By Cameron Walsh
Over the course of the season we have heard many Pens fans lament the lack of a true scoring option for Sidney Crosby and to a lesser extent Evgeni Malkin. Many were hoping that during this free agency Ray Ray (for some unknown reason I like this…) was going to go out and get the Penguins the help the needed along the wings. However Mr. Sugar Ray Shero did notice one glaring problem that showed statistically at the end of the season, we have no problem putting the puck in the net, we just can’t keep it out.
Our goals against per game: 2.87 which ranks us 20th in the league. Ottawa was the next closest playoff team ranked at 18 with 2.84 GAA, and we can’t say that Ottawa was really expecting to go deep with that roster they had.
Billy Ray Cyrus went out and tightened up the back end of this Penguins team. He noticed the loss of a true shutdown defensive pair hurt this team a lot, Ray Shero (ok I have run out of names now) knew he was never going to be able to keep Rob Scuderi from the Cup team but I don’t think he thought losing the slow skating monolith that is Hal Gill would have hurt as much as it did.
You’re supposed to build from the goal out are you not? Well the Penguins have at least given their 2003 number 1 overall draft pick the best chance to succeed now. Getting a much deeper back 6 has helped with the names of Orpik, Letang, Martin, Michalek, sitting in the top four it feels a much deeper group than last year, even with the departure of Sergei Gonchar, and Mark Eaton, two mainstays of the Cup winning back 6.
In this salary cap era, we all know you can not go out and cover your flaws in the free agent market anymore; you just don’t fit into the cap. Ray Shero has stuck to his 3 center theory and left the wings a little bit weak in the scoring department. Shero has a nice crop of talent waiting in the wings (sorry no pun intended) to fill some of the holes left by the departing free agents.
Nick Johnson played a handful of games last season and did quite a nice job on Malkin’s wing. Mark Letestu can fill that number 3/4 center position when Bylsma decides to move one of the big 3 centers to the wing. Then there is the Eric Tangradi bonanza, I have this feeling that he is going to make the team out of camp. Not so much out of need, but just because he will. If he does, the Penguins suddenly are a lot stronger in a position that is considered a weakness
This Penguins team is young, it is time the Penguins used some of the youth on the farm, in fact under the cap it might be the only choice Ray Shero has at this point, and he always likes to have some wiggle room in his cap for injuries and trades later in the year.
Still the Emperor Penguin might be a bird with no wings, but it is a very proud bird none the less. This year I think we see the flightless birds soar again.
PS, I just realized I live closer to these things than all of you!
**Melbourne, Australia’s own Cameron Walsh is a personal trainer by trade, he owns and operates dLuxe Health and Fitness. Walshy is a life long hockey/NHL/Penguins fan and he will be chiming in from time to time on various injuries that pop up in and around this game that we all know and love. He also bears a striking resemblance to the USS Hal Gill… just saying…