Penguins: A Last Hurrah for the Core?
The Pittsburgh Penguins, an iconic franchise led by a superstar core, face an intriguing season that could mark the end of an era. After narrowly missing the playoffs last year, significant changes were made, notably in the front office and on the roster. What can we expect from the Penguins this year? Let's delve into the analytics and narratives shaping this team.
2022-2023 Season Recap: A Mixed Bag of Emotions
The Penguins failed to make the playoffs, finishing with 91 points in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division. A close look at their ESBC Power AI metrics reveals an inconsistent season. The team started strong but experienced a decline in advanced metrics as the season progressed. Late-season rallies and a few unlucky losses saw them falling short of postseason contention. Sidney Crosby led the team in scoring, with Malkin, Guentzel, and Rakell providing additional firepower.
Front Office Shake-Up: From Old to New
Failing to make the playoffs resulted in the departure of Brian Burke and Ron Hextall from the front office. Kyle Dubas, the analytics-savvy former Toronto GM, was brought in as the new General Manager. His first order of business? Acquiring Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who had a phenomenal 100-point season last year as a defenseman.
New Faces, New Dynamics
Karlsson's addition is the most eye-catching, but other newcomers like Lars Eller, Matt Nieto, Noel Acciari, Reilly Smith, and Ryan Graves have been brought in to fill the void left by Zucker, Granlund, Bonino, Poehling, Petry, and Dumoulin. These new faces will be instrumental in defining the Penguins' identity this season. The biggest challenge is to construct a competitive 3rd line to support Crosby & Malkin.
The Goaltending Situation: Familiar and New
Tristan Jarry, who has shown himself to be a capable number one goalie, retains his spot. His backup will be Alex Nedeljkovic, who has the potential to be more than just a second fiddle. Playoff bubble teams like Pittsburgh can’t afford to lose points to bad goaltending but we think that Jarry is up for the task.
A Pivotal Season for the Coaching Staff
Mike Sullivan stays on as head coach, but with a new GM and significant roster changes, this season could be a referendum on his future with the team.
The Upcoming Season: A Last Hurrah?
The core of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang has been around for a while, and this season feels like a "last hurrah" for this group. With the addition of Karlsson, the Penguins have an opportunity to reignite their spark and potentially make a deep playoff run. The analytics are a bit cautious given last year's inconsistent performance, but the roster changes could bring about a positive shift. Much will depend on Mike Sullivan’s skills to navigate with the new roster pieces.
Conclusion: It's Now or Never
If the Penguins want to add another Cup to their legacy, this season offers one of their best chances in recent years. (and maybe their last one). Their core is aging, but still highly productive, and the new additions, particularly Karlsson, provide the team with fresh energy and elite-level skill. It's a risky gamble, but as history has shown, never count the Penguins out when they go all-in.
This season will be one of the most closely watched for Penguins fans, as it could either signal the beginning of the end for an era or a surprising new chapter in their storied history.
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