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The Future of the Pittsburgh Penguins

April 19, 2007- The Pittsburgh Penguins are rebounded in the first round of the Stanley Cup Play-offs by the Ottawa Senators. The hockey world only captured five games of what the future of the NHL and play-off hockey will look like. Or did he?

In the 2006-2007 season, 19-year-old Sydney Crosby registered 36 goals and 120 points in his sophomore year in the NHL. Evgeni Malkin, 20, contributed 33 goals and 85 points in his rookie year. 19-year-old Jordan Staal scored 29 goals and 42 points. Points combined: 247. Years combined on planet earth: 58. These three young men, along with Marc-Andre Flurry, 22, a 40-game winner in goal, are a nucleus of astonishing potential. If Crosby continues their trend and plays as many years as Gordie Howe, they will have to put up a sign outside Pittsburgh’s new stadium, at McDonald’s, that says “more than a billion goalkeepers served.” And he is not the only one who can score. This is a cast of young gunmen for whom the people of hockey-starved cities like Boston and Chicago would give up their members and their first-borns.

I am a huge fan of this team and I am a fan of the Ranger. We are supposed to throw beer at our Mothers if they are seen in the opposing team’s colors. The only thing I hate about this team is that they play in the same division as the Blueshirts. In this post-lockout era (“Post-lockout” is now a legitimate term. It may soon be used as the term “prehistoric”, or if you are looking for a “pre-war” apartment or a transvestite op ), I’ve only been able to get to two Ranger games. Every game has been against the Pens. The first game was in Crosby’s rookie season, the next was last season. The improvement was not only significant, it was downright terrifying. Every time Crosby got the record last season, he didn’t look like Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. He looked like Michael Jordon. The entire crowd at Madison Square Garden fell silent as he broke into the net with the record, half in awe of his moves, half terrified of the outcome. He won that game, by the way, on the final shot of a penalty shootout. His supporting cast was just as strong. Did I mention that everyone needs someone else on the team to do a beer race?

So the future is bright for this team and for the league. I’m sure all the fat cats and league officials in Toronto sit down after every goal and light Canadian dollar bills. Waiting. In a few years, this team will be … disbanded.

The salary cap, the reason hockey is not played for an entire season, will force the Penguins to give up some of this talent and trade it for cheaper, less talented parts. Pittsburgh fans have every reason to daydream about this team becoming the next Edmonton Oilers dynasty or the powerhouse of the Montreal Canadians for years and years. That will never happen. Sure, I can see this team winning the cup in some seasons, but putting together a series of cup winning seasons? No way. Do you really think that when these players are offered big bucks from Nashville, Atlanta, or the NY Rangers (I hope!), They will turn it down for the good of the Penguins? Although noble as it is, it is not going to happen. Crosby will get his from the Pens, but the rest of the gang will be drawn in. This is the cost of a strict salary cap. Breaking dynasties, for the sake of an over-expanded league. The league needs the penguins to stay together for years. They need this team to develop from a dream to a reality. Pittsburgh, can you hear the words of the prophecy? “Crosby, Staal and Malkin have led the Pittsburgh Penguins to their third Stanley Cup in four years!” Unfortunately, it’s going to sound more like this, “And Jordon Staal raises the glass over his head, in celebration of the Nashville Predators’ first Stanley Cup!” Horrible, huh? Don’t worry, you won’t see it. It will air on Versus.

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