Jarome Iginla is a Pittsburgh Penguin because he wants to be one. For a team that’s recently publicly chased (and lost) out of wooing Jaromir Jagr and Zach Parise, seeing the Pens land their guy in Iginla is quite the feeling of euphoria for Penguins fans everywhere this morning. We saw our team beat Boston to the punch, and it feels damn good.
Enjoy the feeling, because the target painted on the back is even bigger now, and the expectations are clear. As GM Ray Shero said, the Pens are “all in” and now it’s Stanley Cup, or bust. Pittsburgh has traded a first and second round draft pick, as well as former first round pick Joe Morrow in recent days to stock up on veterans with expiring contracts in Iginla, Brenden Morrow and defenseman Douglas Murray. The message is clear: it’s all or nothing.
And now the challenge is for Dan Bylsma. For years the Penguins didn’t have enough legitimate top 6 wingers. Now, with Iginla and Morrow joining Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and James Neal, the Pens have too many. A good problem to have is still a problem.
And where does this leave the rest of the roster all bumped down a notch, guys like Beau Bennett, Tyler Kennedy and Tanner Glass? Bennett and TK were probably shooting to remain as 3rd liners, but now that doesn’t look likely if the rest of the team is healthy.
Regardless of how this shakes out, it’ll be Bylsma’s challenge on how to slot all these players together. This team is on a 13 game winning streak, and they’ve done a lot of it without last year’s MVP Evgeni Malkin (injury).
Some quick, random, top of the head thoughts and questions:
- -Where does Iginla fit? The natural reaction is with Sidney Crosby, they of the gold medal winning goal in 2010. But Pascal Dupuis has been great, and productive on the RW spot, and Chris Kunitz is 3rd in the entire league in scoring.
- -Speaking of Kunitz, let me repeat: he’s THIRD IN THE LEAGUE in scoring. He played well with Malkin and Neal last year, but he’s been off the charts with Crosby this season, are they really going to break that up?
- -Keeping Dupuis on Crosby’s line likely means Morrow can play with Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke on the 3rd line. That’s likely a game-changing, series-shifting type of line in the playoffs, much like it was in 2009 when Jordan Staal was on it.
- -While mentioning 2009: Kennedy possibly being a 4th liner is reminiscent of Dupuis mainly being on the 4th line in 2009 as well. That’s the type of depth needed to go deep.
- -As mentioned on twitter: no team in the league can really match up with Morrow, Iginla, Neal, Kunitz, Dupuis, Cooke, Kennedy and Craig Adams as wingers getting on the forecheck. That is as physical, tenacious and nasty a unit of wingers as you’ll find. In Bylsma’s aggressive system that demands wingers to skate, hit, pressure and force turnovers and battle along the boards this is a group that is tailor made to do just that. That’s just a matchup nightmare in a seven game series that’s bound to wear down some defenses this spring.
- The Penguins advantage used to be the three big centers, now it has to be the depth and talent that they've put around those centers. In '09, Malkin had to skake with Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot. Crosby played with Kunitz (in his first months as a Pen) and 39-year-old Billy Guerin. Now Crosby could have Kunitz (who he has built years of chemistry with) and Iginla. Malkin could have 40-goal-scorer Neal and Morrow. Just a frightening upgrade from now to back then.