2009-2010 Season in Review (part II)

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DEFENSE

Sergei Gonchar put up solid numbers this year (50 points in 62 games), but it’s safe to say his best years are behind him. His age really showed as the season wore on into the playoffs. Gonchar’s contributions to the success of the Pens during his tenure cannot be overstated, but it looks as if his run in Pittsburgh has come to a close. I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go, unless of course he can be re-signed for an extreme discount, which is extremely doubtful. Gonchar will be sorely missed on the power play, where he excelled. Other than that, it’s time to turn the page and move on.

Brooks Orpik is what he is – a rock-solid defensive defenseman. He didn’t disappoint this year. As a bonus, he put up 25 points. It was a good move to sign Orpik long-term; every team needs a defensemen like him.

Kris Letang, in my mind, was somewhat of a disappointment this year. He only managed 3 goals and 27 points, which just wasn’t enough offense. Nonetheless, it was a wise decision to ink Letang to an extension. He’s young, and he will get better when put in a more prominent role next year. His talent is undeniable, and I think he has what it takes to be a top-2 blueliner. I wouldn’t mind seeing 58 and 44 together next year.

Alex Goligoski put up 37 points in 69 games. I’ll take those numbers. He does have some defensive deficiencies (his size hurts him down low and in front of the net), but his skill more often than not makes up for it (he finished +7 this season). Should Gonchar leave (likely), I believe Goligoski will take his spot quarterbacking the PP. How he does remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt he has the potential to succeed. Will he be as good as Gonchar? No, but not many players in the league are as good as Gonchar. I think Gogo will be a suitable replacement. Like Letang, I think #3 will flourish with an expanded role.

I’m a huge Mark Eaton fan. Let’s get that out of the way. I think he should be the Pens top priority in the off-season. In fact, let me now start the “Bring back Eaton!” campaign. He’s a less physical version of Orpik. He excels on the PK. He can also chip in the occasional goal. Eaton’s numbers (16 points, +5) just don’t do him justice. Suffice it to say, he’s a damn good blueliner that’s played extremely well for the Pens the past two seasons. Bring back Eaton!

I’m a bit torn on Jordan Leopold. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s a top-4 talent. But do the Pens need him? Is he a good fit? Leopold was acquired around the deadline to help the Pens repeat as Cup champs. Obviously, that did not happen. Was he worth the second-round pick the Pens gave up to acquire him? That will depend on whether or not he re-signs. He did have 8 points in 20 regular-season games. He did nothing in the playoffs, but the concussion he suffered in the first round gives him a pass in my book. My take: If the Pens can sign Leopold to a very reasonable short-term deal, do it. If not, the Leopold era in Pittsburgh is over.

Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland both might find themselves in the Pens’ top 6 next season. Both saw limited action this year, but they both played well when given the opportunity. I think Lovejoy, who needs to be re-signed, is the better prospect. I’m sure the Pens can easily find room under the cap for him. If they can, I see Lovejoy playing an important role next season as a 5 or 6 who can kill penalties.. Engelland, who has already been re-signed, is a great depth guy. He’s tough as nails, and he can play solid minutes when needed.

Goodbye and thanks for the memories, Jay McKee.[ad][ad#Header]