Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang will slow down at some point. As things currently stand, though, they remain the picture of greatness, the foundation of a championship-caliber team.
We have learned over the years, however, that no matter how great those stars may be, Stanley Cup quests require a full roster. Depth scoring. Four legitimate lines. If you’ve observed these Penguins for long enough, you know Stanley Cups don’t come to Pittsburgh if not for the likes of Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Jordan Staal, Bob Errey and Phil Bourque.
It’s a cliche, sure. But some cliches are rooted in truth. The stars alone aren’t enough.
This brings us to the curious cases of Jason Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen. Both have considerable talent, blazing speed, big expectations, significant dips in production and were brought to Pittsburgh when Jim Rutherford felt like paying any price for the players he wanted. Zucker and Kapanen were the big prizes as far as Rutherford was concerned. Both have become points of contention among fans.
What if, in the 2022-23 season, both players finally produced the way they were expected to upon joining the Penguins?
Maybe it’s wishful thinking at this point. Maybe Zucker’s undeniable passion for the sport and Kapanen’s equally undeniable physical tools never will blossom in Pittsburgh. If that’s the case, the Penguins won’t contend for a championship this season. That’s how important these two players are. They don’t have a bottom six that will score loads of goals. They need their stars to be stars and for a handful of other talented players to score.
What if they do finally figure it out?