Perhaps the only thing more difficult than winning the Stanley Cup is defending it.
It hasn't been done since 97/98.
There are a number of reasons why.
First, the rest of the teams in the league spend their entire seasons gunning for you.
Second, after winning the Cup most teams have significiant pieces of their team bolt for other cities in hopes of scoring a big pay day.
This leads to the third reason, which is that every other team in the league spends their offseason trying to improve their own team and fill in the holes they noticed during the previous season.
The Penguins are going to experience all of those things next year.
They are the champs and thus they have become the measuring stick.
Last year the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the defending champion Red Wings in their first game of the season.
The city celebrated the victory like it was 1967.
That's the way it will be every time someone upsets the Penguins next season.
However, the main difficultly in defending the Cup will be the moves made in the offseason.
Almost every team has added or subtracted from their roster in hopes of overthrowing the Pens next season.
Today we look at what teams in the Eastern Conference have done.
We'll go through each team, in order of where they finished last season, and see if anyone has what it takes to take down the Penguins next year.
We're only going to list players who have a chance at being in the NHL next year.
We've probably forgotten some people.
Last Year: 1st the the Eastern Conference – 116 Points
The Bruins are essentially the same team that ended last season with the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
That means they should be competitive next season, but do they have what it takes to defeat the Pens in a seven game series?
Last Year: 2nd the the Eastern Conference – 108 Points
Sergei Fedorov (KHL)
Viktor Kozlov (KHL)
The Capitals took the Penguins to seven games last year.
Outside of the Red Wings, they were the only club to push the Pens to the brink of elimination.
However, their lack of depth on defense is ultimately what cost them the series.
They've done nothing to fix that issue.
However, Mike Knuble will help provide some additional support on offense and bring the team some Additions grit.
Also, it's unknown how the Russians on the team will react to the loss of Sergei Fedorov.
Overall the Caps are approximately the same as last year.
Last Year: 3rd the the Eastern Conference – 106 Points
The Devils lost a lot of players to free agency.
They also lost coach Brent Sutter to the Calgary Flames.
The good news for them is that Martin Brodeur should be able to play a full season next year.
The Devils managed to win the Atlantic Division last season despite Brodeur playing only 31 games.
However, should anything happen to Brodeur next year, Scott Clemmensen won't be around to back him up.
The Devils will have a tough time repeating as Atlantic Division champions.
Last Year: 5th the the Eastern Conference – 99 Points
The Flyers only lost one player (Knuble) to free agency.
They did, however, alter their team signicificantly through a trade.
The Flyers sent Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Chris Pronger.
Pronger immediately adds a strong presence on the Philly blue line.
They also brought in Ray Emery in an attempt to improve their goaltending.
Will he help?
If he can avoid becoming the distraction he was in Ottawa, yes.
However, that's a big if.
Their moves show that they want to win now as they have sacrificed some of their future with the Pronger trade.
The additions of Pronger and Emery have made the chip on Philadelphia's shoulder even larger.
Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen.
The Flyers could be an incredibly difficult team to beat next year, or it could be penalty city in Philadelphia.
Last Year: 6th the the Eastern Conference – 99 Points
At this point, the Carolina Hurricanes are the same team that ended last season.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing for them.
It's good for them because the Canes were very impressive and they made the Eastern Conference Final last year.
It's bad because they were swept away by the Penguins that that round.
The main reason the Carolina Hurricanes watched the Penguins celebrate with the Prince of Wales Trophy last year was because of their lack of depth.
Eric Staal and Cam Ward are both outstanding players.
However if either of those players falter, the Canes are in trouble.
They did a good job in re-signing players like Jussi Jokinen, Erik Cole and especially Chad LaRose.
But it needs to be noted that every player on the Hurricanes is now a year older.
This will benefit younger players like Brandon Sutter and Eric Staal, but it could be bad news for veterans like Ray Whitney, Scott Walker, Rod Brind'Amour and Frantisek Kaberle.
Last Year: 7th the the Eastern Conference – 95 Points
The Rangers lost a big contract when the traded Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens.
The cap space they freed with that trade allowed them to sign Marian Gaborik to a five-year, $37.5 million contract.
Their success next season will greatly depend on Gaborik.
When healthy he is one of the best wingers in the game.
However, solar eclipses are more common than injury-free seasons for Gaborik.
The Rangers weren't a serious threat to the Pens last year and it doesn't look like that will change.
Now that we've said that, watch Gaborik score 50 goals next season.
Last Year: 8th the the Eastern Conference – 93 Points
In addition to the players listed above, Alex Tanguay, Tom Kostopoulos, Mathieu Schneider, Mathieu Dandenault, Francis Bouillon and Patrice Brisebois will likely sign with new teams next season.
All of those players are free agents and none have been re-signed by the Canadiens.
After their 100th season was mostly disasterous the Canadiens are looking to overhaul their roster.
It will be difficult for a team in such a massive state of rebuilding to compete for the Cup next season.
Last Year: 9th the the Eastern Conference – 93 Points
The Panthers just barely missed the playoffs last year.
The road there will be more difficult without Jay Bouwmeester.
Last Year: 10th the the Eastern Conference – 91 Points
The Sabres are pretty much the same team as last year.
They'll likely finish in around the same position next season.
Last Year: 11th the the Eastern Conference – 83 Points
The Senators' season will depend on Dany Heatley.
If they can trade him, who will they trade him for?
If they can't trade him, how will be play on Ottawa?
Who will be willing to get into a car play with him?
The Senators had a strong finish last season and they seem to be talented enough to make the playoffs.
Maybe the Pens can beat them in the first round again.
Last Year: 12th the the Eastern Conference – 81 Points
The Maple Leafs have made a lot of changes this offseason.
They may be the most improved team in the conference.
These changes may be enough to get them into the playoffs, but that's all.
Their offense is still quite lacking.
Last Year: 13th the the Eastern Conference – 76 Points
The three players Atlanta added started last season with the Maple Leafs.
They won't be enough to help the Thrashers.
Last Year: 14th the the Eastern Conference – 66 Points
The Lightning took steps to address their weak defense with the addition of Victor Hedman and Mattias Ohlund.
Sergei Gonchar will have a safer preseason now that David Koci is in Colorado.
Otherwise, this is the Lightning we're talking about.
They're not gonna set the world on fire.
Last Year: 15th the the Eastern Conference – 61 Points
John Tavares is already generating excitement in Long Island.
However it's going to take more than Tavares to make the Islanders a playoff team.
And finally, we take a look at the Penguins.
Last Year: 4th the the Eastern Conference – 99 Points
Stanley Cup Champions
Losing Scuderi and Gill hurts.
They were our shutdown pair and they performed that role perfectly, especially during the playoffs.
However, the Penguins will be able to dress the same top three forward lines next season as they did during the Cup run.
They also retain two-out-of-three defensive pairings.
Max Talbot will miss the first month or two of the regular season.
However, Sergei Gonchar should be able to play the whole year.
They will also have Dan Bylsma behind the bench from the beginning next year.
While the rest of the Eastern Conference has improved, the Penguins still look to be the team to beat.
Of course, there are still free agents available and trades are always possible, so the make-ups of these teams could be very different before the puck drops in October.