The Pittsburgh Penguins had another disappointing finish to an NHL season, failing to make a deep playoff run. After wholesale changes, are they worth a shot on the NHL odds in the coming year?
What Went Wrong Last Season?
For the Pens, a number of things went wrong. Once again, Marc-Andre Fleury was an Achilles heel in the playoffs but this time around, he wasn’t the only culprit. Sidney Crosby was hampered by a wrist injury and finished with just one goal in 13 playoff games. On top of that, other weapons like James Neal didn’t do much and the team underachieved.
The Pens made a lot of change in the offseason. Gone is the brass as General Manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma were fired. In is head coach Mike Johnston and GM Jim Rutherford. The front office was in a tight spot in the offseason but managed to do their best. They opted to let defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik walk and in the long run, they’ll be happy they didn’t pay them a combined $67 million (that Washington did). Instead, the Pens retooled the blue line with a shrewd one-year, $4 million with Christian Ehrhoff. Up front, they lost quite a bit as Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale and Deryk Engelland are gone. James Neal was also traded away. In are Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist.
Overall, the best-case scenario for the Pens is that they didn’t get any worse this offseason. There are a lot of new faces and a lot of transition, and at-best, this team will be as good as they were. That’s a problem because that’s not good enough. They still have flaws with their offense should Crosby or Evgeni Malkin not perform like superstars. The blue line remains a weakness as does the goaltending – especially in the playoffs. Unless Johnston can coach this team up beyond their talent, they’re not going to be a Cup contender in 2014-15.
The good news for the Pens is that they are in the weakest division in the NHL they’re a +240 favorite to win and they probably will. They might get a challenge from the Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers, but the Pens should still be better than each of those teams. Nobody in this division appears to be ready to knock the Pens out of the top spot.
The issue is in the playoffs. The Pens are +400 to win the East, which seems like horrible value. They have had so much turnover that they don’t deserve to be playing with the favorites. Teams like the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and even the Montreal Canadiens are better equipped for a playoff run.
If you’re betting NHL futures, avoid the Pens at all costs. Right now, you’re paying for a brand name. They’ve experienced a lot of changes and it’s not as if this team has been close to a Stanley Cup in the last three seasons anyways. As long as Fleury is the No. 1 goaltender on this team, avoid all Penguins futures that include the postseason.
NHL Pick: Will Lose In Second Round Of The Playoffs