Tempering Expectations: A Whimsical Guide to the 2014-2015 Pittsburgh Penguins by @DXTraeger - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Tempering Expectations: A Whimsical Guide to the 2014-2015 Pittsburgh Penguins by @DXTraeger


Having high expectations for your favorite team can be a fickle beast.  If, as a Penguins fan, you set your season standard too high ("Stanley Cup or Bust!"), you will invariably be let down, while harboring too low of expectations ("I just want to make the playoffs") will yield the Philadelphia Flyers of the past 40 years.

With the peaks and valleys of GRANDEUR and FAILURE in mind, here is a pragmatic guide to approaching the upcoming 2014-2015 NHL season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

HIGH EXPECTATION: A Penguin will win the Art Ross Trophy.

Reasonable expectation?  Extremely.  Ever since Mario Lemieux's rise to league prominence in 1987, a player donning Pittsburgh's familiar black & gold has captured the NHL's Leading Scorer honor 15 times, with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin winning twice.

Even with the departure of James Neal (and his hair gel) and a reconfigured Top 6, both Crosby and Malkin have the individual skill and acumen to maintain their historic point-per-game averages and compete head-to-head for the scoring title.

LOW EXPECTATION: The Penguins' roster will once again be cursed by injuries.

Reasonable expectation?  Yes, but not because Pittsburgh players are more susceptible, or more injury prone, than any other team in the NHL.

Hockey is a contact sport, and given that the Penguins are a high-profile franchise with recognizable players, any injuries they encounter will garner more media attention and analysis than, say, someone missing time as part of the Phoenix Coyotes (we're looking at you, Sam Gagner).  

A number of teams are already entering the season behind the proverbial injury 8-ball (the Flyers and Red Wings come to mind), and Malkin's mysterious ailment notwithstanding (hint: it's aliens), it's just a matter of chance and probability that the Penguins will have to dip into the Wilkes-Barre well several times to trot out a full roster.

Fair to say that this little guy expects great things. 
HIGH EXPECTATION: The Penguins will win the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup in 2015.

Reasonable expectation?  In a word: no.  The Penguins have some of the best individual talent on the planet, but they lack the consistent, bruising four-line attacks that defined the teams coming out of the Western Conference during last year's playoffs.

To that end, new head coach Mike Johnston's transition system appears poised to elevate the play of Kris Letang. The potential for Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, and even Paul Martin to fill the slot as an activated trailer is drool-inducing, but all four lines must produce for the Penguins to taste success in the post-season.

LOW EXPECTATION:  Beau Bennett will supplant Kris Letang as the primary object of female fans' affections.

Reasonable expectation?  Absolutely not, especially since Kris Letang's dreamy long locks have inspired multiple Twitter accounts.

Sorry Frosted Tips, but the Mullet is perpetually hot in the 412.

HIGH EXPECTATION:  The Penguins will once again win the posh Metropolitan Division.

Reasonable expectation?  Yes, because even the "good" teams in the Metropolitan Division suck.

Consider:

  • -The Flyers are even more offensively top-heavy than the Penguins and will miss their best defenseman, Kimmo Timonen, for months (if not forever).  
  • -The Blue Jackets took a tremendous step toward respectability last season, but there's just not enough mustard throughout their lineup to warrant concern.
  • -The Washington Capitals added a lot of Salary during the off-season, but have you seen the Corsi/Fenwick on Salary these days?  Going on your fourth coach in as many seasons also doesn't portend to success in DC.
  • -The New Jersey Devils lost their NHL relevance card when the owners and NHLPA convened to end the fun & gun days of the Devils' Admiral Ackbar defense-to-offense strategy.  Plus, the average age of their starters is 42.
  • -The New York Rangers upended the Penguins in the Conference Semi-Finals last season, but the Penguins were the better team. Pittsburgh ultimately toppled themselves by employing bad coaching philosophies that culminated in bizarre infatuations with borderline NHL talent playing top minutes.
  • -The New York Islanders of Rhode Island but Brooklyn Until Someone Else Buys the Team are probably the up-and-coming challenger within the division.  The Isles have a legit offensive superstar in John Tavares and stability in goal with Jaroslav Halak to go along with the speed and grit needed to contend.

LOW EXPECTATION:  New GM Jim Rutherford is actually "Doc Brown" from Back to the Future and the Penguins revert to 1983 form en route to "not tanking but not really trying to win either" for the right to draft hockey wunderkind Connor McDavid.

Realistic expectation?  Sorry to disappoint, but even if McDavid does turn out to be "The Next One," he will not be wearing a Penguins' sweater.

...unless, of course, Rutherford wheels and deals for a 2015 1st Round Draft Pick that magically wins the lottery and inspires league-wide HATRED and years of JEALOUSY and conspiracy theories.

Actually, that sounds extremely familiar, so maybe that WILL happen.

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