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House of Cards

Pens have been dealt pocket aces with Crosby and Malkin but with a renewed effort to support them up front with the acquisition of Kessel and others has left the team with a question about their strength on defense.

The heaping amount of praise has been plentiful this offseason for Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford after adding Phil Kessel, Sergei Plotnikov, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr, and Matt Cullen. Each acquisition was a move in the right direction for a franchise that has virtually nothing in terms of quality prospects at forwards.

It would be foolish to question why or who they got to surround Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the talent to increase their goal scoring output from last season.

That's right, goal scoring was a problem.

The Penguins.



But yet, that's exactly what the Penguins were after a disappointing five games against the New York Rangers.

Eight goals in five games against Henrik Lundqvist wasn't good enough.

House of Cards

Fleury Saves

After a horrendous 2012 playoff "performance" by Marc-Andre Fleury, he was hung out to dry by the Ray Shero front office, Dan Bylsma coaching staff, and teammates.

Little was said just how bad that team's attention to detail was on defense. Fleury wasn't lost, Shero and Bylsma were.

Hindsight being 20/20, those two should have been fired after 2012.

The 2015 playoffs were good to Fleury in those five games but he'll never erase 2012 or 2013 from the memory of fans, which is unfortunate because if not for him in 2009 making one of the greatest saves in Stanley Cup history against future Hall of Fame defensemen Niklas Lidstrom, Crosby and Malkin probably don't have a Cup.

That save on Lidstrom was that important and doesn't get enough credit from hockey fans, most notably those in Pittsburgh.

This season Fleury won't have a dependable backup behind him as Thomas Greiss left via free agency to sign with the New York Islanders, so unless something changes, he'll have Jeff Zatkoff filling in when a night off is needed.

An overworked Fleury is a concern, especially if Rutherford sticks with this group on defense.

Hold the Applause....

It is here that you can hold the applause for Rutherford.

One very simple decision was expected but yet it appears from the outside that Rutherford was unwilling or unable to make it happen. It was a terrible decision to not use a buyout on Rob Scuderi.

It would have saved the team valuable cap space by reducing his cap hit from $3.375 million to $1.29 million for this season, $1.79 next season, and .917 for two years after. As we saw last season, two million is a lot of cap space to get back if you have a run of injuries and nothing in the farm system to replace the injured.

Does anyone really think a coaching staff is going to start the season with Scuderi as the seventh or eighth defensemen?

Scuderi's reputation was of a quality penalty-killer but last season, not so much.

Of the NHL defensemen with at least 100 minutes short-handed, Scuderi's 92.57 Fenwick Against per 60 (FA60) was second worst in the league according to stats. It has been bad two years in Pittsburgh for Scuderi compared to his last season in Los Angeles.

2012-2013 LAK - 71.80

2013-2014 PIT - 88.03

2014-2015 PIT - 92.57

Not sure what the Penguins were thinking but another season of the Scuderi dump (clearing the puck to his own corner of the ice) is going to be bad for Fleury and team with this group of defensemen.

You've got questions such as whether the next hard hit will end the career of Kris Letang or his scary history with the stroke. Can Olli Maatta's shoulder sustain a hit into the glass? Will Derrick Pouliot mature into a dependable top four defensemen that realizes his first responsibility is defense and is Ian Cole's performance upon his arrival a rejuvenation or a temporary last gasp as a good two-way defensemen.

This top four could be really good or disappointingly bad. Anything in the middle leaves the franchise on the edge of should I change or not.

If that doesn't concern you, what Head Coach Mike Johnston does about the last three spots and in what kind of rotation should be interesting as the team will have veterans Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy holding off less experienced defensemen such as Brian Dumoulin, Tim Erixon, and Adam Clendening.

When you consider the potential, this could be a really good season but that's going to require the new guys to be productive, everyone has to stay healthy, and old men like Scuderi, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis don't bring the team down if their roles change.

If the new guys don't produce or injuries stack like they have for the last few years, it won't matter what the pocket aces do, the season will crumble like a house of cards for a seventh year in a row.