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Whether or not you're a Pittsburgh Penguins fan doesn't matter: Tony Ferrante of The Confluence of the Three Rivers put together a must-read roundtable discussion with an elite group of guests (including our own Sean Leahy, Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters, Hooks Orpik of The Sweater Ted and the Penguins' own director of content and publications Joe Sager) to preview the 2008-09 Penguins. I hope other blogs in NHL cities take note and repeat the idea. It's killer.

Two questions in particular were rather revelatory. The first involved which players could (or will) play on a line with Sidney Crosby this season. The clear consensus is that Miroslav Satan will be one of the wingers; then you have those who suggest fellow UFA acquisition Ruslan Fedotenko, Pascal Dupuis (who didn't exactly shine during stretches last season), the gritty Matt Cooke, Malkin's wing man Petr Sykora and Janne Pesonen, a quantity that's rather unknown outside of his very shiny helmet.

One name that sticks out as a possibility: Jordan Staal. Blogger Chris Yarbrough believes a Staal/Crosby/Satan line could be one of the top three in hockey as far as offense and defense goes, and if Miro flourishes with Sidney that's not all that improbable. If nothing else, pairing Staal with Crosby could quickly snap him out of his offensive funk if it carries over to 2008-09 ... although a huge numbers year might make that RFA contract negotiation a little dicier.

The second topic that just stunned me was when the bloggers made their season predictions. My feelings on the Penguins' chances following their finals' defeat have been established, and thoroughly debated. What I didn't count on was that Penguins fans would allow excusable homerism to cloud an inexcusable disregard for reality.

Eight of the 10 respondents referred to the Penguins as the team to beat in the East; five of them went as far as to predict the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup this season.

Only Chris Wassel -- who was kind enough to have me as a guest on The NHL Arena Podcast this weekend (.mp3) -- had the appropriate response to the Penguins' potential chances:

The Penguins are going to have a hangover similar to Edmonton and Ottawa (Runner-ups in 2006 and 2007 respectively).  This is where having Ty Conklin would have helped some.  However, Marc-Andre Fleury is going to have to play extremely well early with the loss of Ryan Whitney.  I can see Pittsburgh being close to .500 before Whitney comes back around Christmas or so.  After that, they will likely go on a streak and get just enough points to grab a 6th or 7th seed in the East (97 points).  In the playoffs, they can definitely win a round or two if the matchups are right.

Isn't this the most likely scenario for the Penguins this season?

Again, the whole thing is worth a read, especially the part where Leahy makes the case that the Detroit Red Wings didn't "have too many players considered ‘tough guys'" last season. Wherever he is, I think Darren McCarty just smashed something.

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