Penguins Are Now A Playoff Team, But are They Built for More?

The months of April, May, and June had been particularly quiet this previous spring, provided that the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t qualify for the postseason for the primary time since 2006. While that was a crushing actuality to see for many followers of the staff, what led to it transpiring is the extra devastating tablet to swallow and reality to course of. At one level, we had been taking a look at a top-10 staff in all the league. Things had been wanting good till they weren’t.

Fast forwarding to April of 2023, an enormous slide within the standings resulted in Ron Hextall, Chris Pryor, and a number of other different prominent front-office figures receiving the axe from duties. Clean housing was instantly underway, and the ruins of a desolate ending from a once-promising season had been overlooked to dry. Having already misplaced within the first spherical of the final 4 years, lacking it altogether the very subsequent was the ultimate blow dealt to a regime needing to be excommunicated relating to its underwhelming resume as much as this cut-off date.

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Many followers and media alike had been relieved upon the information of Hextall’s termination and much more exhilarated once they discovered Kyle Dubas was the next in line. With a brand new president of hockey operations and common supervisor now within the combine, how a lot enchancment, realistically, will the Penguins make regardless of their quite a few dangerous contracts and restricted property to work with?

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Going out to accumulate Erik Karlsson, Rem Pitlick, Reilly Smith, Ryan Graves, Lars Eller, Matt Nieto, Noel Acciari, Alex Nedeljkovic, and others signaled the beginning of a brand new period in Pittsburgh. Out with the outdated, in with the brand new. And who had been the outdated? Miraculously sufficient, Dubas shipped out Jeff Petry, Casey Desmith, Jan Rutta, and Mikael Granlund multi function commerce that introduced Karlsson to Pittsburgh. Quite the turnover in a single offseason, and that is probably not all Dubas does to meddle with the roster earlier than the common season’s first puck drop.

Related: Penguins’ Acquisition of Karlsson Changes the Team’s Complexion

When inspecting the beginning lineup, there’s little question that Pittsburgh has significantly improved its roster. For forwards, you boast an excellent and doubtlessly harmful prime six of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guenztel, Rickard Rakell, Reilly Smith, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust. Moving down the lineup, the underside six is considerably higher with Drew O’Connor, Eller, Acciari, Nieto, and Pitlick.

It’s almost certainly that the third line shall be of one other new face sooner or later within the close to future. Tomas Tatar is a rumored identify the Penguins may be interested in, so we will see who they determine is most worthy of signing. Adding extra scoring punch within the center a part of their lineup will assist them compete towards the juggernauts of the Eastern Conference.

Tomas Tatar New Jersey Devils
Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, the blue line simply bought extra intimidating up and down the ice. The first and second defensive pairs make up of Kris Letang, Marcus Pettersson, Graves, and Karlsson, respectively. Power-play items shall be very offensively environment friendly this fall, one thing this staff struggled mightily in final yr. Rounding out the third pair are Pierre Olivier-Joseph, Chad Ruwedhel, and Ty Smith. The hope is that Smith will take a leap ahead as a prospect and produce alongside Joseph.

In the web, Tristan Jarry gives stability and familiarity. When wholesome, he’s a prime goaltender within the NHL. Nedeljkovic, whereas nonetheless younger, brings a low-risk and high-reward upside if he can bounce again from seasons previous. As lengthy as each goalies are wholesome and comparatively constant in performing, there needs to be large strides taken within the goaltending division. On prime of all this, Dubas restocked the goalie depth down within the minor leagues at Wilkes-Barre Scranton, so if crap ever hits the fan with accidents mid-season, they produce other choices to show to.

What Could or Should Be Expected?

As of proper now, we could also be taking a look at a possible second-round playoff staff, which might be an amazing enchancment over the yr prior. That identical spherical can be when the heavyweights within the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Florida Panthers will emerge. Can Pittsburgh get previous these groups? And are they adequate to win a couple of playoff collection? That’s the million-dollar query hovering over everybody’s heads.

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If all goes to plan, the underside sixes produce, the blue line solidifies itself for as soon as, and goaltending supplies greater than enough numbers down the stretch, it’s not out of the extraordinary to imagine this staff may attain the Eastern Conference Final or go even additional. That’s lots of ifs, however they’re ifs that may outline how subsequent season unravels, for higher or worse.

All in all, it may possibly by no means harm to have a core of Crosby, Malkin, Guenztel, Smith, Rust, Rakell, Letang, and Karlsson in your aspect. That’s lots of upside in a lineup that was in dire want of it. Where it takes them, that’s a thriller very properly value following within the coming months as the thrill continues to construct round PPG Paints Arena.

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