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.Which, if you believe in trends like this, is bad news for the Penguins in 2008-09.
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.
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
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.