I find it fun to make random predictions about the teams I love so much, so let's go after the Penguins, especially with what's been going on with our defense in the offseason.
First off, how good does Ray Shero look for holding on to Darryl Sydor? When free agency began, there was much talk of packaging Sydor in a deal to get a scoring winger. Now, with Ryan Whitney shelved until December or January and Sergei out indefinitely, the retaining of Sydor alleviates some major problems. Our blue line depth would've been much more questionable had Sydor left.
But let's talk predictions. I've always been a massive Kris Letang fan, and with current injuries, Letang has a chance to shine instead of just being a role player. With our top two offensive-minded defensemen out, Letang is thrust into the spotlight, and we're in need of healthy point production from Kris. So my prediction is...All Star.
In the past, we were lucky to watch Paul Coffey come flying up from his defensive position to bury a ton of Mario passes and rebounds. Letang has that same gift, and he'll have a lot of time to work with Sid. Plus, he'll most likely be paired with defensive-minded defenseman (and pride of Wilmington, DE) Mark Eaton. This should allow him to put more shots on net while not worrying about giving up defensive position. Eaton's got his back (or Orpik, another bruising, defensive-minded guy).
I'm too lazy to look right now, but Sergei had something like 99 points in the past two seasons. Is it absurd to think Letang could top 50 this year? Of course, he'll need a strong start to the season, before Whit and Gonch come back and take their spots on the top line. Coming out strong early would give Ray Shero the same happy problem as he has with the forwards, so many scoring threats that there aren't #1 and #2 lines, just two #1s. Point production could be through the roof if Letang could hold his own until his injured teammates return.
Couple this thought with the fact that we own 2 of the top 10 hitters in the conference (Cooke on offense, Orpik on defense), and those hits could create some loose puck opportunities and scoring chances for Letang.
So yeah, ridicule me all you want, but I'm expecting big things from this team going into the season. What originally seemed like a crushing blow to our blue line now seems to be a prime opportunity for Letang to have an All Star season.
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