The Pittsburgh Penguins – A Wake Up Call Into a New NHL

Penguins – A New Reality

Imagine a team full of AHL players all struggling for a spot on the roster. This scenario plays out during the off season every year. However, for the penguins, this was the 2003-2004 season. While they did not make the play offs with this rookie team, and rookie coach they did do something – they were able to compete on an NHL level. Now let’s fast forward a bit to now, past the lockout, and past all the arguments. Let’s look at the new 2005-2006 NHL. The penguins have acquired leadership, talent, and a will to win. Not to mention hockey’s newborn superstar, Sydney Crosby.

Imagine now a team with players like Ryan Malone, who put up competition for rookie of the year, with no one to lend a hand, or even Dick Tarnstrom, who was a defensive leader for the season, on a defensive core that lacked everything from leadership to experience. Imagine if you can… filling the holes, and granting great young stars a bit of experience, coupled with great leaders at every position. This is the New Pittsburgh Penguins, and this is the New NHL.


I start with defense because everyone is looking past the penguins success because they feel the penguins lack defense. I believe this to be a falsity. I believe any Pittsburgh native can easily disagree with this. With a staff of Dick Tarnstrom, Brooks Orpik, Lyle Odelein, Josef Melichar, Ric Jackman, and Steve Poapst, all led by new signing Sergei Gonchar the penguins are far from hurting, in a defensive aspect. They have two of the top offensive defensemen in the league in Tarnstrom and Gonchar. They also have three stay at home bruisers in Jackman, Orpik and Odelein, and they have good two way players in Poapst and Melichar.

Don’t believe me? Well its hard to prove to you that Orpik is as good as I believe, but watching him play is the key. He plays with intensity, and with this new speed based offensive system, every team needs an intense player to put some fear into those fast flying offensive players. Don’t get me wrong please, this is a young defense, but it is now defense with guidance, and every player fits a role. This is called teamwork, something that has got the devils to a cup year after year. Remember that.

And since the talk is offense, offense, offense this year, let me throw these numbers at you. Gonchar has recorded more goals (74) and more points (241) than any other NHL defenseman since the 2000-01 season, as says the NHL official website. Add to that the fact that Tarnstrom finished with 52 points last year, a leader amongst defensemen. Also Gonchar is at a career total of +57, something that he can teach to players within the pens defense who struggle in keeping up the +/-.

The penguins defense also has something else going for them, everyone doubts them. If teams are going to come into games saying they are going to roll over the defense of the penguins, they will have another thing coming this year, and when they are dropped in the offensive zone, and our speedsters are taking it down the ice, they’ll be picking themselves up wondering what just happened.


The penguins received a future in goaltending with the signing of Marc-Andre Fleury, and last year found out what it’s like for a rookie goaltender, who has no one to look to. Fleury was fighting against a set of young goaltenders, not learning with them. Now with Thibault signed to the penguins organization, we have a strong starter who can teach Fleury the way to grow stronger, and also win us games until Fleury is ready. Let’s face it; in the last few seasons of Thibault’s career, if not all of them, he has never had a stellar defense in front of him. This year he will have a growing crew. I’d take Thibault over Burke or Joseph any day of the week. Once again, don’t get me wrong, neither of these goalies will be league leaders, but I don’t believe we will see the same leaders we are accustomed to anyways with the new rules. New goalie stars will rise, and I feel the penguins have a staff of tenders who can step up to the challenge.


The penguins have one of the strongest offensive threats in the league. Some may argue, and to those of you who do I pose the following. With obstruction being called, everyone knows how dangerous Super Mario is, now add to the mix Crosby, Recchi, Leclair, Palffy, Gonchar, Tarnstrom, Fata, Malone, and Koltsov. I don’t need to remind everyone that during the best season the Flyers have had in a long time, there was a guy named Recchi leading the squad in points. Also with a year of recovery, we can start seeing a flash within leclair. A year off of a game where you play day in and day out, is an eternity. Then add Palffy, a player who has no idea what its like to play with a crew that isn’t on IR half the season, as the kings led the league, and broke records, in man games lost.

Now I know a lot of people are saying, ok… sure those players are great… but can you really mean it when you say Koltsov, Malone, and Fata? Yes… Yes I can. In this new league speed is going to be something every team will need and fear. Rico Fata and Koltsov are some of the leagues fastest blue line to blue line players. These guys will get fed passes from the Defense from blue line to blue line, beating many opposing teams defense back to the line. With some work on the hands, these three could be a massive scoring threat, especially when they will be paired with a checking or fourth line. Also as stated before, remember that teams cannot forget our defensive presence in the offensive zone. The penguins in my opinion have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.

