Editor’s Note: The following story has been written by our friend Pat of Doubt About It. Please take a minute to check out his great site.

Faceoff-Factor’s coverage is so comprehensive that there really is no point in us stopping by their season preview simply to throw in our generic two cents. Last year, we previewed the season by channeling the voice and absurdity of Earl Mann. This year, we went for broke. We sought out Earl Mann for an interview. The results were shocking.

Earl Mann is an elusive legend, my friends. He scoffs at the internet. Wikipedia cannot possibly hold his resonant voice. Like the “Against the Odds” and “One From the Heart” videos themselves, Mann is a hard-to-find commodity, and I like this. It makes it that much cooler when you encounter someone who is familiar with his Penguins-related work. For the purpose of getting an interview with him, well, it makes things difficult.

Calls to the Penguins and NFL Films were not returned, although they are hardly to blame. We came up with the idea to interview Earl Mann on a Friday with a Sunday deadline, so it really isn’t their fault for not getting back to us (and we’ll keep you posted if they do). Calls were placed to our Penguins “sources in the know”, but let’s just say that the realm of “the know” doesn’t preoccupy itself with movie narrators.

With the prospect of interviewing Mann waning, we turned our efforts elsewhere. Earl Mann is obviously the baritone heartbeat of the movies he narrates, but it’s not like he actually wrote what he said, which begs the question: who wrote that stuff anyways? Brass of a river boat gambler, war horse with hands of silk – who gets the credit? We cued up the end of “Against the Odds” and waited for the credits. After “Narrator: Earl Mann”, a familiar name scrolled by, a name that seemed to sit on the back flap of a book you used to have read to you at age five. A name familiar for reasons that seemed lost in your childhood.

Stuart R. Ross.

Why did this name ring a bell and why did I never notice it before?

The first Google hit on his name revealed the mind-boggling truth: Stuart R. Ross was the man responsible for bringing the smurfs to America. Just let that sink in for a moment. The man who penned the greatest videos in the history of championship DVDs was also responsible for turning the word “Smurf” into a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc. And apparently, according to the link above, he is an extortionist who wrangles money from his son-in-law with voicemails like these: “You have been a discourteous prick to Stuart Jackson (Ross’ lawyer). I am going to continue to harass you. I am going to call you every day – four or five times a day – I am going to keep calling – I will continue to harass you.”

Before I could decide if this made the Penguins DVDs more magical, more hilarious, or just plain creepier, I had to make sure that I had the right Stuart R. Ross. I traced his career across the internet as best I could, discovering along the way that he produced movies on Wayne Gretzky and the 1990 New York Rangers. I needed proof though, and I was running out of sources.

Trapped, with no one to turn to, I faked a look at Wikipedia and banked in my definitive proof off of MSN movies: Stuart Ross had worked with Earl Mann. Elvis just left the building, folks. The Penguins movies were written by the same man who made the Smurfs an American phenomenon. No wonder we went back to the Powder Blue jerseys.

Now…what does any of this have to do with the 2008-09 Penguins campaign? Only Stuart R. Ross and his lawyers know for sure. While I think virtually everyone is excited to see if Malkin and Crosby (gasp…double gasp) get better and if Cooke is as entertaining a presence as Laraque, I keep coming back to three questions that I’ll be looking for solutions to. As BlueBuddies.com says, “everyone in Smurf Village turns to Papa Smurf when things go awry. Papa is always busy making magical spells and potions in his laboratory.”

So, here are my Three Wishes for Papa Smurf, issues I would like the Stuart R. Ross-funded leader of the Smurfs to address via magical spells, potions, and… ok let’s just stop right here. This is getting a little weird.

1. Please figure out all this Jordan Staal business. No one knows exactly where he is going to fit in, how he’ll perform, if he’ll re-sign, etc. Make him comfortable on the first or second line, have him produce, and have him re-sign. Thanks.

2. Make Pesonen a stud. This is highly unrealistic given that he played on rinks the size of Ilya Kovalchuk’s ego, but if he is even just a solid third liner, I’d be pretty pleased. Of course, you could make him a fifty goal scorer on Crosby’s wing and I’d also be pleased. Whatever you can Smurf up.

3. Just make the defense into a solid, cohesive unit. I don’t necessarily care if Goligoski is surprisingly amazing, or if Letang makes a huge leap, or if Whitney recovers in record time, or if Orpik keeps up his 15sec/4check ratio all season. I just want, like, two of those things to happen. I’m not greedy – not all 63 defenseman we have need to have career years. Just make a good unit out of em, Papa.

Alright. Let’s drop the puck already. Let’s Go Pens.