Monday, September 15, 2008

The runner-up curse

Here's a zany figure from The Hockey News' editor-in-chief Jason Kay from the magazine's latest issue:
Nobody has really proposed an appropriate term for the Stanley Cup loser, however. That affliction runs far deeper than a garden variety hangover.

Consider the past 11 Cup finalists have combined to win one playoff round the year after losing the big one. That's not a typo. The 2001 Dallas Stars managed to beat Edmonton in the opening round of the postseason after succumbing in the final to New Jersey the previous year. The other 10 finalists either failed to qualify for the playoffs or were ousted in Round 1.
Which, if you believe in trends like this, is bad news for the Penguins in 2008-09.

It's been said already this summer by numerous pundits, but I do think Pittsburgh could have a bit of a stumble this season — even if it's short lived. Their roster underwent a relatively major overhaul and there will be three or four new faces playing 15-plus minutes a night, especially with Ryan Whitney shelved to start the season.

At the moment, the team's depth chart looks something like so (feel free to correct me):

Fedotenko - Crosby - Satan
Pesonen - Malkin - Sykora
Dupuis - Staal - Kennedy
Cooke - Talbot - Godard

Orpik - Gonchar
Eaton - Letang
Scuderi - Gill

Fleury
Sabourin

It's a pretty lethal 1-2-3 punch down the middle, but Pittsburgh's weak on the wings, especially if Miro Satan's off year last season on Long Island turns into a trend. Having Crosby and Mark Eaton for full seasons should help, too.

The real problem I have with predicting a step back for the Penguins is the lack of legitimate competition in the Eastern Conference. The fact they can roll out two Hart Trophy candidates 40 minutes a night is enough on its own to ensure they're the team to beat in the Atlantic Division, and they took major steps forward in terms of defensive play as last season wore on.

There are a couple of injuries that could be devastating, however. Should either Marc-Andre Fleury or Sergei Gonchar go down, look out, as there's simply not enough depth at either position to compensate.

It's going to be an interesting year in Pittsburgh.
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20 Comments:

At 9:03 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Hooks Orpik said...

Pretty spot on James. I don't expect Pesonen to be a Top 6 player right off the bat, but otherwise your depth chart looks accurate.

I think the Pens will either try to slug a guy like Dupuis or Talbot or even Kennedy as a rotating top 6 forward.

Or the possibility of switching Staal back to the wing is there too.

 
At 9:21 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Pooch said...

Well knowing Therrien all of those line scenarios will happen, probably all in the first period of the first game.

 
At 9:37 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Brooklyn Hockey Boy said...

Your final sentence basically sums up any comment I would have...it most certainly will be an interesting year.

 
At 9:43 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Ebscer said...

Having Satan on your top line is nothing to be proud of. Still they should easily make the post-season

 
At 10:03 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Tony said...

I really don't see Fedotenko on the first line with Crosby James...

Also, let's hope that Satan flourishes getting feeds from Crosby on a nightly basis...

Tony
The Confluence of the Three Rivers
http://mvn.com/nhl-penguins

 
At 10:08 AM, September 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pesonen could be great or bust. I think he should be playing with Crosby early on so they can see immediately if he's ready. He's not coming out of junior.

 
At 10:41 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Hooks Orpik said...

I think Satan will be fine. Last year he was playing through injury and on a poor team.

Last year at this time everyone was saying how Sykora couldn't keep up with Malkin and didn't have the speed to be effective. And all Sykora did was put up the most points he's scored since 2000-01.

If healthy it wouldn't shock me to see Satan be the guy who scored 35 goals in 2005-06.

 
At 11:07 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

That's a whole lot of nothing on LW. They're decent on RW and excellent at centre, but they're generally slow on D and are lacking in puckmovers. If Letang takes a big step forward, they could hold their own until Whitney comes back.

But to expect them not to have an adjustment period is really ridiculous. If a fellow Atlantic team like Philly or Jersey comes out fully prepared from the get go, they could lead the division pole to pole while Pittsburgh gets stuck in that 4-5 matchup due to a slow start.

 
At 11:26 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Let's not forget how many Cinderella runs are in there: Florida, Washington, Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton...there's half your "cursed" pennant winners right there.

 
At 11:28 AM, September 15, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Oops, forgot Carolina ('02). That's six, though I'll always include the caveat that Edmonton '06 had some serious extenuating circumstances (Pronger trade).

 
At 1:47 PM, September 15, 2008, Blogger MotherPucker.ca said...

Yeah the last few runner-ups have tanked, but I don't see the penguins quite falling that hard. Return to the stanley cup final? Unlikely, but not making the playoffs or only winning one series is also looking unlikely.

 
At 7:01 PM, September 15, 2008, OpenID jimmypop6996 said...

Well James, you're a bit off when it comes to the Penguins having no depth on defense. Left off of your defensive depth chart is Darryl Sydor and blue-chip prospect Alex Goligoski who paced Wilkes-Barre to an AHL record in Calder Cup points last year. Granted he's no Gonchar but I think if Sarge did go down, the defense would still be adequate to win.

 
At 7:03 PM, September 15, 2008, OpenID jimmypop6996 said...