Again many people and many NHL teams will disagree, this is where the penguins will thrive, catching these teams off guard.


Last but not least, lets remember this is Eddy-O’s second season behind the bench, and much was learned from a tough season. With leadership on the team, Eddy can focus on teaching and training these guys, allowing players like Mario, Recchi, Leclair, and Palffy lead them on the ice.

Division Claims

Let’s not forget as well that if the penguins can win their division, they are heading to the playoffs with home ice advantage. Many people have dubbed the Flyers winners of the free agent market, I dub them losers. Let me pose this question. If someone sent you a message and it read… “We offer you Peter Forsberg for Tony Amonte, JR, Mark Recchi, and John Leclair” … would you ever say… GREAT! I wouldn’t because you take the role players of the team, and replace them with one great player. That is not teamwork, that is not the NHL. Also, as a huge devils fan, I know a hurting team when I see one, with their losses, I think they could be in for a long season, but they always find a way to pull out the W. This division won’t be easy to win, but let’s not hand it over to the Flyers without playing the games first.


The Penguins are not the maple leafs, avalanche, or red wings… They are a small market team with their hometown support. The same thing they were when they won back to back cups in the early 90’s. There will be nay-sayers, however, when its time to play, I feel many people will be stuck with their foots in their mouths and say…. Wow… this team can play. Will we in the cup?… no probably not… do we have a shot? Most defiantly.

70 Responses to The Pittsburgh Penguins – A Wake Up Call Into a New NHL

  1. Hockey_Fan_99 says:

    comparing Carter and Richards to Amonte and LeClair and saying they will do as well or better is foolish im a flyer fan but you have to learn where to draw the line Carter and Richards have not even played an NHL game yet they were good in the playoffs in the AHL thats the problem though they are playing agaisnt other ROOKIES that are starting out they arent shooting against a Brodeur or a Loungo or playing against a forsberg, iginla, Jagr, Neidermayer, Pronger, or Blake they are playing against other inexperienced rookies

    so with that said

    Carter, Richards, Savage, Knuble, Hatcher, Rathje, Fosberg


    Markov, Malakhov, Roenick, Recchi, LeClair, Amonte, Zhamnov, Ragnarsson

    Is that really an improvement? i dont think so we gave up our whole offensive core for that we will struggle this year to even make it to the playoffs we will still make it but not at the top of the league

  2. Jesus_Piece says:


  3. Hockey_Fan_99 says:


  4. PSU_Penguin says:

    I think fata is going to surprise everyone the way Kovy did when he came to pittsburgh. Fata has talent, and last year he showed us he could use it. Koltsov, though, I share your doubts. While he’s amazingly fast, anyone who can get to a game should come to see this guy, he still seems to be having trouble finishing. It was his problem before last year and he never really fixed it. He could be dangerous but he just can’t put up points after he blows by the defense.

  5. nonhl2005 says:

    They lost how many good scorers?

    5 you say, who are they? LeClair and Reechi had like 10 total points in the playoffs last season. That was 2 years ago on 2 older guys. Amonte has done nothing since he got to Philly. The only scorer they lost was JR, Zhamnov was a UFA and was figuring to go elsewhere anyway. They have also gained Mike Knuble, some goal scoring ability, they have opened up the roster to allow some of these young guns to finally have a spot. Don’t get me wrong there was not many bigger LeClair backers then me. I do think he may be able to score in this new NHL, just never at the ability he was in the late 90’s. He was not worth it to keep at the money he was making.

    Everyone keeps saying the new NHL is going to be the death of the bigger d-men. From what I have seen in the 2 preseason games as long as that slower d-man is with a speedy d-man they have not been expoilted. With the speedy Pitkanen, Johnsson or Seidenberg paying with Hatcher or Rathje I don’t see a problem. There is one guy I think will be a big benefit this season. Eric Desjardins and his stick work. I have not seen many better at the poke check and this new NHL system seems to fit nicely with him.

    Hense why they are the favorite in the east and according to the Vegas odds makers they are the favorite, at 9/2, to win the Cup. I think they know something about picking winners.

  6. titans says:

    Our payroll is 36.5 million, we have a few bucks left.

