Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Friday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - We've finally made it - training camp is open in Cranberry and to quote Thin Lizzy, the boys are back in town.
While the big moves this summer have been well-documented, Kyle Dubas taking over, and trading for the likes of Erik Karlsson and Reilly Smith, it's the moves that haven't received much fanfare that give us an idea of where this team is going this upcoming season.
Kyle Dubas's staff, along with Mike Sullivan and his fellow coaches, aren't letting anyone rest easy as they prepare to take the road back to the playoffs.
Training camp this year may have plenty of knowns with the big names still around, but one of the Penguins' biggest woes last season was a bottom-six forward group that was unable to score, but worse, unable to defend.
Sure, in an ideal world, a third line in the image of the famed "HBK Line" is what you would want to have, but given what transpired last season, keeping the puck out of Tristan Jarry's net will be a big priority.
To that end, the Penguins aren't going to let roster spots for the bottom two lines or the bottom defensive pairing come easy.
It's a camp that will be low-key full of competition.
Names like Noel Acciari, Lars Eller, Vinnie Hinostroza, Andreas Johnsson, Matt Nieto, Radim Zohorna, Mark Pysyk, Mark Friedman, and others will all be competing for only a handful of spots.
Yes, we'll all be watching to see how Erik Karlsson assimilates to the Penguins system, how Reilly Smith fits in with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and if Tristan Jarry can find his form.
What we need to watch is how more than 10 players will be competing for just about five spots.
Players like Noel Acciari, Lars Eller, and Matt Nieto have the defensive acumen to keep the opponent's top units stymied and set up the Penguins' top six to have success when they get their chance.
They also will provide a safety net for Tristan Jarry, who as we know, might need some help, even with a brand-new five-year deal in his back pocket.
Most importantly, in no world are they guaranteed spots.
The Penguins' offseason moves were very much geared toward making sure their bottom six and third-pairing were first and foremost able to defend after a season in which they frequently found themselves on the wrong side of the scoresheet.
Given where this Penguins franchise is, with their stars heading into the twilight of their careers but still with aspirations of a championship in their eyes, competition is necessary, and comfort is not a route to Lord Stanley's castle.
Now, it's time for them to earn it.
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