DETROIT -- The Red Wings and Penguins are indeed staging what figures to be a tremendous rematch in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.
But the teams’ respective rosters have changed since last June, meaning there are a number of players for whom this go-round isn’t technically a rematch. The Penguins, in particular, have a lot of new faces for the 2009 Final -- including coach Dan Bylsma, who may well be the most important addition to the Penguins’ roster.
After last season’s Final, the Penguins underwent a major roster turnover. Marian Hossa left as an unrestricted free agent, signing with the Red Wings, so he is very much a focal point in the 2009 Final. Also heading to Detroit from Pittsburgh was backup Ty Conklin, who fortune seems to favor. Conklin has played in three of the last four Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams, Edmonton in 2006, Pittsburgh in 2008 and now the Wings in 2009.
Also leaving the Penguins after last season were several veterans. Adam Hall, Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone all signed on in Tampa Bay. Georges Laraque signed in Montreal and Jarkko Ruutu moved on to Ottawa. A couple of in-season trades changed some faces on defense: Darryl Sydor was dealt to Dallas and Ryan Whitney was traded to Anaheim.
In the other dressing room, the Wings have been the models of stability. After winning the Stanley Cup, forward Dallas Drake and goalie Dominik Hasek retired, opening the door for the surprise one-year signing of Hossa and the addition of Conklin.
The Wings took care of business among their own players, most notably signing defenseman Brad Stuart.
So who has taken over to find successful roles, most notably for the Penguins? General Manager Ray Shero also worked the unrestricted free agency market, signing veteran forwards Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan and Matt Cooke, as well as tough guy Eric Godard.
On defense, veteran Philippe Boucher came in the trade with Dallas for Sydor and backup goalie Mathieu Garon joined the Penguins in a deal with the Oilers.
Just before the March 4 trade deadline, Shero swapped Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Chris Kunitz. On Deadline Day, he sent a draft pick to the New York Islanders for veteran forward Bill Guerin. Another vet, forward Craig Adams, was claimed off waivers from Chicago, and Pittsburgh also promoted defenseman Alex Goligoski from the AHL.
The Red Wings have successfully used their farm system to import some impressive depth players. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson carved out a place on the deep Detroit backline, while forwards Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino also have earned valuable minutes -- especially in the Western Conference Finals, when the injury bug struck the Wings.