The 2009-2010 season ended in disappointment after the team won the Stanley Cup the season before. If it wasn’t for captain Sidney Crosby and his sudden goal scoring touch the Penguins very well could have finished lower than their 4th seed and 2nd round playoff exit.
As previously mentioned, Crosby posted career highs in goals with 51– tying him for the league lead in goals. However, going into the fantasy season there was a believed big three which included Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. The latter did his best to disappoint both fans and fantasy owners by missing 15 games and posting his lowest totals of his career. Past is past and Malkin should go no lower than 5th in any draft format but his injury risk now causes concern.
Aside from those two, names like Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin, Jordan Staal and even Pascal Dupuis faded in and out of fantasy relevance. Both Guerin and Kunitz had higher value at draft time than their end results but produced in bunches.
Kunitz entered the season with an O-Rank under a 100, something he simply does not deserve with his 55-60 point ceiling when completely healthy and playing top line minutes. Guerin on the other hand could add PIMs to the equation but has yet to re-sign with the Penguins or any other team for that matter.
The wildcard to the Penguins offense has to be Jordan Staal. After an impressive 30 goal rookie season, the hulking center has yet to show that same scoring touch any other year. There are rumblings that this season he will start on the wing of Evgeni Malkin, as will Maxime Talbot which may raise both of their values. Staal could be an excellent sleeper and would increase value even more if he uses his big frame to become a physical, power forward left wing.
Sergei Gonchar had a typical Gonchar-esque season, registering 11 goals and 50 points while remaining a lethal threat on the powerplay. The Russian defenseman helped young Alex Goligoski compile points, helping him to career highs with eight goals and 37 assists– finishing the season strong with 11 points in his final 19 games.
With the departure of Gonchar it would seem only natural to hand the keys to the castle over to Goligoski and Kris Letang but the Penguins were proactive this offseason by signing free agents Zbenyk Michalek and Paul Martin.
Michalek plays a more defensive game and should be an upgrade to Mark Eaton and Jay McKee but is unlikely to help your fantasy team. He scored a career-high nine goals back in 2005-2006 but has transitioned his game to be a more stay-at-home defenseman with mobile traits.
Martin, on the other hand, had been relied on to carry the offense from the blue line with mixed results. The Devils never seemed to fill the gap left by Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski due to the fact that Martin never reached his ceiling with the team. Perhaps a change of scenery and almost an entire year off will help him pot more than 33 points in a season.
Marc-Andre Fleury boasts such poor statistics that it becomes hard to even gauge his draft value. For the second straight season he won over 35 games but carried a GAA above 2.6 and a mediocre SV%. Unlike the season before he failed to shut out the opposition with any consistency, finishing the season with a paltry one shutout.
His backup Brent Johnson poses little to no threat but can relieve the 25-year-old should he need a day off. Similarly to last season where the team used both John Curry and Alexander Pechurski at times, if Johnson and Fleury both get injured the goaltending depth looks scary.
On the Bench:
Dan Blysma finished with a better regular season record than the year before and even led the team to a winning record in the playoffs. Although their second round exit spread disappointment throughout Pittsburgh, the third year coach should not find his job in any sort of jeopardy. The team still holds a number of young players who listen to the younger and fresher approach that Blysma installs.
The Bottom Line:
As long as the Penguins have both Malkin and Crosby on their roster they will be a threat. GM Ray Shero simply needs to assure the depth around them with a solid blue line, goaltending and scoring wingers. The team will likely struggle to adjust as usual and then add pieces in anticipation for another cup run.