The 2010-2011 Penguins look like one of the best Penguins teams ever assembled. Currently in the NHL we are 2nd in the league in GA/G at 2.21, 7th in the league in G/G at 3.02, 1st in the league in PK% at 88.7% and 14th in the league in PP%. at 17.7%. In 2008-2009(granted, this is a full seasons worth of stats), we were 17th in the league at 2.84 in GA/G, 6th in the league in G/G at 3.15, 8th in the league in PK% at 82.7 and 20th in the league at 17.2% in PP%.
Just looking at these basic stats, compared to the league... the 2010-2011 Penguins are a much better team than the Stanley cup team... at least in the regular season.
So are we really a better team? If so... why? See it after the jump.
If you look at the rosters, the Penguins still have 14 skaters on the team that were a part of the 2008-2009 team. You only dress 18 skaters, so you could say that a majority of the team is the same... Yea, you could say that... and you'd be completely wrong. Yes, technically 14 players are the same... but oh how we've grown.
In 2008-2009, Kris Letang played 74 games, was a -7 and had 33 points at the end of the season. He was in his 2nd full season as an NHL player and was showing some upside, but wasn't a top 4 defenseman on the team. In 2010-2011 through 53 games, Letang has 41 points and has a +23 rating, he made his first NHL All-Star team and is getting some serious consideration to win the Norris Trophy. Letang regularly plays against the opposing teams top line and has become an excellent 2 way player. He also drives the ladies crazy!!! or so I hear....
In 2008-2009, Alex Goligoski played just 45 games the season and put up okay numbers, 20 points with a +5 rating. Like Letang, he wasn't being put up against the opposing teams top lines and was more potential than actual production. Well in 2010-2011 through 53 games, Goose has put up 28 points and sits at a +21. Now granted, he's still not regularly being put up against the opposing teams top lines(he still has some work to do on the defensive side of the ice), but he's grown to be a much more productive player.
I'm going to end the growth of our then players with Sidney Crosby... It's kind to hard to say a player that scored 33 goals, 103 points in 2008-2009 has grown to become a better player in 2010-2011... but that is exactly what has happened. Since that time, Sid has become a premier face off guy and a much more rounded scorer than he was back then. Through 41 games(currently on the IR with a concussion), Crosby has put up 32 goals and 66 points and was leading the league at the time of his injury by more than 10 points. Back on 2008-2009, the conversations about who the best player in the league was always AO VS Crosby with it kind of being a 50/50 thing. In 2010-2011, the conversation is still there... but now it's easily a majority in Sid's favor. In the current CBC players poll, 69% of players picked Crosby as the player to start a franchise with. Only 2% chose Ovechkin.
And to who we lost and who we've gained. We've actually lost some really good players. Heading the list of players we've lost is Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar was our power play quarterback, but missed most of the 2008-2009 season with an injury. Gonchar's position has been replaced by the emergence of Letang... When Gonchar left to go to the Senators in the off season, many of us were worried about not having someone to run the PP. Well, Gonchar has been a disaster in Ottawa(they are a bad team as it is...) and Letang has become a Norris candidate... not really feeling the pain from that loss.
Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill both left before last season and were a crucial part of our shut down defensive core. They have been replaced with Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, as well as players like Letang and Orpik taking some of that burden. Michalek started off the season kind of slow and just looking at his stats(-5 +/-) it may seem as if he's not pulling his weight. But both he and Martin get in the way of a ton of shots and are a big part of why this team is the best penalty killing team in the league(which says a lot being that we're also the most penalized).
We also lost 3 middle of the pack forwards which were a big part of our offense that season in Miroslav Satan, Petr Sykora and Ruslan Fedotenko. All 3 players were productive(nothing great), but helped fill out the roster behind our 2 big guns in Crosby and Malkin. Bill Guerin came in late that season from the Islanders and was a huge part of our playoff run. I kind of feel like this is the place that we've lost the most. Those players have been replaced with our current players like Letestu, Arron Asham, and Chris Connor. Asham has been a disaster for the most part of this season, and while Letestu and Connor have had some bright spots... they probably aren't going to score 30 points each this season.
And now to Fleury... Flower was a HUGE part of why we won the cup and he was a very respectable goalie in 2008-2009. That season he had 35 wins, a .912 save % and 2.67 GAA. In 2010, Fleury started off this season like he was going to lose his job to Brent Johnson, losing 6 of his first 7 games... my how that has changed. Fleury has turned it around to win 25 games, lowered his GAA to 2.20 and has a .924 save percentage. While I don't think he will win the Vezina this season(that's for Thomas to lose), he's at least in the running as one of the best goalies in the league.
So for my final answer to whether we are a better team... I'm going to have to go with a yes... but not by very wide margin. I think our highs are higher than we were then, and I think the players we still have for the most part have matured into better players. I think we're a tougher team to play against and are quite a bit more defensively sound. But overall we don't put the puck in the net as much. Fortunately, when you don't let the other team score, you don't have to score as much so in the end, we're still winning a ton of games. In 2008-2009 we ended the season with 99 points and 45 wins. Through 53 games this season, we have 72 points and 34 wins and are on a pace for 53 wins and 111 points(if my math is correct).
Here is a our current and back then rosters. Players in blue from the 2008-200 roster are no longer with us, players in blue on the 2010-2011 roster were not on the team back when we won the cup.
**if you're wondering why I'm missing a few players that played in 2008-2009, I removed any player that isn't currently on the team that played less than 10 games that season... just to keep the list down.