The Penguins are 9-7-3, and apparently they are doomed.
According to many of the reactionaries on Twitter, the team should just pack it in now and not waste their time trying for their third straight Stanley Cup.
It’s just too difficult to replace a 40-year-old fourth-line center, a mediocre third line center, and a backup goalie.
Okay, maybe I’ll give you the fact that you might not be able to find a backup better than Marc-Andre Fleury was last season.
Other than that, the Penguins losses from this offseason are very replaceable.
Many fans get caught up living in the past and tend to romanticize players that helped win championships here.
Sure, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen had some memorable playoff moments in black and gold.
That doesn’t mean that the Penguins need them back.
Remember Max Talbot?
Stanley Cup hero, Max Talbot.
Penguins fans clamored to have him back after he left.
The truth is, he fell off after peaking in the playoffs for the Penguins.
Overpaid by the Flyers, traded to Boston, and now he’s out of the league entirely.
Great guy, I’ll always love, “Talbo”, but the simple fact is, role players like Bonino, Talbot, etc. didn’t win those championships for the Penguins. The Penguins core did.
That core is still here, and it’s ready to be surrounded by newer, and perhaps more talented role players whose clutch playoff moments are still yet to come.
The problem with the Penguins is that they just haven’t gotten those role players yet.
Make no mistake about it, Jim Rutherford is watching the same team that we are.
Is this team good enough to win a championship as it’s currently constructed?
Is Riley Sheahan good enough to be the third line center come playoff time?
I think the answer to both of those questions is a resounding no.
Honestly, I believe there’s more than a few trades still to come.
I don’t buy into the old narratives that people will circulate saying that the Penguins need to acquire a “veteran leader” or a “locker room presence”.
I think Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s resumes speak for themselves. They can be those leaders.
What the Penguins need is a talented player whose trade value is at an all-time low.
I really, really hope the Penguins make a play to get Alex Galchenyuk from Montreal, because that fits his description to a tee.
Aside from a trade, I think the Penguins would only benefit from an injection of youth.
Daniel Sprong is far too good to be playing anywhere but the NHL.
Don’t let anyone tell you that he isn’t ready because of his defensive play.
Seriously, when have Penguins wingers ever been expected to play defense?
Besides the fact that this Penguins team is likely far from complete, it’s also important to take a look at your calendars.
Nothing the Penguins do right now is going to affect what they’ll do in April.
As long as they play well enough to keep themselves in the playoff race, there’s no reason to fret about their early season struggles, especially with the egregious schedule they’ve been dealt.
I certainly think this team is a little tired from playing so many games in the previous two seasons, but I expect their play to pick up as the season goes on, regardless.
In a perfect world, they will heat up a week or two prior to the first round and cruise through everyone like they did back during the 2015-16 Cup run.
On the other hand, they might just decide to turn it up a notch out of nowhere once playoff time hits like they did last year.
Either way, I think going into full panic mode on these Penguins is unfair after the resilience they’ve shown us throughout their last two campaigns.
Sure, they don’t look great right now.
But they don’t have to, at least not yet.
Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby are only going to get better.
You won’t see those two much more ineffective than they have been recently, and when they turn it on, you’ll wonder why you ever worried about this team.
There’s a lot of time between now and when it really matters for the back to back defending champions.
To be clear, this isn’t the same team as last year, like many people have exclaimed.
To be clear, this team doesn’t have to be.