Pittsburgh Penguins: Are the 2015 Pens Set to Rebound as They Did in 2009?


With the Pittsburgh Penguins continuing their miserable slide down the Metropolitan division standings, the Pens’ fanbase is up in arms with the seemingly unavoidable prospect of Pittsburgh bottoming out and falling short come playoff time once again.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it – the Pens are in rough shape at the moment.

The powerplay has been absurdly ineffective, the Pens’ stars seem to have lost a step, and the team as a whole has been repeatedly trounced by teams within their own division.

After starting out the season looking nearly invincible on all these fronts, the Pens of February seem destined to continue sliding lower and lower while their championship hopes slip further out of their grasp.

But is it really that simple?

Despite the Pens’ recent woes, a little perspective is needed for all those predicting a Pens’ collapse.

A look back at Pittsburgh’s most recent championship serves as a perfect cure to the recent case of pessimism among the Pens’ faithful.

The 2008-09 regular season wasn’t necessarily a kind one for the Pens.

Coming out of the All-Star break in 2009 the Pens sat in 10th place in the Eastern conference, two spots removed from a playoff berth, with a record of 23-21-4.

When the Pens reached mid-February, they fell to five points out of a playoff spot, and looked set to continue sliding down the standings.

Despite all of Pittsburgh’s recent troubles, the 2014-15 team still boasts a 32-17-9 record, placing them in the first of two wildcard playoff spots – which, as of right now, they are not in danger of losing.

Even with that horrid record in 2009, the Pens figured out how to put it all together as they came down the home stretch of the season, and translated that into a championship.

Much has been made of the Pens’ sputtering powerplay as well.

There are no excuses for Pittsburgh’s abysmal play on the man-advantage as of late. While they started the season on a historic pace, converting on nearly 40% of their powerplay opportunities to lead the league, the Pens have now dropped to 9th place with a percentage of 20.1%.

Jan 10, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) before the game against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The slide is certainly cause for concern, but it still ranks better than the Pens of ’09 – who finished the season in 19th place with a paltry 17.2%.

That 19th-place ranking came with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both at the top of their game – the two centres both finished the season with over 100 points.

What’s to be taken from this side-by-side comparison? The fact that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

The Pens of 2015 may not be the lights-out, dominating club that fans were looking for (though we’ve seen how well that works out in the postseason too), but they are certainly not yet a team that looks beyond repair.

A few key changes turned Pittsburgh’s abysmal ’09 season into the club’s third Stanley Cup, and some savvy changes by General Manager Jim Rutherford could easily do the same this time around.

Though the Pens’ may have dropped off sharply from the form they showed early on this season, the renewed effort they showed in the latter half of the ’09 campaign should be reason enough to believe they’re capable of coming back once again.

That isn’t to say that they will. Rather, the reality is simply this: while they may continue to fall, the Pens are still in prime position to win a championship, depending on what they add and how they play heading into the postseason.

Fans may be disappointed, and rightfully so, but the truth is it’s not easy for any team to win the Stanley Cup, regardless of who’s on your team.

Mario Lemieux won two championships in 17 seasons. Wayne Gretzky won four in 21 seasons.

That this year’s squad features elite talents like Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury does not guarantee anything – just as the personnel of the NHL’s other clubs guarantees nothing.

Too many things must fall into place for a team to find playoff success, and very little of that can be determined by mid-season statistics.

Does this mean we can expect with certainty that the Pens’ will quickly round back into shape and take the playoffs by storm? Not necessarily – but it means it’s far too early to count them out.

The moves made over the next couple weeks leading up to the Mar. 2nd trade deadline will be the determining factor in the success of Pittsburgh’s season.

Pittsburgh’s roster surely has issues they need to address but more than anything else, the team simply needs a shake-up to shock them back to life.

A steadying veteran presence, some added offensive punch, a shored up blue line – if Rutherford can bring these things to Pittsburgh by Mar. 2nd, we could very well see a resurgent home-stretch run from the Pens once again.