I think by now we've all resigned ourselves to the possibility that Sidney Crosby will not be available when the Pens start the ice against the Vancouver Canucks in October. While he very well may be ready then, he might not be ready till November, December, or whenever. That's a fact of life we've all learned to live with, and I think we're all prepared to deal with it as long as he gets better eventually, which his doctors have assured us he will.
So that said, you can only play with who you have, so let's see who exactly that is. Fortunately for Pens fans, it's quite a lot. Because of excellent drafting and Shero's mind-control trading and signing powers, even without the best player in the world, the Pens still have the kind of roster that can strike fear into just about any team and could be considered legitimate contenders for the Cup. Here's my projected lineup:
Neal - Malkin - Sullivan
Kunitz - Staal - Kennedy
Cooke - Letestu - Jeffrey
Asham - Adams - Dupuis
First of all, how solid is that 4th line? Especially when it doesn't even include possible strong training camps from McIntyre, Williams, Tangradi, or Vitale. Most 4th lines are a liability, but those are guys who keep the puck in the opposing zone, are strong defensively, and are more than capable of chipping in goals (Dupuis - 18 last year, and Asham 3 goals in the first round). The first line can stack up against just about anyone, with a former Art Ross and Conn Smythe winner alongside two guys who will score at least 20, and in Neal's case possibility 30, goals. Staal's line is also legitimate, as the massive center should be a beast this year after starting the year healthy, and Kunitz and Kennedy each had 20 goals last year. We all know Letestu's prowess as a 3rd line center, and Jeffrey and Cooke can score and play good defense. Obviously defense and goaltending are never a worry as long as everyone is healthy.
Basically, it's time to stop worrying about Sid being there on opening night. If this were the playoffs, it might be a different story, but even if Sid misses the first half of the year (God forbid), Pens fans need not worry. When Crosby returns, healthy, he will dominate the league once more and turn an already formidable lineup into quite possibly the best in the league.