By BRUCE SIWY
It an offseason critique so common it’s cliche. But don’t buy it. The Pens didn’t have a “legitimate” scoring line winger when they won the 2009 championship. Nor will they need one to contend next season.
Fans forget that this team played the second half of last season — including playoffs — without Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
These players account for nearly a third of the team’s salary cap spending and probably an even higher fraction of their scoring finesse. They are the modern day Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
Despite these enormous losses the team posted the second-most victories in franchise history and very nearly bested the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs.
It’s a testament to Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma.
And it begs the question: What could this team have done with a healthy Crosby and Malkin in the lineup? The departures of Mike Rupp and fan favorite Max Talbot barely sting in comparison.
Which brings us to Jagr. Maybe he’s got another 20-30 goal season left in his back pocket. If the Pens could have snagged him on the cheap, a one-year deal would have made sense.
But General Manager Ray Shero was wise not to break the bank on the aging star. It’s quite possible he would have been the second coming of Alexei Kovalev.
Pittsburgh has built a perennial contender on smart drafting and excellent coaching.
And the team’s Stanley Cup destiny will hinge largely on its young guns — not ghosts of Penguins past.
(Staff Writer Bruce Siwy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)