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New York Islanders Metropolitan Division Offseason Power Ranking

UNIONDALE, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: The New York Islanders celebrate their 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers during a preseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on September 17, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: The New York Islanders celebrate their 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers during a preseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on September 17, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 20: Ross Johnston #52 of the New York Islanders stands his ground in the crease during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Barclays Center on March 20, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 20: Ross Johnston #52 of the New York Islanders stands his ground in the crease during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Barclays Center on March 20, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Penguins | Rank: 1st

2017-18 Record: 47-29-6 (2nd)
by: Brian Wagner

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the team of the last decade.

They haven’t been below 100 points since the 2014-15 season, and even then, were only 2 points shy.  The last 10 years have only seen the Pens with three seasons shy of 100 points – one being a strike-shortened season in which they were on pace for 123 points and the other two at 98 and 99 points.

In the past ten years they have won three championships, including recent back-to-back Cup victories before being dethroned by the Caps this past season.

Ironically, the Pens rarely win the division (last won 2013-14), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that, when the season is over, they historically have been last man standing from the Metropolitan Division.

‘Sid the Kid’ may no longer be a kid, but this team is showing no signs of slowing down.  They lost to one of the most deserving and the eventual Stanley Cup champions this year, so take the early exit from the playoffs with less significance than if it had been a first-round loss to the Flyers.

At some point their core of 30-something players (several of which have contracts expiring after the 2021-22 season) will slow down, but until then they have earned the respect to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Offseason additions: Jimmy Hayes, Stefan Elliott, Matt Cullen, Derek Grant, Jack Johnson
Offseason departures: Conor Sheary, Matt Hunwick, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney 
Re-signed players: Jamie Oleksiak, Bryan Rust, Daniel Sprong, Riley Sheehan, Dominik Simon

Strengths:

  • Depth across forwards
  • Young core of goalies.  In 26 games, 23-year-old Tristan Jarry put up very respectable .908 save percentage and a 2.77 GAA.  At 26 years of age, Casey DeSmith provided an even more impressive .921 save percentage and 2.40 GAA in 14 games when pressed into action.  And let’s not forget that Matt Murray is still only 24 and only one year removed from a .923/2.41 stat line.
  • A sustainable youth transition: Jake Guentzel, Dominik Simon, Zach Aston-Reese and Daniel Sprong have begun a wave of youth in support of the aging core.  All of the above are under 24 and Guentzel just finished a year playing first-line minutes and producing 48 points, and another shocking 21 points in 12 playoff games.
  • Consistency.  Forwards have not changed significantly, and they are returning all defensemen.  There is stability on the roster and it should reflect in the standings.

Questions (not weaknesses per se, but certainly questions worth asking):

  • Depth at forward is strong, but do they have too many players for the open slots?  Some players may start to look over their shoulders.
  • Do they trade Hagelin, who seems to be the odd man out in a crowded forward room as noted above or Letang, a -23 five-on-five liability last year?  Consistency has been key with the Pens, but this year’s potential changes may disrupt that a bit.
  • What do they do with Derick Brassard?  He was brought in to provide an unmatched third-line center depth but injuries and a $5 million cap hit could make the Pens think about moving him if they can recoup similar assets to what they gave up to secure his services.
  • Can Matt Murray bounce back to form after a rough year?
  • Can the team stay healthy?  They are not a young team, and after last year’s effects of an extended period off from a player like Derick Brassard (or another Crosby concussion), do the Pens have the quality depth to fill the massive void for any of those core players if they went down?
  • Is the Phil Kessel drama in the past? (Is it ever?)

Regardless of the questions surrounding this team, the management team and leadership of players like Crosby and Malkin continue to show their value year after year.

With the understated losses off Barry Trotz and Philipp Grubauer, it is fair to assume that the Pens will return to their rightful place on the Metropolitan Division throne when it’s all said and done.

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