  7. Hockey_Fan_99 says:

    Pens have about 10mill left we have like 1 mill left

  8. Conceptlost says:

    As this is my first big article, and my first real posting of any kind on this great site, i wanna say thanks to everyone for their comments as it was all kept respectful and clean.

    With all the positive talk generated and the good debates, i hope to have more articles posted. Thanks all, your all true hockey fans, and the sport that was hurting so much, really needs more fans like you guys.

    Again, thanks! No matter who we root for… lets give it a LETS GO HOCKEY!

  9. DarkPhoenix says:

    The Pens may score a lot of goals, but I’d hate to be Thibault…

    Then again, it can’t be any worse than spending the last 5 years in Shi…Er, I mean Chicago.

  10. rc21pa says:

    You would think this team is weak on defense.

    This team is very deceiving. Watching the practices there are some offensive minded players that are two way players. Malone, LeClair, and Recchi can step back and help the defense. I also believe Roy and Vandenbusse can help as well when all the the Pens have to do is kill the clock.

    All our defensive players are more then capible of playing defensive as well. Just because some of them are noticed for there offensive abilities doesn’t mean they can only play offense. Jackman and Tarnstrom can play defensive as well. Orpik is highly underratted. Melichar is strong. Odelein and Poast aren’t chopped liver and Gonchar is a two way player as well.

    The problem for the Pens could be injuries but the pens aren’t the ones starting the season with three stars on the injuried reserve. The one thing I know is once you get a injury they don’t go away overnight and sometimes they can resurface at the stranges times and sometimes on and off during a whole season. The Pens don’t have a down man. But the Flyers do.

  11. rc21pa says:

    What I saw of Crosby from the camp so far is this.

    He isn’t doing anything to prove the rumors wrong. He has got talent of likes I haven’t seen and looks like he could bypass Lemieux. Mario practiced but didn’t do any of the simulated games which doesn’t help much in really seeing Crosby at work but compared to everyone else he is steps ahead of the game. He is on a different level and it don’t look like he even reached his peak yet.

    As for the so called next big things not all are falures.

    Lindros which isn’t a great big star isn’t a falure either. Lindros was cursed with a target on his back and a crap load of concussions will kill anyones chances. But no one can deny that he is nice to have on a team though. He helped every team that he was on and I don’t believe he’s going to kill Toronto’s chances either. He might not have Wayne and Mario numbers but just him being on a team can help make them stronger.

    Spezza isn’t a falure either. He wasn’t worth the hype but few ever are. Spezza isn’t done yet and still can show many wrong. He won’t be a Mario or a Wayne but it’s unfair to right off someone just because he isn’t them.

    Ricci is a player that anyone would like to have on there team. No he isn’t Wayne or Mario, but he isn’t joe blow either.

    Daigle isn’t even fair to even be mentioned. Daigle had a falure of a career because he didn’t take it seriously. NO ONE can prove this career and what it could have been. The only shame here is he will never know how good he could have been. If he wasn’t worried about the big payday without earning it yet and concentrated on playing the game, who knows. This man had the making but he didn’t face his reality. He crusied his life and lost face with the goal at hand. When he was ready to prove he is for real he had to work twice as hard just to be ready to play the game. If he didn’t snuff his gift he might have been. It’s a shame and unfair to hold this one over his head. He has to live with himself and what he did, let him atleast enjoy the fact he walked away too long but when he came back atleast he made a major league roster. With a supporting roster he might hold more then his own.

    Overall even Crosby has said wait and see and he is the most level headed talent I have ever seen. He isn’t letting the hype effect him and if he keeps this up let me assure you he will be better then anyone has ever hoped. But I can agree with you and Crosby wait until he walks away with the rookie of the year honors and two great seasons then hype this kid for who he is. Better.

  12. rc21pa says:

    By the way,

    From what I saw at practice and game simulations LeClair isn’t done yet. And loss of Recchi could be fatal. After all who lead the team in point the last time a season was played?

    Later slappy.

  13. nhand says:

    I hear what your saying Hockey_Fan_99. I was just comparing Richards and Carters “production” to Amonte and LeClair. I think each is capable of netting 20 goals (in the NHL mind you), which is what each of the vets brought last year. They won’t have the experience that LeClair and Amonte bring, but I’ll still take their youth and zeal over what both the vets gave us in the playoffs last time around. It’s time to move on to the future, and LeClair and Amonte are not going to be a part of that.

