Penguins truly see themselves as a top contender

The Pittsburgh Penguins enter a season for the first time since 2014-2015 where how they view themselves internally is much different than how other coaches, executives view them around the league.

Jim Rutherford talking up the Penguins hasn’t just been GM talk in a General Manager trying to prop up his group through the media….. He truly believes this is a top-5 Stanley Cup contender who has as good of a chance as anybody to win the Cup.

The view of the Penguins on the other end of the spectrum is that it’s a group you shouldn’t discount if certain things break their way, but a pretty good consensus among evaluators is that it would be more surprising that the Penguins finish 1st/2nd Place than a 4th/5th place type finish.

They’re closer to being a middle of the road team than an elite team.

The Penguins, though, believe they made ‘significant’ additions or changes that have them back in elite contender status.

Although the league has moved into more of a ‘heavy’ style of play again, the Penguins remain obsessed of rekindling that 2016 model of a speed/puck pursuit game lines 1-4.

Starting with the top-6, they believe this roster starts to resemble that on paper.

Pittsburgh feels countering a heavy game is with speed/puck pursuit and it’s a reason they’ve placed a much higher value on how much impact they feel Kasperi Kapanen will have in the top-6 than others might. Pittsburgh looks at it as having a winger group in the top-6 that’s going to be relentless in pursuing the puck with the likes of Jason Zucker, Bryan Rust and now Kapanen.

Signing a cone in Cody Ceci surely takes some of this away, but the view has been the same on the backend where the Penguins determined this off-season internally that to counter teams that exposed them down low in the defensive zone and in trying to breakout the puck against good to elite forechecking teams, was to get more speed defensively to exit the zone efficiently that saw them willing to take on the albatross contract of Mike Matheson’s.

Rutherford, according to a source, see’s the Matheson addition as a To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

— The bottom-6 has serious concerns of being able to carry it’s own weight offensively. The analytic defensive metric obsessed organization, though, is giddy about the 3rd-4th line center combo of Teddy Blueger/Mark Jankowski and believe they have the best mix they’ve had in years of two-way players who can be trusted in defensive situations, produce just enough offense, with intrigue of possibly being able to mix in some younger higher-end talent as the season progresses.

Still, there’s very little talent in that group of players who can create individual 1-on-1 offense that will put more pressure on the top-6 to match or exceed expectations.

— Then there’s the goaltending situation.

A combo of Tristan Jarry/Casey DeSmith doesn’t scream great confidence. Is Jarry the real deal?

The Penguins certainly think so, but a common denominator in the organization is that getting Matt Murray out of the room is an addition by default. Not Marc Andre esque but players love [hide] playing for Jarry, and that’s something Rutherford & Co just felt was missing with Murray and his teammates last season. [/hide]