But did these changes — almost all of which they voluntarily chose to do with trades and free agent signings (since they didn’t lose anything of significance to free agency) — did it actually make the Pens better? Or are they falling behind?
That seems to be the million dollar question to ponder throughout the rest of the summer.
This power ranking would indicate that no, Pittsburgh hasn’t appeared to improve, as of on paper and in the summer. Not relative to the rest of the league, anyways, which is the only thing that matters.
Take a peek at the updated Super 16 list, offseason edition.— NHL (@NHL) July 18, 2019
Who's too high? Who's too low? pic.twitter.com/DXgnEyTKYo
Now, we can all agree or disagree with some of those options. Dallas and Florida, for instance, both look over-rated here to me, even after accounting for recent moves. Similarly, Winnipeg and Carolina, personally I would move up a bit from where they come in here too. Ten different people would surely have ten different sets of power rankings.
But, interestingly enough from another perspective, the Pens show up at 13th here on an NHL list. Compare that to ending up in 2018-19 tied for seventh place league-wide with 100 overall points in the standings. That seems pretty drastic but it’s a thin line though between ranking near the top and being right in the mix of mediocrity. Drop just two points down to 98 and that was only 13th place — and the 14th place team in Montreal with 96 points didn’t even qualify for the playoffs. So it’s not a big gap between 7th and upper-quarter of the league, and then turn two wins into losses and that’s out of the playoffs.
So it’s probably pretty safe to say that in this day and age with all the OT and shootout games adding points, there’s not a TON of difference between finishing about fifth in the league, or finishing 15th. A few extra goals here or there over an 82 game season could really add up at the end of the year.
Overall, if the Pens and the rest of the league were to finish exactly as indicated above (which won’t happen of course, but let’s indulge) that’s probably actually a really successful season. Would you take being ranked second place in the Metro right now at the end of April? Sounds solid enough for me.
One thing to remember and reiterate is just how tight the standings are likely to be. Especially if 13th place overall does end up being good enough to take second in the Metro, that almost surely a huge bunching of teams in the middle again — kind of exactly like how the Pens, Carolina, Columbus and Montreal were all in a see-saw battle the last few weeks of the season. In such a scenario, almost surely the results will come down to Games 80, 81 and maybe even 82 of the season to find out how the chips will fall.
For now all we can do is speculate and think on it, but it certainly is interesting to see one league perspective on how the Penguins stack up for a few more weeks before the wheels get in motion.