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Dan Bylsma says the Penguins will be better this season

Aug 7, 2011, 6:26 PM EDT

Dan Bylsma Getty Images

Last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins did some amazing work being able to fight through injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins were one point away from winning the Atlantic Division and coach Dan Bylsma was rewarded for his work in keeping the team together by winning the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

Despite those accolades, the Penguins still bowed out of the playoffs in the first round, losing in seven games to Tampa Bay despite taking an initial 3-1 series lead. Obviously not having Crosby and Malkin made a big difference there offensively, but after a summer that sees both of them doing their best to get back into game shape and adding Steve Sullivan to the mix, Dan Bylsma is feeling good about the upcoming season.

Bylsma tells Sam Kasan of the Penguins website that he thinks they’ll be even better next season.

“I think we’re a better team now than we were at the start of the last hockey season. That’s a pretty exciting thing to think about,” said the 2011 NHL Coach of the Year. “We have to get to work and that starts in September. There is still a little bit of a waiting game. I’m looking forward cranking it up and get ready for training camp and the rest of the season.”

The Penguins have added several players at forward and defense, like Steve Sullivan, Jason Williams, Alexandre Picard and Boris Valabik, to an already impressive depth pool within the organization.

“We’ve added a lot of depth to our team with defensemen and forwards that can have an impact on our team,” Bylsma said. “As last year was an indication, injuries always play a part, and we’re going to need these players to play a role on our team.

The Penguins additions in the offseason aren’t name-grabbing types of guys, but getting healthy Crosby and Malkin will be all the additions they’ll need to be even better. With the torrid start to the year the Penguins had last year, losing Crosby in January to a concussion and then Malkin to a knee injury later proved to be offensive killers. The team’s dedication to toughness and defense helped keep them rolling along.

Should that same dedication to defense couple with the comeback of the Penguins’ offense as well as top flight goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins will again be major contenders out of the Eastern Conference. Of course, everyone will feel better off once Crosby is participating in full on-ice activities and Malkin gets cleared to practice in full when he gets back to Pittsburgh, but there’s every reason in the world for Penguins fans to be excited and Pittsburgh haters to be nervous about the upcoming season.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 7, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    I wasn’t a fan of Crosby when he broke into the league but he’s starting to win me over. I really hope the kid is ok and returns to form this season. He was starting to make the move from superstar to the elite of the elite before he got injured last year and I would hate to see his potentially great career derailed like Lindros’ was

  2. dbick - Aug 7, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    They’re going to be an interesting team at the very least. Who knows how Malkin will be after he destroyed his knee, is he going to be able to be the same player? And Crosby might be one more big hit away from the next Eric Lindross. Going to be very interesting to watch and see what happens

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 7, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    Well would Coach Bylsma say that they are going to be worse ha? I agree with DB, Malkin and Crosby will be watched closely. It is possible that neither player may ever go back to their own form. It would be ashame if they don’t. Makes our rivalry with the Pens less appealing.

  4. bigbear42 - Aug 8, 2011 at 12:32 AM

    Malkin really hasnt been the same player after the year he won the Art Ross, I hope this injury doesnt derail him even more

  5. t16rich - Aug 8, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I would hope so!!! You did well last year without Crosby. And now you should have him and Malkin back at some point. But it will be the experience young players had playing without Crosby that will make this team better. When Crosby went down that meant leadership and icetime had to be spread throughout the roster. I guess we will find out this year if anyone in Pitt took advantage of icetime last season. Tyler Kennedy comes to mind as a player who stepped up when Sid went down.

  6. jpelle82 - Aug 8, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    pretty safe assumption considering having either malkin or crosby back even at 75% is an improvement. the past 3 years the penguins havent had crosby, malkin, and staal healthy together for a full season. one of them seems to miss significant time every year but if they all 3 can make it for 75-82 games…look out eastern conference

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