Did anyone really think anything else was possible? After the two monster signings of Martin and Michalek, what was left for Ray Shero to do? Holes at forward with Fedotenko, Guerin, and Ponikarovsky all moving on needed to be plugged but what could Shero do with only pocket change to sign some forwards. It seems at long last, rather than signing the old dudes in the hopes that they plug it up for a season or two; Ziggy "Stardust," Palffy, Mark Recchi, John LeClair, Gary Roberts, Bill Guerin, etc., the Penguins are finally going to try and let their young forwards; Eric Tangradi, Mark Letestu, and Dustin Jeffrey, take every shot at cracking the first and second lines to fill in the question marks on the top to lines.
The third and fourth line? No question marks there except who is going to play night in night out. There are plenty of of players for those 3rd and 4th lines: Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Eric Godard, Tyler Kennedy, Mike Rupp, and Max Talbot will be joined by Arron Asham and Mike Comrie to give Disco Dan Bylsma plenty of options amongst his grinders, penalty killers, and all around forces of nature. Out of these players, Comrie has the best shot to make it into the top two lines however he could fit anywhere, but more on that later.
So, who is going to play? Earlier this off season, Jody Shelley came to Philadelphia and Derek Boogaard has come to New York so I fully expect #28 to suit up when we play them at the very least. With Colton Orr in Toronto and last seasons fighting major leader, Zenon Konopka signing with the Islanders, we may even see Godard more than that. Godard's growing importance to the team has already been discussed though so let's move on to our two new boys.
Everyone wants to focus on what Asham did in the playoffs for the Flyers last year when considering what he could possibly be for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Asham, however, could be putting up some huge numbers for the Penguins if you look at some of his even older numbers. Consider that Mike Rupp had easily his greatest season with the Penguins last year, pocketing 13 goals and 19 points when he never had more than 10 goals in his 9 year NHL career. Asham, who will probably get the same treatment Rupp got, (the odd matchup line change where Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or maybe even Jordan Staal), has the possibility of putting up even bigger numbers. Asham has four seasons with 10 or more goals with a career high of 15 in 2002-2003 with the Islanders. I expect some fireworks from Asham this season, and not just from his fists:
We all know how I feel about Colby Armstrong. Seeing Asham immediately jump in, a guy who fights heavyweights like Rupp and super heavyweights like Orr, and beat the snot outta some snot nosed cheap shot middle weight like Armstrong for throwing a cheap shot is fantastic. You CANNOT have enough protect for the Penguin superstars. When Godard isn't in the line up, you obviously lose something with Asham in physicality and enforcing. But, Asham will bring a better offensive skills and isn't a GIANT drop off from Godard's fist. You like to see Godard in games when the opponent has a big time enforcer such as everyone in the Atlantic seems to have now, but against other teams, a combination of Asham and Rupp should suffice.
Plus, he looks like he could play Vincent Vega in a Pulp Fiction remake:
"I ain't your friend, palooka."
I don't care about Hilary Duff. Comrie has always been a player I have had a respect for because he plays the game hard, gets dirty, scores goals, fights, everything. Looking around the great vastness of the internet, in between all the mouth breathing and soul sucking crap, you'll find some interesting tidbits about this signing: Comrie signing for league minimum, Comrie giving up a lot of money elsewhere to sign with the Pens, Comrie replacing Guerin on Crosby's line, Crosby personally talking to Comrie about coming here and almost instantly congratulating him on his arrival to Pittsburgh. All of these things point to Mike Comrie being hungry like the wolf:
Really, I had no reason to post this song except for forcing the hungry like the wolf reference. Whatever, that song rules, you all suck.
Anyway, Comrie being hungry is going to push people, and I absolutely love it. Tyler Kennedy? Max Talbot? Are you listening? Mike Comrie, as long as he stays healthy is going to push everyone on this squad and has the talent to back it up; 33 goals with Edmonton in 01-02, 20 in 02-03, 30 with Phoenix in 05-06, 21 for with the New York Islanders in 07-08. Even combining the career highs of Tyler Kennedy and Max Talbot doesn't equal Comrie's career high. There's a new grinder in town ladies and gentlemen, and he's got him some hands.
As mentioned, though, Comrie's problem is staying healthy. Comrie has only played 50+ games in a season twice since the lockout. For league minimum though, this is another classic Ray Shero move of "low risk, high reward." Think Janne Pesonen, except, you know, better.
But, enough crap about goals and lame stuff like winning. My favorite thing about Mike Comrie, is, of course, that he fights. It's not just that he fights, it's that he fights with the frame he has. At 5'10", Comrie is the shortest player on the Penguins team yet he still throws down. What is great about his fight card is that while he gets a handful of fights each regular season, he has thrown down in the PREseason many times. Comrie, despite turning 30 years old on September 11th, still plays like a kid fighting for a roster spot. Once again, hungry like the wolf. Adding that kind of grit to a line that already includes Chris Kunitz and the superstar grinder himself, Sidney Crosby, is only going to make great things happen. On top of it all, Crosby still has two guys ready to drop the gloves at a moments notice on his line to stand up for him.
Bring the pain.