4 years ago they were a nothing team, in a crappy run down arena and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Then comes the NHL lockout, the draft lottery... and Sidney Crosby.
I was skeptical at first that the Penguins could turn it around, let alone so fast (they were Stanley Cup finalists last year as well, losing to Detroit). I liked Ovechkin more than Crosby, and Malkin even showed a whole lot of promise.
Could a team rebuild around their new Captain "Syd The Kid"? Apparently so. Crosby has played well, very well. But to date hasn't really lived up to the hype of being The Next One. Injuries, pressure from other players and some discipline issues have hampered what is already a great few years.
What Pittsburgh did well though, is build around him. Last year and this year they really made some amazing acquisitions on top of Malkin and Crosby: Hossa, Fleury, Roberts, Gill, Kunitz, Guerin, Satan, Jordan Staal, Sykora, Gonchar and a host of others who really stepped up when needed.
Did Sydney Crosby bring Pittsburgh the Stanley Cup. In my opinion, no. But he was the anchor to build a team around. As the youngest captain to ever lift the cup, his team mates (including many seasoned veterans) all looked to him to set the mood or pace for many games. It also shows that one player cannot win it all... It takes a team, long term thinking, strategy, coaching and a little luck to win a Stanley Cup.
Now, can the Toronto Maple Leafs follow the same strategy that Pittsburgh did? Can they secure one or two young players of the Crosby and Malkin caliber? Can they understand that second round playoffs is no longer good enough, when over half the league qualifies for the playoffs?
Even if the answer to all of that is a resounding YES! Even if the Maple Leafs do everything right, there is still no guarantee that it will work. See Ottawa Senators, NY Rangers, San Jose Sharks. They did everything right in past years and did not win.
Good luck Toronto. You will need it.
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