Have you heard enough about Chris Pronger and Ray Emery this offseason? Everywhere you look, every preview you read, every MENTION of the team and it's like the Flyers somehow landed two prophets who will surely take the city of Philadelphia to the promised land.
Seeking some expert input and advice, I recently hit up The Hockey News' Adam Proteau to see what he had to say about the Flyers, Marc-Andre Fleury and various aspects surrounding the Pens. Adam runs a weekly feature on THN called "Ask Adam," so he's obviously a natural at fielding questions from us hockey fans. Take the jump to see what AP has to say.
1. Before last season a lot of people speculated that the Penguins would fall victim to the Stanley Cup hangover. They proved cynics wrong by winning the Cup. Now people are chirping about it again this year. Can the Penguins make a repeat run, or will the last two seasons of Stanley Cup hockey catch up with them?
I think the difference this year may be, as it may be for a lot of teams, the Olympics and their effect on the roster. You know there are going to be quite a few key Pens central to their home country’s medal hopes, and I think the cumulative toll of two Cup final appearances, plus the pressure of representing their homeland, may be a bit too much.
2. Sergei Gonchar is entering the last season of his contract in Pittsburgh. He's mentioned that a pay cut is a consideration if it means staying in Pittsburgh. Will a veteran like him, turning 36 this season, hit the wall sooner rather than later? Or should the Pens re-sign him no matter what?
I don’t think anyone can predict how much Gonchar has left in the tank. Like most players in their mid-to-late 30s, he’s got to be willing not only to take a pay cut, but also a shorter-term deal that gives Ray Shero maximum flexibility to re-sign his younger core players. If Gonchar doesn’t want to do that, Shero ought to cut him loose.
3. After his performance in Game 7, did Marc-Andre Fleury officially say to hockey fans, "Hey, I'm a big deal." Or will people still perceive him as an average goalie on a great team?
I suspect that skeptics remain, especially considering most people believe Cam Ward has the inside track for the No. 3 goalie spot (behind Marty Brodeur and Roberto Luongo) for Team Canada at the Olympics. But that’s nothing a couple more banner regular seasons from Fleury, and more damage done by him in the playoffs, won’t cure.
4. Do Malkin and Crosby finish top two in points this season?
Nah. I think Alex Ovechkin either finishes between them, or above them.
5. Your expert opinion wanted here: Does Chris Pronger's presence in Philly really cause a problem for Malkin and Crosby?
It’s not necessarily Pronger himself that will cause problems for Penguins stars, but the trickle-down effect he has on the rest of the offense/defense matchups. Instead of facing Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn on the Flyers’ first defense pairing, now the opposition will have to first get through Pronger and Matt Carle, then Timonen and Coburn. In other words, the Penguins may still have success against Philly, but they’ll have to work a lot harder for it.