Also look for guys like Jeff Taffe, Kris Beech, or Ryan Stone to get much more playing time than Eric Godard.

 
At 9:25 PM, September 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Sydor's 36 and untradeable for a reason, and Goligoski is unproven at the NHL level. Neither are going to be in the top six unless there's a major injury — and I just don't think the Pens are up to replacing someone like Gonchar.

That's not a fatal flaw: It's just reality under the salary cap. Without Whitney, there's a hole.

 
At 10:48 PM, September 15, 2008, Blogger I Have Kasparaitis said...

Mirtle, I usually agree with you, but Sydor is still got some talent and the reason for not to trade involved Whitney's foot injury and the NTC he is under right now. I wouldn't want to get traded from the Pens either.

Obviously the Pens are going to show some offensive slack from the blue-line w/o Whitney, but I believe Letang after showing the League more of his talent (as compared to him playing a few games the previous season)has potential to fill in those gaps.

I agree on Golgi, he's not tested enough and needs to bulk up as well. Get some muscle on the guy before you have him playing a lot.

Also all things said about Satan are basically based on his time spent with the Islanders. The Islanders aren't exactly winning and don't have the talent of Sidney or Evgeni (although they do have some young talent but not as developed.)

Like pooch mentioned, HCMT does switch his lines up frequently, so you never exactly know who he might play where.

 
At 7:56 AM, September 17, 2008, Anonymous Kraftster said...

James, I think your most important point involves the lack of a sufficient number of challngers in the East to knock the Pens anywhere close to out of the playoffs.

When you consider that the Pens were 35-21-7 before they made their deadline deals, its hard to argue that the team is much worse off (if at all) than the team that they rode to that record. That team had wingers like Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, and Tyler Kennedy getting top six time. Obviously if Crosby stays healthy, the team will be better going into the deadline this year. There's certainly a drop when comparing this year's starting roster to the SCF roster, mainly because of the loss of Hossa, but, the pre-deadline roster last year was plenty good to be a home-ice playoff team, and I think this lineup is better than that one.

I completely agree that Goligoski is not going to be a solution for the loss of Whitney, and, I shudder when I see fantasy prognosticators suggesting that he is a solid pickup. I think he'll have to have an unbelievable camp to convince the Pens to keep him around. That being said, its hardly an indictment of the team's depth to suggest that they wouldn't be able to handle the loss of Whitney AND Gonchar. Every team in the league will struggle if they lose their top two offensive defensemen. I suppose its more likely that this could happen to the Pens since Whitney is already down, but, I do think that Letang is good enough to soften that blow and keep the team about where they would be with Whit in there.

A few other comments regarding the depth chart:
I'm not convinced Pesonen will make the team. I think Staal will start the season one of the top 2 lines' left wing spots. I really doubt that you'll see Max Talbot relegated to fourth line center again in his career. He's simply played his way out of being put in that position. I think Shero brought in far too many bodies up front if that is even a possibility. I agree with your D pairings with Sydor being the 7th guy.

 
At 1:40 PM, September 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just got back from the pens practice/scrimmage today...

obviously early but lines looked as follows

Dupuis - Crosby - Satan
Staal - Malkin - Sykora
Cooke - Talbot - Fedetenko

Pesonen - Taffe - Tyler Kennedy were a line, However the word seems to be TK's roster spot isnt guranteed and Taffe would be the first line center in the AHL, so that might be WBS first line right there, but I would be looking for these guys along with Godard, maybe Stone or Filewich to compile a mix for the 4th line

 
At 4:13 PM, September 17, 2008, Blogger brendan said...

For the first game, i'm expecting these lines:

Dupuis - Crosby - Satan
Sykora - Malkin - Fedotenko
Taffe(Pesonen) - Staal - Kennedy
Cooke - Talbot - Goddard

Orpik - Gonchar
Eaton - Letang
Scuderi - Gill

Fleury

Taffe did really well in the face-off circle in his last nine games(59%), but there isn't any room for him to make a permanent home there. However, I can't remember how many times Taffe almost buried one on the wing last season and had me pulling my hair out. I think he will improve slightly and his hands might become a little softer and if Pesonen doesn't work out, then he might find a permanent home on a wing with Staal.

 
At 4:14 PM, September 17, 2008, Blogger brendan said...

For the first game, i'm expecting these lines:

Dupuis - Crosby - Satan
Sykora - Malkin - Fedotenko
Taffe(Pesonen) - Staal - Kennedy
Cooke - Talbot - Goddard

Orpik - Gonchar
Eaton - Letang
Scuderi - Gill

Fleury

Taffe did really well in the face-off circle in his last nine games(59%), but there isn't any room for him to make a permanent home there. However, I can't remember how many times Taffe almost buried one on the wing last season and had me pulling my hair out. I think he will improve slightly and his hands might become a little softer and if Pesonen doesn't work out, then he might find a permanent home on a wing with Staal.

 
At 12:42 PM, January 11, 2009, Blogger Matt Gajtka said...

Wow, does this evaluation ever ring true about four months down the road. Something has to change, and quick.

 

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