NHL season previews often sell you an impressive bill of goods before you realize, at the end of the season, you're holding an empty box. Which makes using advertisements and infomercials the appropriate template for Puck Daddy's 2009-10 NHL Season Previews, presented each day throughout September.
Last Season's Ad Copy: Fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division. (45-28-9, 99 points). The roller coaster year ended with a third Stanley Cup championship for the franchise after an epic seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings. Mired in a dogged slump in February, General Manager Ray Shero dropped the hammer on head coach Michel Therrien after a Valentine's Day massacre against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dan Bylsma stepped in and completely revived the team going 18-3-4 to finish the regular-season.
Minus a few departures, the Penguins roster is very much the same as last season. Shero filled a few holes while the Stanley Cup found itself in Mario Lemieux's swimming pool yet again. The proclaimed "City of Champions" finally has the Stanley Cup that was bestowed upon Sidney Crosby(notes) since he was drafted in 2005. Now, with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin(notes) and Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) locked up for years to come, the expectation of multiple championships is now in the minds of Penguins fans.
Barring something catastrophic occurring, Pittsburgh fans will find themselves watching playoff hockey for the next long while and in a year when the Penguins begin their transition from the Mellon Arena to the Consol Energy Center.
Latest Gadgets (Offseason Additions): Shero has been able to re-sign core players and add pieces here and there all while maintaining some freedom from the salary cap. With the ability to spend freely not an option, Shero went out and added depth at the forward and defense positions. Mike Rupp adds some grit while Jay McKee(notes) will quickly earn fan favorite status in Pittsburgh if he continues sacrificing his body while blocking shots. Taking over as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup is Brent Johnson(notes) (if healthy), who's been a serviceable goaltender during his 10-year NHL career.
To The Recycle Bin (Offseason Subtractions): Salary cap issues forced the departures of a number of Penguins in the off-season, but only one free agent was hoped to stay in Pittsburgh. After a phenomenal playoffs (and game-saving kick save), Rob Scuderi(notes), otherwise known as "The Piece", cashed in with a four-year, $13.6 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Joining Scuds out of Pittsburgh was fellow blue liner Hal Gill(notes) who took his massive stick to Montreal.
Petr Sykora(notes) and Miro Satan, who both performed disappearing acts at separate times last season and found themselves squeezed out of the lineup when Chris Kunitz(notes) and Bill Guerin(notes) were acquired, were not offered new contracts to stay with the team.
The Pitchman (Top Offensive Player): Crosby or Malkin? Pick one. Hard to do and while Malkin won the Art Ross Trophy and Conn Smythe, both he and Sid the Kid turned their games up a notch when the playoffs arrived. Crosby skated like a man on a mission and really evolved into a better all-around player than before. When Malkin wasn't busy playing smart, two-way hockey, he wad dominating defenses as the Carolina Hurricanes found out.
The NHL's sixth ranked offense last season (3.15 goals/game) will only get better as Crosby and Malkin continue their assault on opponent's nets. The two combined for 68 goals and 216 points in '08-09. The next highest total by a Penguin who played the entire season in Pittsburgh was Jordan Staal's(notes) 49 points.
Introducing .... (Potential Breakout Player): The one guy who could make some waves won't even start with the big club next week. Acquired along with Chris Kunitz from Anaheim in the Ryan Whitney(notes) deal, winger Eric Tangradi(notes) has the hands, shot, and size that could pave the way for the 20-year old to find himself on Sidney Crosby's wing. The 6-3, 214 lbs. power forward would make for a perfect replacement for Bill Guerin in front of the net. And while he's watching Crosby dance with the puck, Tangradi could keep busy Twittering.
Operators Are Standing By (The Defensemen): Death to the trap! When Therrien was fired, Bylsma installed a system where his blue line stands up the forecheck, which proved successful.
A full-season of Sergei Gonchar(notes) will ensure a dependable power-play quarterback and puck rusher. Brooks Orpik(notes) has no intentions of stopping his "free candy" deliveries. Another year of maturity under their belts should further along the developments of both Kris Letang(notes) and Alex Goligoski(notes). Jay McKee adds a shutdown defenseman to the group who specializes in shot blocking.
Possibly finding themselves having a cup of coffee with the Penguins this season could be Ben Lovejoy(notes), Nate Guenin(notes) and Alex Grant(notes). Pittsburgh has a solid top-six unit that works well together and the addition of McKee, with a sprinkling of some rookies, could continue improving a Penguins defense that has been known to lapse.
The Spokesmodel (The Goalies): Will a Stanley Cup ring and an out-of-this world performance in Game 7 of the finals quiet the Marc-Andre Fleury detractors? Despite puck-handling skills that give every Penguins fan heart palpitations, Fleury has developed into a solid No. 1 goaltender that is shedding the label of "inconsistent" rather quickly. If his solid play in the last season's Stanley Cup playoffs continues into this year, Fleury could play himself into Vezina Trophy consideration and maybe a spot on Canada's Olympic team.
And Now, a Short Message From Brooks Orpik: