Thursday, June 05, 2008

What's Next for the Penguins

It was a heck of a run for the young team from Western Pennsylvania, but it was not to be, as the Penguins fell two games short of the Holy Grail of hockey. The big question now is how can they build off this with so much change that could happen this summer. The questions about what free agents will get re-signed and for how long will be on the chopping block.

Odds are Marian Hossa won't be back with the Penguins, mostly due to the fact that Ray Shero has to re-sign M-A Fleury, Jordan Staal, and Evgeni Malkin to long-term deals, as well as figure out what to do with the likes of Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Ty Conklin, Georges Laraque, and Jarkko Ruutu. Granted, everyone after Malone will be affordable and probably easier to get under contract. Yet, that being said-- with only nine players under contract for next season, one being Sidney Crosby, everything should be just fine for the Pens.

Building off this season should be the real focal point for the Pens. They say you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. Not much losing went on with the Pens this playoffs, which could be counterproductive next season. Sure, it's highly doubtful, but maybe the thought of it being very easy to roll through the Eastern Conference may get into their heads next season and ruin it for them.

Let's be honest, being the East Champs really is a albatross for some teams. Last year's champs, the Ottawa Senators, got swept in the first round. The '05 Champion Carolina Hurricanes didn't even make the playoffs, while the '04 Champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, got ousted in the first round-- albeit after a loss of a season. In fact, you have to go back to the 2001 New Jersey Devils, who made it to the Finals that season, before you have a team who was successful after winning the Eastern Conference title. All the others after them either lost in the first round or didn't make it to the Playoffs at all. The Penguins better hope that curse doesn't linger-longer.

There wasn't much about the season the Penguins could look at as a downfall. Without the services of Sidney Crosby and M-A Fleury to injury, others like Evgeni Malkin and Ty Conklin stepped up and showed the depth that the Pens had this season. Plus, the defense was something that improved a lot this season, as it was questionable for the past couple of seasons. All around, the team played very well and the front-office made some crucial moves to make the team what they are today, Eastern Conference Champions.

The Penguins will be fairly busy this summer and may be the team to watch in order to see what's going to happen next to them and their core. The fans can bask in their teams success for now, but come October-- it'll be a whole new season. It could keep flourishing for the Penguins, but it could also flounder. Parity is a helluva thing, but for now-- it's all about partying.

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