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5 thoughts: Pens the best defending champ in cap era?

A look at why the Penguins are shaping up to be the best defending Cup champ in the cap area, judging the 2017 Pens against the 2016 Pens, a prospect that might choose free agency over Pittsburgh and a look at a rare piece of memorabilia from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. We've got a little of everything

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#1 Cup +1

The Pittsburgh Penguins are en route to being the best Stanley Cup champion in the salary cap era the year following a championship. Here's the numbers to prove it:

Year Defending Champ Points Playoff Result
2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes 88 Did not qualify
2007-08 Anaheim Ducks 102 Lost 1st round
2008-09 Detroit Red Wings 112 Lost Stanley Cup Finals
2009-10 Penguins 101 Lost 2nd round
2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks 97 Lost 1st round
2011-12 Boston Bruins 102 Lost 1st round
2012-13 Los Angeles Kings 59* Lost Conference Finals
2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks 107 Lost Conference Finals
2014-15 Los Angeles Kings 95 Did not qualify
2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks 103 Lost 1st round
2016-17 Penguins 113** ??

*Lockout season of 48 games, they were on pace for 101 points

**That's the pace this team's on pace for, currently having 88 points in 64 games.

It looks obvious how the long season the year before plus roster changes take their toll on the champs. 2 of the 10 teams didn't make the playoffs, and even of the 8 that did make playoffs in Cup+1 year, only 4 of them were able to win the first round of the playoffs.

Getting out of the 1st round seems like a real key, since defending champs were 3-1 in the second rounds, for the just 40% of them that were able to get there. However teams were 1-2 in Conference finals, with just 1 team in the past 10 years able to lift Lord Stanley one year then be able to make it back the following June.

That best defending champ was Detroit in '09, they were the best in terms of regular season and playoffs. Interestingly enough, the '09 Red Wings were basically the same team, minus the retired Dallas Drake and adding of course Marian Hossa. Pittsburgh this year shares that parallel as their playoff team will just about be the same (just no Ben Lovejoy and Eric Fehr).

Another good sign for the Pens is they are following '09 Detroit's blueprint of a strong regular season as well, in fact Pittsburgh is narrowly on pace to top the list should they keep it up.

All of this won't mean a hill of beans come Round 1, Game 1, but it does look like quite a few parallels to this Penguins team and the best defending champ in the modern NHL.

#2 This year vs. last

Is it possible this year's Pens team is actually better than last? My mind wandered to the game-winning goal scored Sunday night. Jake Guentzel was in front of the net, he wasn't on the team last year and has been a difference making player. Justin Schultz made the pass - he was a little-trusted defenseman last year, this year he's among the league leaders in defensemen scoring. Then there's Conor Sheary to finish the goal, he was around last season and even a 1st liner by the end of the playoffs but has improved this year as well.

Throw in Evgeni Malkin not having a torn UCL this season and being one of the most dominant players in the league. Matt Murray has more experience.

There are questions of course, Kris Letang's mysteriously injured. Carl Hagelin has as many goals in the 2016-17 season (6) as he did in the playoffs.Nick Bonino only barely has more assists this regular season (16) than he did in last year's playoff (14).

All that aside, though, big picture (and as point #1 illustrated) this Penguins team is pretty special and very strong. That 114 points this team is on pace for would be the 2nd best regular season in the 50 years of Penguins hockey. behind only the 119 points of the powerhouse 1992-93 team.

#3 Pens to lose Byron?

Byron (16 goals + 23 assists) is one of the top scorers in college, a senior breakout after three fairly average looking seasons to start his NCAA career. For what it's worth, he was unranked in last summer;s Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25, but this performance would have gotten him on the list in 2017. Byron was drafted in the same year a few rounds after Jake Guentzel, whom the Pens signed after his junior season (as they also signed Josh Archibald).

Last year 2012 second round pick Teddy Blueger finished his senior season but elected to sign with Pittsburgh instead of going the UFA route. The Penguins also signed UFA prospect Thomas DiPauli after he chose not to sign with Washington.

So you win some, you lose some with the college players that can elect free agency by not signing with the team that drafts him. Time will still tell if Byron feels maybe he can get to the NHL quicker if he joins a different NHL organization. He could also sign with Pittsburgh anytime up until the August 15 deadline. Pittsburgh could also trade his rights for a draft pick, though it remains to be seen if there would be any trade market for him.

#4 Malkin about to catch Orpik

Evgeni Malkin doesn't trail Brooks Orpik in many things, and one of the last is about to fall. Orpik is currently 6th in Penguins history with 703 career games. Malkin is at 701.

#5 Old School

Here's one that's personal for me but might be enjoyable for everyone. For Christmas my parents got me this nicely framed artwork of the old Civic Arena. What made it next level was this secondary present:

It's an undated run card from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. I suspect early '60s since it refers to the "new arena" and building was opened to open in 1961, six years prior to the Penguins being founded. Anyways, the card is the record of a fire alarm set off and the responding fire companies that went on the run. My dad told me this looked unusual since they sent units to both Centre Avenue and Bedford Avenue, this basically is 2 responses in one card due to the size of the building and potential need.

Anyways, all things looked good, this card is actually incomplete (as sometimes things were in the days before computers) so it doesn't tell the full story of what happened. Thankfully and clearly is was almost certainly some sort of false alarm or minor matter that was quickly resolved.

For me it's a nice keepsake to go along with my pieces of the stainless steel roof that was sold a few years back. My little pieces of the old barn. The fire department and hockey is a culmination of generations of my family so it's a unique and really special addition to my shrine of memorabilia. My dad also has told me that my grandfather was involved with the concrete delivery during the construction of the Civic Arena, so the sentimentalist in me likes to collect as many little pieces of history as possible to connect with the past.

Which leads me to an idea- since it's an off-day and all - what's your favorite piece of hockey or sports "stuff" that you may have? Whether it's maybe a signed stick or jersey, or even something more abstract like a memory you keep of running into a player or an experience you got to have at a game or watching a game with a family member. The more creative, the better. Let's get all sappy and share, you know if you want.