    We’ll just have to see if the Flyers struggle with the downgrade you suggest. I’m going with the upgrade theory. Time will tell. Enjoy the season.

  14. OldGoalie says:

    I was wondering about Crosby, too…and for a lot of the same reasons…but then I went to the Pens’ training camp scrimmages last Saturday. He has extraordinary vision and anticipates the play as well as anyone I’ve ever seen outside of Gretzky in his prime, and he uses both when he doesn’t have the puck to create space for himself and (this is may be the most impressive thing about him due to his age) for teammates. While his top end speed is merely outstanding, his acceleration is downright blinding…his first two steps are remarkable. His slapshot is not Al Iafrate’s, but he has very, very good slap, snap and wrist shots, and he’s not shy about using them. He is already the second best passer on the team, and is unselfish. His stickhandling and puck control are exceptional, and he’s one of those players that the puck just seems to want to follow. He backchecks with enthusiasm, is effective in his own end, and more than holds his own along the boards.

    As for the downsides…his upper body strength is not outstanding (he’s very difficult to knock off the puck now, but when/if he adds some msucle above the waist he’ll be even better)…his reach isn’t superhuman like Lemieux’s is…and he hasn’t completely adjusted to the speed or talent level of the NHL game yet.

    I haven’t seen enough of Spezza to compare the two, but Crosby is significantly more talented than Ricci, Daigle and Lindros were when they broke in. What he does with it remains to be seen, I agree…but the upside for this kid is amazing. That’s why people are so excited…it’s always fun to watch the first steps of someone who could be bound for a legendary career, and everyone would like to be able to say to his kids (like I will be able to if Crosby’s career turns out to be the stuff of legend) “you were there when he scored his first goal in training camp…”

  15. cgolding says:


    You guys will be a lot of fun to watch this year, but barring injuries to other teams in division I would be relatively shocked to see the Pens come out on top of the division.



    Dick Tarnstrom, Brooks Orpik, Lyle Odelein, Josef Melichar, Ric Jackman, Steve Poapst, and Sergei Gonchar


    Brown, Malakhov, Martin, Matvichuk, McGillis, Rafalski, and White


    Desjardins, Hatcher, Johnsson, Pitkanen, Rathje, Seidenberg, and Therien

    Are you really telling me, in terms of functional team defense, you wouldn’t rather have the Devs and Flyers units? Tarnstrom and Gonchar were a combined -51 the last time the NHL played. True, they will put up some points on the PP, but they are also lacking when it comes to playing actual defense… which is part of their job description. From a quick look the only +/- on defense you had that was close to even was Odelein at -7.

    Normally +/- is hurt by being on a bad team… but good defensive players manage to keep it under control. That was not so much the case with your defensive group. Maybe I’m wrong, but this unit doesn’t strike me as a unit that is going to stop too many people behind their own blue-line. MAYBE they’ll make up for it on the other end of the ice, but history in almost every sport suggests it is a lot easier to STOP the opponent as compared to trying to OUTSCORE the opponent every game.

    And don’t kid yourself, coaches are going to figure out this thing, players are going to adjust to the new rules (less PP’s), and everything else that goes along with seeing the way the rules play out. The league is preaching “offense, offense, offense,” but the coaches are still preaching, “defense, defense, defense.” If you are sitting out there thinking that Hitch***** and Robinson aren’t going to come up with methods of halting the bleeding defensively, it is going to be a long season for you…


    They are going to light the lamp, absolutely. Enough to make up for their defense, I sorta doubt it. The forward corps here is extremely weak defensively and they are going to have to play against some forwards who are capable of playing shutdown defense, are they capable of reciprocation? I don’t think so… Mario ain’t exactly the worlds best back-checker.

    Flyer fan notes:

    Rex – I love the guy. He’s going to score points. However, he’s lost a step and isn’t nearly as good defensively as he used to be (not that he was ever a “defensive” forward). Would have liked to have him back, but he wasn’t willing to wait for us. I wish him well.

    Leclair – He’s done. Not kinda done. He’s DONE. He’s a one-dimensional player because he lacks the skating ability to be an effective two-way player, which forced the players to keep him in a scoring role and put Gagne on the checking line. He’ll probably have a very strong start to the season, but then tail off as his back gets stressed out again and so forth.

    I wish he could have ended his career in Philly.

