Summer Skate: Penguins
Letang critical as the Penguins push for another Cup appearance
Although the weather outside doesn't necessarily make us think of winter pursuits, it's a good time to take the temperature of every NHL team. Hockey Prospectus will guide us through the league-wide tour, spotlighting one player trending up and one player trending down for each club, as well as a key statistic as we look ahead to the 2014-15 season. References will be made to goals versus threshold (GVT), a Hockey Prospectus proprietary statistic; for more on GVT, click here. All other advanced stats are courtesy of Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
For most teams, making the second round of the postseason would be worth bragging about. Not for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After back-to-back Stanley Cup finals appearances in 2008 and 2009, Pittsburgh has failed to return, despite icing a roster with two of the world's top players. Being eliminated by the New York Rangers in seven games this past postseason was the final straw, causing ownership to fire general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma.
Overhauls at the top led to a few changes on the ice, too. New Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford traded scorer James Neal for two-way winger Patric Hornqvist and signed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. While they lost last season's top defenseman, Matt Niskanen, to Washington in free agency, the roster underwent some addition by subtraction. Three of the Penguins' worst possession players -- Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Tanner Glass -- signed elsewhere, opening the door for Rutherford to improve Pittsburgh's depth by signing Steve Downie, Blake Comeau and Marcel Goc.
If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain healthy, the Penguins are heavy favorites to win the Metropolitan Division, but the bar is set higher. Anything short of a Cup finals appearance will be a disappointment.
Trending up: Kris Letang, D