When looking back on the Penguins' 2011-2012 season there are many ways to describe how it ended; blown out, exposed, embarrassed, abrupt.
There's no sugar coating a 4-2 series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Not when its penalty kill had a historic collapse. Not when the defense, a unit that was promoted by hockey circles as one of the deepest in the league, surrendered twenty goals in the first three games of the series. Not when the league MVP who dominated all season looked average against a 19 year old rookie.
The front office vowed to make changes and they did through roster moves. The Penguins traded away Jordan Staal and received a high return. They dealt Zbynek Michalek away in what was seen as a salary dump to make room for high-priced free agents. While Zach Parise and Ryan Suter took their talents to Minnesota, the Penguins still upgraded their team by adding Tomas Vokoun to backup Marc-Andre Fleury.
One move they didn't make was to replace the head coach. Dan Bylsma's job wasn't in jeopardy but the rumblings of firing him were heard all over Pittsburgh. After all, his team has failed to get out of the second round in three straight seasons, fading the memories of the 2009 Stanley Cup run.
In the end, it was a smart decision to keep Bylsma at the helm for another season, especially given the circumstances of how this season will start. The NHL lockout forced the league to cut the 82 game schedule to 48 with the start looming eight days away. Given the timetable of the CBA ratification process, teams will not be able to start their brief training camp until Sunday. With Friday being a travel day for most teams, training camp will start and end in a span of five days.
For the Penguins, that's five days to get ready for a season that could consist of four games a week until May. That type of schedule will not allow losing streaks or slow starts if a team is trying to make the playoffs. When you look around the league, the Penguins should be more prepared for a quick start than other teams.
The Washington Capitals, for example, hired Adam Oates to replace Dale Hunter stepped down to rejoin the London Knights after the 2012 season. Oates has five days to implement an entirely new system, one that relies on opening up the offense; a stark contrast to Hunter's defensive-minded system the Capitals had to ingest a year ago. Oates's style will surely gel with Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, but there will be bumps in the road along the way.
Teams like the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators will have to adapt to some of their major roster changes. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise will need to get acclimated with their new teammates, while Suter's former team has to find a way to move on without him. The New Jersey Devils have to find a way to win without Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk who, at this time, still plans to stay in the KHL for as long as possible.
Then there's the New York Islanders, a team who could sneak into the playoffs with a hot start, if only they had three more defensemen to compile a legitimate roster. The Toronto Maple Leafs, fresh off firing Brian Burke a few days ago, will have a new GM to quickly get ahold of the roster and determine any possible moves to put this team in the playoffs.
Like all teams, the Penguins will have to shake off the rust and get back into a rhythm that only comes with playing real games. However, most of their roster is still intact with a system that has marinated over the last five years. A quick start is crucial for a postseason spot and the Penguins clearly have less internal concerns as the regular season draws near.