By: Jacob Fain
Okay, so first let me start with saying that besides the draft and this one trade that I’m going to reference in this article, the offseason was kind of lame. Yes, we all know Babcock was hired and the Oilers made a head coaching change for the better which complements their talented young squad but, all-in-all, this offseason was not that memorable. So, let’s talk about the biggest non-McDavid and non-Eichel thing to happen: Phil “The Thrill” Kessel went from the rebuilding the Leafs to the Penguins, who do need some minor changes, but are much better than half the league at this point.
Now, you may be reading this wondering why, if I’m so high on this team, why have I only said “Eastern Conference champions” and not “Stanley Cup champions” Well, I’ll tell you why. Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and let’s be super optimistic ,and say Dallas as well. Those are all of the Western Conference teams that I would pick over Pittsburgh if it came down to a Stanley Cup series. But, let’s not focus on that. Penguins will win their division, and here’s why.
The Metropolitan Divison is always interesting. Last year, the Rangers won it over the Islanders, who put up a heck of a fight. At that time, the Penguins sat in fourth place, still in the playoffs, but as a wild card; the lowest wild card at that. Yes, the Blue Jackets, who are also in the Met. Divison, have improved, but are still about a year off from being a real threat, and much like the Devils, Canes, and Flyers, can forget about winning this division.
The additions to staff could add to the chances of a playoff run. Let’s look at who (besides Phil Kessel) they added this offseason. There were two names that stuck out: Nick Bonino, the Ex-Canuck Winger who can really solidify that lineup with a steady scoring presence and a fun, experienced attitude, and Tyler Biggs who’s 22 and has the potential to be a spark plug for this Penguins team.
So, now to the real reason why the Penguins are the new “Evil Empire” in the National Hockey League: Kessel. The guy is a machine, but for some reason we overlook this and say: “Oh, he’s overweight.” Not true at all. The average weight of an NHLer is 202.4 pounds. Kessel is over it, but not by much, weighing 203 pounds. “Well, he is a bad teammate.” Kessel has led his team in scoring every year he’s been in Toronto, even the year he missed the first 15 games. If you were on a team that shows no initiative like those Maple Leafs, I’m sure your attitude wouldn’t be that amazing, either.
So, stop hating on Phil. Let him be the great scorer he is.