    Both players, Rex (who was “leading” our team… which is a joke proving you don’t know what was going on with this team’s play last time around) included, benefited massively from being centered by Handzus. Handzus is SO good at covering the middle of the ice defensively and mopping up all the messes that they basically got to cherry pick all season. It’s pretty easy to put up nice offensive numbers and look pretty good when you don’t have to play defense… They’ll both get their numbers, especially on what should be an amazing PP, but they are going to get burned by some teams… especially fast teams.

    (both these players contributed greatly to the Flyers problems with fast teams the past few years.)


    Thibault is a nice stop-gap, but I would seriously be concerned about MAF’s progression thus far if I’m a Pitt fan. The fact that he wasn’t starting for your club in the Calder playoffs last year is pretty amazing and discouraging if you’re asking me.

    Thibault better be ready to see a lot of rubber this year…


    Outmatched by Hitch and Robinson in division… especially to make up for the lack in defensive talent (both forwards/defensemen). We can debate the different rosters, though Gretzky has proven with his team Canada’s that quality defensive role players are key to a successful team. The Flyers in Handzus, Primeau, Kapanen, etc… have this as do the Devils. Pens, not so much.

    Division Claims

    Best of luck to you…

    as far as your Flyer claims…

    “If someone sent you a message and it read… “We offer you Peter Forsberg for Tony Amonte, JR, Mark Recchi, and John Leclair” … would you ever say… GREAT!”

    Tony Amonte – WASHED UP… was washed up in Phoenix… was still washed up in Philly.

    Rex – would have liked to get him back… but he didn’t want to wait. if we signed him we wouldn’t of had the flexibility on the market that we ended up having.

    Leclair – really… we’re talking Leclair for Knuble. Would I do that? Absolutely given the way Knuble has played the last few years… including during the lock-out in Europe and the WC’s.

    JR – this is the only one in relation to Forsberg that is worth discussing… and if you are really saying you wouldn’t lose JR for Forsberg you’re delusional. the last time we saw JR he was an absolute mess…

    The only concern I would have about the Devils going into this season is scoring… If Mogilny can stay healthy and Elias doesn’t come back too late and is strong they will be fine in regards to this. They will play defense and still have Brodeur.

    I admit to wearing Orange and Black goggles, but if the Flyers stay healthy I personally think we are going to run away from this division… and from the stuff that I see on the internet I’m not alone amongst the experts. Winning the cup is a completely different issue though…


    The Pens will be a REALLY fun team to watch. They will be in a lot of high-scoring games. In the beginning of the season with a lot of emphasis on special teams as we see adjustment to the new rules I think they will be very scary to play against with that PP, though I question how good their PK is going to be. A lot of 6-5 games and whatnot… plus I want nothing to do with them in a shootout. However, when push comes to shove they are going to get beat up down the middle by teams with tough centers. Lemieux isn’t going to play 82 games, may struggle to play 60. Crosby is a rookie and the players coming in to help push them over the top were on the downside of their careers prior to lockout, who knows what to expect from them after all of this (neither Rex or Leclair played last year).

    I think the Flyers/Devs will make the playoffs, if the Devils score. NE could put 4 in this year, making it very tough for a third team to get in. If they do get into the playoffs, where defense/coaching matters even more I think they’ll be a first-round exit.

    nevermind the bullox,


    PS – I’m confused how you can say you are a “huge devils fan” and then refer to the Pens as “we.” you realize you’re talking about a division opponent, right?

  16. cgolding says:

    somehow feel like Forsberg can adequately replace Rex…

  17. Bubbaboo says:

    “Concept Lost” who wrote the article has proven his point by his web name! He has no concept. It was further proven by the three teams that were mentioned at the end of his article. None of them have a chance this year; nor do the Penguins!

  18. Hockey_Fan_99 says:

    wow this guy writes an awesome article and you come in with a comment like that? keep it to yourself

  19. WeedIan says:

    The penguins arn’t going to do anything as well as you expect, they still lack goaltending, and T-Bo isn’t a GREAT or even good Goaltender or he would have been shipped out of chicago long ago when they were looking to dump salary to a good team at the time.

    And when you lack goaltending with a at the best average defense your not going to win games even if you do have all the offensive players that they added.

  20. Hockey_Fan_99 says:

    “T-Bo isn’t a GREAT or even good Goaltender”

    have you ever even see thibault play? hes a great goalie he can save tons of shots and play consistentley even being behind a team like Chicago

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