After spending their entire history at the Civic Arena, or Mellon Arena for the kids, the Pittsburgh Penguins will move across Centre Avenue this year to the brand new CONSOL Energy Center, which is a pretty fantastic building. No longer will players be cramped in dank locker rooms with leaking pipes. No longer will fans be crammed up in the rafters where sightlines only afford a view of half of the ice.
But to be sure, Penguins fans will miss The Igloo. It's where the team was born and it's where the team grew up. It's where every Pens fan has every one of their Penguins memories. It's where Mario Lemieux made his name and it's where Sidney Crosby made his name.
While fans will surely look back at times this season, the new building gives them a fantastic opportunity to look forward as well. And as has been in Pittsburgh over the last several seasons, the future is bright. The team is just as equipped to make a deep playoff run as they were in 2009 when they won the entire thing, but there are questions as well.
With help from four of the boys over at Pensburgh, we take a deep look at the 2010-11 Pittsburgh Penguins.
1) Is Mike Comrie going to come up big?
If he stays healthy, he has a good chance of doing so, I think, especially if he gets top-6 minutes. I realize that's a lot of ifs and maybes... - JustinM
I think a return 30 goals and maybe a career high in points 60+, I think/hope as a homerfanboy he fits in real well with the offense and if he shows any chemistry with Sid it's go time! - tehchico
Honestly, and productivity wise, I don't see that happening. I think what this brought was another potential bright spot, but, better than anything, someone with reasonable experience who can slot in towards the back lines. Big? 80 Games, 30 Goals and 30 Assists big? No. If he stays healthy, plays reasonably more games than he has the past few years, it could have it's effect in terms of depth on the back lines, which is all I ever saw the move being...beyond my plans to secretly win back the heart of Hilary Duff that is. - Lavender
That would be nice, but if he doesn't, what's the risk? The Pens got a great deal on him and he could be just the player they need to put them back on top. Best case scenario he's good for 20-25 goals, 20-30 assists, helps them win a Cup and then signs somewhere else after the season is through. Worst case scenario? He gets mono again.- FrankD
2) Can Marc-Andre Fleury follow up his 09-10 performance with a solid one in 10-11?
I don't think last year was as bad as some folks made it out to be, but with the defensive upgrades, there are no excuses anymore. - JustinM
I agree with Justin, I don't think last year was so bad, just not as good as 08-09. Again like Justin pointed out, I'd say the Defense is much improved and MAF should see better numbers this year. - tehchico
Flower should hopefully keep improving individually, but I would stress that a goalie is about as good as his top defensive pairs can be. If Tanger and GOOOOOOL-igoski can ramp it up Gonch style, we probably don't have too much to worry about. - Lavender
I have to agree with Justin on this one too. A lot of people were getting on Fleury's case last season for no reason other than the fact that he was letting in goals on the odd-man rush. Don't get wrong though, he definitely let him some Toskala-like goals, but a bolstered defense should put Fleury back on track to play well this season. - FrankD
3) What was missing last year that is there this year?
Defense and power play! Well, defense, anyway. - JustinM
Luxury Boxes. - tehchico
A proper Evgeni Malkin. I feel like Malkin was probably hurt a whole lot more than was let on for the better part of last season. Numbers that he put up, and has done so far in his career, speak for them self. Until last season, he was constantly pushing the limits of what we could expect Geno should be producing year in and year out. Last year, he was banged up, but if he gets comfortable in a winger's role...all while being as fit as he has been in previous years, I can see a return to elite form for Geno. - Lavender
A new defense. That was a sore spot for the Pens in 2009-10 and an obvious area of concern even heading up to the trade deadline. I think a lot of emphasis was placed on this during the offseason though, specifically at the beginning of free agency when the Pens nailed down deals for Michalek and Martin. You can preach on and on about how they overpaid, but the way I see it is they signed the best player available at the time for the best deal they could manage. I'm a fan of that game plan. - FrankD
4) What was there last year that you're happy to not see this year?
[Former Power Play Coach] Mike Yeo. Did anyone even remember he was gone? I wish him all the luck in the world in Houston. Maybe it'll get him the shot that every coach wants. - JustinM
Gonchar, and not because of his defensive lapses or anything of that nature, it's time to see if Gogo or Letang can QB the PP getting more than 15-30 seconds to do so. Maybe a little because of his mind numbing defensive lapse too. - tehchico
Ukrainian wingers, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alexei Ponikarovsky. Tenk was reasonably productive in spurts with the Pens, and fit into my 'stable back line' category of player. The problem for him in the last season was finding a line where he could stay productive on. It's a double edged sword, as he didn't do too bad while being asked to play a lot of lines, but I prefer an internal youth movement from within to take a chance at his role, all while saving cap space. As for Pony Boy, stay gold...and remember we gave up Luca Caputi for 9 points in 16 games of productivity from ol' Pony. - Lavender
I'm with Lavender: Fedotenko and Poni. There just didn't seem to be any gas left in the Tenk (pun intended, and a lame one at that) for Feds, but Poni had no excuse to not put up some points. He had all the chances in the world to show that he could work within the Penguins system, but I guess when you come from a team like Toronto that whole winning thing is a bit of a foreign concept. - FrankD
5) Where do you predict the Pens finishing?
First in the Atlantic, second in the East. There's no good reason this shouldn't happen. - JustinM
1st in the Atlantic, 1st in the East. Defense better, Offense could be better too...why not!? - tehchico
The high ceiling is always there when you have Sid, Geno, and Flower as a core of the team. The question to me is the supporting cast around them, the young defensive line up we're set with, and if the team's big hitters are healthy for a full season. 07/08, Sid goes down and Malkin steps it up. 08/09, Sid has his share of injuries, and the team works through a spell that gets their head coach fired, eventually winning a cup. All of last year, there were injuries to people when they were getting going, like Tyler Kennedy. Bottom line, if we stay healthy, we're definitely in the Playoffs without a doubt. From there, I pin my Stanley Cup push on Letang and Goligoski's maturity to be 'the guy' on the offensive blue line this year. When the Pens were minus a Gonchar, the already wacky power play unit became headless. We're going as far as that blue line and injury total takes us this year. Best scenario is obvious, worse case would be missing out entirely. I'll say this much though, I feel we'll be even stronger next year than this year. - Lavender
Second in the East, first in the Atlantic. To be more specific, I think we'll see a Caps/Pens one-two combo at the top of the conference again. Honestly I don't care where they finish the regular season as long as it's a playoff berth somewhere in the Top 4. I'm much more interested in where they finish the playoffs. - FrankD