Ok, so after watching 3 seasons of long playoff runs, it's kind of hard to get too excited for training camp, and honestly, neither are we. So we came up with 6 reasons to try and get in the mood. In no particular order:
1) What will the defense pairings be?
For all the fuss made about the forward lines, none of it matters nearly as much as what the defensive pairings are going to be. Defensemen need to be familiar with what their partner is going to do, in an instinctive way. With the loss of Sergei Gonchar and Mark Eaton, and the additions of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, there's a lot of familiarizing to be done. Will the Pens come out of camp with three solid pairings, or 6 defensemen that look good on paper is a big question for the season.
2) Who's gonna play with Crosby?
An age old question it seems, for a player in only his FIFTH season, but it's asked every September, October,Nov.... well you get the idea. Mike Comrie has the wheels, but does he have the drive to keep up with Sid all season? Arron Asham may have the drive, but he probably doesn't have the wheels. Maybe Chris Kunitz will show some consistency, and that he belongs on the top line.
3) Will any rookies make the team?
With 13 forwards and 6 defensemen on one-way NHL contracts, logic would say no. But rarely is an NHL club ever totally healthy, so we're just a groin pull away from arguing whether Eric Tangradi has shown enough to get a chance to play on the top two lines, or that Mark Letestu is capable of being a third line center in the NHL.
4) Will the Flower bounce back from a down year?
Marc Andre Fleury didn't have a year befitting of Marc Andre Fleury. How will he respond? Was last season a result of being tired after two cup final runs? Can he bounce back from the disappointing loss to the Canadiens? If you buy the theory that a goalie's performance is all about confidence (see Halak, Jaroslav), not skill, then camp is the place to regain that confidence by regularly shutting down some of the premier forwards in the league everyday in practice.
5) Will there be a hole in the locker room without a guy like (insert grizzled old veteran name here)
Did Bill Guerin really make that much of a difference in the room last year, and now all the 20-somethings will run wild without his steady guidance? Probably not on this team, but it's still a stereotypical question that everyone (and we mean everyone, including the guy that used to start Guerin should retire chants) will be asking after the first 3 game losing streak.
6) Will someone fill Gonchar's skates?
No. But hopefully steps forward by Alex Goligoski after a year of experience, and the continued all around improvement Kris Letang showed last season will soften the blow. Coupled with the two additions on defense, maybe it can be a better unit overall, even if it lacks that one special talent that Gonchar was.
Excited yet? Didn't think so, but that's the best we could do to try and make it seem interesting. If only there were a new arena or something that would make going to see camp worthwhile....