The last two seasons saw Crosby battle through his concussions and as a result he wasn't able to play at the level many had come accustomed to seeing him play. He put up 103 points between the two seasons (66 and 37) but wasn't the same leader, he couldn't carry the Penguins on his own. So the Penguins went and acquired James Neal to help add depth and aid Evgeni Malkin in leading the Penguins while Crosby wasn't playing like Crosby.
Sidney Crosby is now back playing at the pace- if not slightly better than before his concussions, averaging 1.6 points per game through the first 33. With Sidney Crosby back as the best player in the world and a 12 game win streak the Penguins are in a "go for it" mode, and who can blame them?
Penguins GM Ray Shero has decided to get his playoff shopping list done a little early by acquiring Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars and Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks. While both Morrow and Murray have seen better days, they will add tremendous depth to the star-studded Penguins.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Shero's wheeling and dealing is the fact he didn't give up a single roster player in either trade. The losses to the Penguins were prospects and draft picks- and when you have Crosby, Neal, Malkin, Brandon Sutter and Beau Bennett all locked up- the Penguins don't need to worry much about the future for now.
Back to the present, by going out and acquiring solid depth players who will make an impact in a playoff run the Penguins have solidified that they are serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.
"With the makeup of a young team, having a healthy Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby -- which we haven't had in a couple years, we feel we have a nice good team and we're trying to do what we can to strengthen it. ~ Ray Shero
Morrow leaves his captaincy with the Stars to join his former Olympic teammate Sidney Crosby and Stars teammate James Neal. With Chris Kunitz and Neal playing bigger roles this season for the Penguins, Morrow will also become a lethal weapon and provide more secondary scoring. With Morrow being paired with Malkin and Neal look for him to up his scoring production and help the Penguins become the most well-rounded offensive team in the NHL.
In addition to secondary scoring Morrow will also add veteran leadership which will be vital for a deep playoff run. Brenden Morrow is the perfect player for the Penguins to acquire for them to make a valid run at the Cup and frankly they couldn't afford not to.
The Penguins have only won one playoff round since their Cup win in 2009, Crosby is finally healthy again and once again the best player in the world and the Penguins are atop the Eastern Conference. Everything is going right and this is their best chance at winning another Stanley Cup.
We want to win, It's up to us as players to do our part, but the organization and management is giving us every opportunity to do that. As a player, that's all you can ask for -- and we'll definitely try to do our best." ~ Sidney Crosby
Knowing how competitive Crosby is and his will to win, one Stanley Cup isn't enough- he wants several and now is the perfect time to add his second.
In addition to the great leadership and secondary scoring from Morrow the Penguins are also adding a solid defenceman in Douglas Murray. While the 6 foot 3, 240 pound defenceman wont be a star on the blue line like Kris Letang, he will add size, toughness and grit to the Penguins blue line. Murray is a solid shut-down defenceman who is used to going up against the oppositions best players.
But the most important attribute for the Penguins is the fact that Murray is a stay-at home defencenman. They don't need anymore high scoring defenceman, who like to jump up in the rush. They need someone who is strong in front of the net and clear the opposition out of the crease.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are making it clear they are in it to win it right now and with the season they're having there's no better time to make a run. If you thought the Pittsburgh Penguins were good now, just wait till they hit the playoffs with a healthy Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brenden Morrow, James Neal, Douglas Murray and Kris Letang.
The Penguins now have four forward lines full of depth, veteran leadership and all the right pieces to make a run. I don't see too many teams able to de-rail the red-hot Penguins.