Penguins general manager Ray Shero took the time last week during his season-ending news conference to thank the fans for their passionate support and the local media for their coverage. Then, he said something curious. To paraphrase: "I don't give a damn what any of you think. I'm going to make the decisions for this team. Your opinions don't matter."
Good for Shero.
It's been 11 days since the Boston Bruins swept the Penguins out of the Eastern Conference final. Many still are angry about that. You know how it goes in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins and Steelers don't win a championship, their season is considered a failure. Making it to the final four of their sport isn't enough.
Many also are agitated that Shero seems committed to keeping the Penguins largely intact. He didn't give in to outside pressure and fire coach Dan Bylsma, instead giving him a two-year contract extension. He quickly reinstated the fallen and much-criticized Marc-Andre Fleury as the No. 1 goaltender. Shero signed Evgeni Malkin to a new eight-year, $76 million contract, prompting one critic -- provocative CBC analyst Don Cherry -- to call Malkin a "dog" and a "loser." He has talked of doing everything he can to keep Kris Letang and Pascal Dupuis.
There is something wrong with that?
Not from this angle.
People are overreacting to one four-game series. Actually, to one game against the Bruins. Game 2 was a sporting disaster. Shero, Bylsma and team captain Sidney Crosby have no explanation for it. But the Penguins played well for much of Game 1 and all of Games 3 and 4. They just couldn't beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
If they played the series again, the Penguins easily could win. They certainly would score more than two goals. Crosby, Malkin, Letang and James Neal would score at least a point. Of course, they don't get a do-over. They lost when it counted. There is no real shame there. There is no real shame in losing to the Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2011, two years more recently than the Penguins. Ask the Chicago Blackhawks how tough the Bruins are.
People forget the Penguins led the NHL in goals this season. They forget they averaged 4.27 goals per game through the first two rounds of the playoffs against the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, the best postseason average in 30 years.
They forget that Fleury went 23-8 during the season and is a much better long-term option in goal than Tomas Vokoun.
Shero doesn't have to blow up the Penguins and build again. That's the last thing he should do. A tweak here and there will be enough to make the team a strong Cup contender again next season.
Young Simon Despres, 21, and slightly younger Beau Bennett, also 21, are big parts of the solution and will get more playing time.
Bylsma has said Despres will be a top-four defenseman and Bennett a top-six forward.
There will be more change because of the NHL salary cap, which will drop from $70.2 million this season to $64.3 million.
As much as Shero wants to keep Letang, it's hard to see that happening. If he has to trade him, his track record indicates he'll get plenty in return.
Remember the Jordan Staal trade last summer for Brandon Sutter and promising defensive prospects Brian Dumoulin and Derrick Pouliot?
There's a better chance that Dupuis will be back. Crosby likes playing with him. Dupuis also wants to be here, as much as any athlete who has played in Pittsburgh. He took less in his last contract to stay and probably will do so again, although he hardly could be blamed for going after bigger money elsewhere. He might have been the biggest bargain in sports the past two years.
Matt Cooke will be difficult to re-sign, depending on how much money and how many years he wants.
He would be a significant loss.
He didn't score a goal in the playoffs but might have performed his role better than anyone on the Penguins.
Craig Adams probably will be back. Bylsma loves him as fourth-line player and penalty-killer. He's also cheap.
Trade-deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray? All almost certainly won't be back.
The Penguins will survive.
They won't just survive, they'll flourish.
They'll go into next season as one of the favorites to win the Cup.
Good thing Shero is running the hockey club instead of those on the outside.
Ron Cook: email@example.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.