The Pittsburgh Penguins, a team with a revamped coaching staff, six new players and a newly designed third jersey, are looking pretty good as they prepare for their season opener against the Anaheim Ducks this Thursday.
As much as I did not agree with the firings of Head Coach Dan Bylsma and General Manager Ray Shero, their replacements seem to be showing some promise. The Penguins organization and their fans are hoping that the new coach and general manager will help Crosby and his teammates raise the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. In case you have been sleeping under a rock this entire off season, the Penguins new head coach is Mike Johnston and the General Manager is Jim Rutherford.
Johnston has an extensive coaching history dating all the way back to the 1980’s where he coached for collegiate level hockey teams. As for the General Manager position, the Penguins hired Jim Rutherford who was the former president, General Manager, and partial owner of the Carolina Hurricanes.
As for new athletes, the Penguins have added forwards Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Patric Hornqvist, Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, and goalie Thomas Griess to their lineup for this season. These additions to the team should allow the offense to maintain its scoring dominance that it has possessed in the NHL over the past few seasons. Additionally, acquiring a seasoned net-minder like Thomas Greiss will allow both the players and the fans to feel more confident when Fluery has the night off.
Let’s face it, Zatkoff was not the greatest backup goalie last year and that was part of the reason that the Penguins did not win the Stanley Cup. However, it was his first season in the NHL and placing him as the backup goalie for a top ranked team was not the greatest idea Bylsma had last year. Despite this, he finished the season with a solid record of 12 wins and six losses while holding a .912 save percentage. Hopefully with Griess as the Penguins new backup goalie, the team can still confidently take the ice while Fleury takes a few nights off to stay healthy and fresh throughout the season.
The last new piece of the puzzle for this season is the new third jersey that the Penguins will dress in for 12 games this season. Not sure why people are calling the jersey “new” though. If fans have paid any attention, the jerseys are basically a remake of a previous design from the 90’s when the team won two Stanley Cups. More to the point, Fleury just released what his helmet will look like this season. Fleury said that he crafted it to look relatively similar to Tom Barrasso’s helmet when he was the goalie for the Penguins during that era.
With all these changes for the Penguins, the organization, as well as the fans, are looking forward to the 2014-15 NHL season and are expecting the team to once again make a run at being Stanley Cup champions. Personally, I think they will have another decent shot at winning it all, however I do have some advice I would like to give to Penguins fans.
My advice is this, do not expect the Penguins to start strong and win many games during the beginning of the season. The reason that the team will stumble for the first 10-15 games or so is because they will still be adjusting to Johnston’s coaching tactics. They will also be dealing with the effects of having a decent amount of players either injured or not feeling 100%. Players who fall into this category include Chris Kunitz who is battling an illness, Robert Bortuzzo who is out for a while with an upper body injury, and, one of their main stars, Evgeni Malkin who is recovering from an undisclosed injury.
With all that said, I will be joining all the loyal and diehard Penguins fans on Thursday night as we all “Buckle up” for another wild and exciting hockey season in the Burgh!