When you have arguably the two best players on the planet on the same team, anything less than a championship has to be considered a bust. Yes there is more dignity losing in the 3rd round than the 1st round, but with this much firepower, you have to set your expectations at the 4th round. Getting swept by the Boston Bruins and scoring 2 goals in the series is a serious kick in the groin. Chara shut down Malkin, and Ference shut down Crosby. Letang was a serious liability defensively, especially playing against teams who play very physical playoff hockey.
Lost in their playoff exit were spectacular seasons by Chris
Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who were lucky enough to play on a line with Crosby.
Sidney has a talent for making the players around him better, well except maybe
against the Boston Bruins when his sidekicks all but vanished. Kunitz and Dupuis will be back in Pittsburgh for significantly less money than players with that many points should get on the open market. Why? Take them off the Crosby line, and they both virtually disappear (see Anson Carter, circa 2007).
greatest concern for GM Ray Shero has to be the future of Marc-Andre Fleury, as
his former Stanley Cup goaltender has had consecutive Chernobyl like melt-downs
in the last two playoffs. That's an expensive contract for a team with so much
high priced talent. They say he'll be their goaltender next season, but Shero would be smart to quietly shop Fleury and see what kind of deal might be out there. When he starts letting in bad goals, he over-compensates and tries too hard, which makes him play worse. He has the skill to be an elite goaltender, and might be a good goalie coach away from recapturing his past playoff form.
Preseason Rank: 1
Midseason Rank: 4
Final Rank: 2
GM Grade: A
1st Star: Sidney Crosby
2nd Star: Kris Letang
3rd Star: Chris Kunitz
UFAs: Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams, Doug Murray, Mark Eaton
RFAs: Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey, Rob Bortuzzo
Best Contract: Kris Letang a more year at $3.5M
Worst Contract: Marc Andre Fleury 2 more years at $5M
What I said about them in preseason: Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Stanley Cup champion.
Simply the best. Better than all the rest.
In 2014, life gets a whole lot more complicated when the long term extensions of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin come into effect. They will become virtually excluded from competing for top free agents, unless incoming players are willing to accept a large discount to contend for a championship. They have several elite prospects on defense, which they will need to become NHL caliber players sooner rather than later. It would be a huge benefit to this team if Beau Bennett turns out to be really good.