones of 250 goals, 450 assists and 700 points relatively early in this season. His 700 points in 497 games makes him the fastest active player to do so. His career is quickly approaching legendary status and we're lucky, as fans, to bear witness to it.

    Of course, this is also the time of year we start holding our collective breaths, just waiting for that inevitable injury. Be it a high-ankle sprain costing the captain 6 weeks. A month-ending broken jaw. A season ending concussion.

    Long story short, I'd gladly tell you to keep any potential scoring title for Crosby for the guarantee that he would finish the season healthy.

More 1-Goal Games

    The Metropolitan Division is a disaster. Because it's so bad, I see a Penguins team that doesn't necessarily have to be great night-in and night-out. That's a terrible thing.

    Thus far in the 2013-14 campaign we are continuously seeing 4-1, 5-1 games followed up by 3-6, 2-5 showings. It's frustrating. It's infuriating. It's troubling. And it does not bode well for the postseason.

    One-goal games can be character builders. They can galvanize a team's identity. And, truly, they are what this team needs. The Pens are carrying a .542 winning percentage in one-goal games (6-5-1) this season and that's just not good enough for a Stanley Cup favorite.

A Strong Physical Presence

    Something the Pens are almost habitually lacking at the trade deadline every single year is physicality. The departure of Matt Cooke only added to that gaping hole. I would really like to change that.

    GM Ray Shero has invested a lot of money in the top three lines and a few defenseman. That really puts the team in a bit of a pickle when it comes to making moves at the deadline this season, but I've done a little bit of research and think that maybe one of the best options for the Pens to look at would be Paul Bissonette of the Phoenix Coyotes.

    I know that BizNasty may be on the Naughty List, but that would be an upside as far as this team is concerned. The Pens drafted him in 2003, so he's familiar with the organization, and the organization with him. He's also an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. And his $737,500 salary cap hit makes him a rather affordable rental player, relatively speaking. He's not a stats machine, but neither was Gary Roberts during his stay in Pittsburgh.

A Cool Stadium Series Uniform

    Over the past several days, teams have been unveiling their Stadium Series uniforms to varying degrees of success. Some, like the New York Islanders really work for me. Others, like the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks, just don't.

    That said, I'm thinking maybe the classic yellow and black look would be perfect. It's a great throwback to the mid-80s. More importantly, it would be a great match for the Pirates and Steelers' primary color design, which is why the Pens left the blue behind originally anyway. Make this happen, Santa.

World Peace

    Any letter to Santa that doesn't end with "World Peace" should not be taken seriously. There is way too much strife and hatred being spewed around this place that we all - in the face of all odds - get to share at this exact moment in history.

    Differences in opinion or tastes should not be cause for war. Not among individuals (face to face or on the internet). Not among nations. Not among sports franchises.

    Except the Flyers. The Flyers suck.

Respectfully yours,

P.S. Free Season Tickets would be alright, too. Either that or kindly pointing which bulb on my tree is out.

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