It's the constant refrain around these parts: finding skilled wingers to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, find more skill, find more skill. What may be lost in this endless struggle is just what Sid and Geno can do.
Some food for thought here -- take this piece by Sporting News' Craig Custance. He's talking about the advanced stats and forecasting that Marian Hossa's agent runs before they decide which team the mercenary will play for:
Winter, with help from mathematical advisors, has determined exactly how many points a contending team needs from its top six forward group and top four defensemen, and the save percentage required from a goalie to become a 100-point team.
For example, if all thresholds are met from the defensemen and goalies, a team that gets at least 143 goals from its top six forwards will get 100 points. According to Winter, that number has stayed true every year since the lockout.
This number held for the Penguins this season, as they recorded a 101 point season and got the production as follows from their primary "Top 6" forwards:
-Bill Guerin: 21
-Pascal Dupuis: 18
-Chris Kunitz: 13
-Ruslan Fedotenko: 11
(I know, this only adds up to 142, but remember, Kunitz missed 30 games to injury, Malkin 15, so their replacements more than made up the difference).
Interestingly, this doesn't even take into account the 3rd line, led by Jordan Staal's 21 goals, which is a lot more than most teams get from their 3rd line center, thus giving the Pens that competitive advantage we so enjoy bantering about.
The moral of the story? Crosby and Malkin in their four seasons together, have combined for 79, 68, 71 and 69 goals going back through the years. Those two guys are going to generate 50%+ of the metric needed that puts a team well on it's way to a 100 point season, much like 2009-10. We'd all love to add that sniper that could pot 40+ goals playing on a top line, but a successful team can and has to be built in the salary cap world around the pieces you got.
So yeah, the Penguins need to find ways to replace guys like Fedotenko and hope for more production out of wingers, but don't let that over-ride the fate that the big dogs are just always going to be the ones fueling the engine that is the Penguins season.