Pittsburgh Penguins winger Ruslan Fedotenko has all the motivation he needs as he enters his second season with the defending Stanley Cup Champions.,
Fedotenko returned to Pittsburgh signing a one year contract worth $1.8 million, a slight paycut over his salary of $2.25 million last season. There was significant interest in Fedotenko on the open market but he didn’t receive a “Rob Scuderi” type of offer that he couldn’t refuse.
Coming off of a strong playoff run (7 goals) and training camp, Fedotenko is in a perfect situation to improve on a disappointing 16 goal season in 2008-2009.
At age 30, Fedotenko has the assets around him to earn his last big contract next off-season. What the Penguins want to see out of Fedotenko is more consistency and the key for Fedotenko will be to produce at a higher level.
He’s a player who has 25 goal potential but his career high in points is 41 and has only scored 20+ goals once in his career (2005-2006 season).
Every year fans are ready to project that (“so-and-so”) are a lock for a 30 plus goal season because they are playing with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.
Since Crosby and Malkin began their careers in Pittsburgh, only three players other than Malkin, Crosby have reached 25+ goals in one full season with the team.
That was Jordan Staal in the 2006-2007 season when Staal scored 29 goals playing alongside Malkin; Ryan Malone in 2007-2008, scoring 27 goals playing alongside Evgeni Malkin for the most part and Petr Sykora (25 goals) in the 2007-2008 season. Like Malone and Staal, Sykora was a fixture on Malkin‘s line.
Malkin and Crosby have not been able to elevate a Rob Brown type of player into a 49 goal scorer and they likely won’t be able to this season either. That’s not a knock on Crosby or Malkin. The game has changed and just shows how great of a player Mario Lemieux was.
How much production the Penguins get from their top-6 wingers this season remains a question mark, just like it‘s been for the past 4-to-5 years.
Analysis of the Penguins top four wingers
*Kunitz – Crosby – Guerin Unit
Pittsburgh entered training camp with the organization already knowing who were going to be Sidney Crosby’s linemates for the first time since Crosby’s rookie year.
*Bill Guerin will turn 39 this November. Guerin scored 21 goals last season (16/ NYI – 5/PIT) and projecting anything more than 21-23 goals for Guerin may not be fair.
Guerin entered camp in excellent shape and he still has the ability to contribute even if he’s not on the score sheet every night. Guerin’s a valuable presence on Crosby’s line and gives the Penguins a much needed right handed shot presence on the power play which they lacked until Guerin’s arrival.
His presence in the locker-room can’t be overlooked but at his age, there will be nights where he won’t have it.
*Chris Kunitz had 18 points in 20 games with Penguins in the regular season and then 14 points in 24 playoffs games.
But, he only scored 1 goal in 24 playoff games.
Like Guerin, Kunitz game is more than putting the puck in the net. He adds a physical presence to Crosby’s line, is effective on the fore-check and has the skating ability to play well with Malkin or Crosby.
Kunitz career high in goals is 25 (2006-2007 season) and expecting much more than 25-27 goals from Kunitz is a stretch.
Fedotenko – Malkin – Kennedy Unit
*As mentioned above, Ruslan Fedotenko is primed for a breakout season but I’m not ready to pencil him in for 25 plus goals. Just not yet but the potential is there. Anything less than 20 goals will be regarded as a disappointing season.
*Tyler Kennedy is a player who has the making of joining the 20 goal plateau. Entering his third NHL season, Kennedy will make the jump to being a top 6 forward to open the season.
With Max Talbot out, Kennedy will have 6-8 weeks to earn a full time spot in the Penguins top-6. If training camp is any indication, he won’t disappoint.
A development in Kennedy’s game, is the patience he has in the offensive zone and around the net. In their short time together, Kennedy has shown chemistry with Evgeni Malkin as the two forwards were the Penguins top players against Columbus in pre-season game #5.
There’s not a player on the 3rd and 4th lines including Pascal Dupuis and Chris Bourque that will be a threat to replace Kennedy on Malkin’s line during the first two months of the season. In the long run the Penguins also see Kennedy as a better fit on the second line than the injured Max Talbot.
A 20-22 goal season should be expected.