While most assume that heading into 2016 training camp the Pittsburgh Penguins won't have too many line changes from the squad the won the Stanley Cup a few months back, the NHL season can be long and winding. And that, afterall, is how Phil Kessel (who entered the season with Sidney Crosby) ended up on a line with 3rd line center NIck Bonino and trade addition Carl Hagelin by the end of the season.
The happy accident of the HBK line was born out of the March injury to Evgeni Malkin's elbow. The Pens found a way to get enough out of Malkin and Crosby carrying lesser linemates to success deep into the spring, HBK feasting on lower-line opponents.
So for the Wednesday embrace the debate, let's presuppose that Hagelin and Kessel need a new center. Maybe Bonino is hurt. Maybe he's unable to keep up the tremendous production that he enjoyed this spring. Either way, for this debate we're going with the H and K in the market for a new C.
Should is be Sidney Crosby? Crosby's played well with speed players before (Pascal Dupuis) and Hagelin might look natural there. Kessel and Crosby didn't demonstrate much in the way of chemistry, but they did only play 191 ES minutes together (with almost all of that coming in the Mike Johnston portion of the season). Crosby+Kessel have so much skill, surely that's worth revisiting at some point, right?
Then again, Crosby's also usually played well with the more grinder-type of wingers who are good in the corners like Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz. For the team, it might be more effective to use guys like that with Crosby and keep skill players free for other lines.
That other line could be with Evgeni Malkin. As mentioned above, HBK was initially going to be HMK before Malkin got hurt. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but it could be as effective. Malkin+Kessel had a 54.9 Corsi For % in over 600 minutes together, a figure that dropped for both when they were apart.
We'll leave it brief to get to the debate, if you had to put Hagelin and Kessel with a new center, which one would you try first and why? Vote and leave your rationale below.