Pittsburgh Penguins 2007?08 Preseason Thoughts (part 2)
Ok, I’ve thought a little harder about what has to happen for the Pittsburgh Penguins to have a more successful season in 07-08 than they did in 06-07 since part 1 of this series. Yeah, making the playoffs is great, but getting bounced in the first round because you weren’t ready is not fun.
What players have to step it up and continue to improve or play at the of their game? How about:
Mark Recchi: The Wrecking Ball looks to have at least one more good season in him. He has a ton of experience in all the mileage that that body of his. He is a great influence for Crosby, Malking and lots of the other players but his time is, sadly, running out. He wants another ring and a chance to hoist the cup one last time. That drive could make him perhaps the most dangerous player on the team. In fact, it better.
Georges Laraque: This is the one guy, above all else, that I see the most potential in for this season. But only if he is given a role beyond just using his fists. Don’t get me wrong, having him on the bench ready to knock opponents on their keister if they misbehave is a plus, but this man has hands and skills that he needs to be given the chance to use. The only question is whether or not if given that chance he will make the most of it. He can score 15 -20 goals without being on a line with Sid or Geno. And I would love to see him do it. Staying on the roster this season may very well depend on it.
Jarkko Ruutu: He is the key to the fourth line being as formidable as it was last year. He’s another guy like Laroque who can put the puck in the net and grind but being a fourth liner sees limited playing time. He’s disruptive and annoying when on the ice and needs to keep up that sort of play when he gets ice time and he needs to make the most of every second he is on the ice.
Sergei Gonchar: Yes, I admit it, I’m one of the few people who actually owns a Penguins Gonchar jersey and I bought it BEFORE I bought a Sidney Crosby one because when the Penguins signed him I was ecstatic. I watched him for years in Washington, drafted him every year in my fantasy hockey leagues if I could and always wanted to see him in a Penguins sweater. That’s how big of a fan of him I am. Yeah, his legs have some miles on them but last year he proved he still had a spark after a less than spectacular start to his first season with the team. He needs another one of those classic Gonchar years causing havoc from the blue line in the other team’s zone.
Ryan Whitney: Whitney could perhaps be the next Sergei Gonchar. He was +9, with 14 goals & 45 assists (only 8 points less that Gonchar) and needs another season like that. But most importantly, when Gonchar is no longer in Pittsburgh at some point in the future he needs to be developed enough that he can play that way without the opposition having to worry about perhaps the most prolific scoring defenseman in the league as well. But for this year, at least, he’ll be able to learn from one of the best offensive defensemen to ever take to the ice.
Find Open Ice: The Penguins have a ton of shooters that can either blow or finesse pucks by opposing net minders. They have to find those guys in open ice and let them do what they do best. Not everyone can be a Sidney Crosby and dance around four opposition players and flick the puck into the goal while falling down, doing their taxes, solving for x, and giving a dissertation on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.