Pittsburgh Penguins in Powder Blue: It's Time To Place the Blame

Eric NaughtonCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2009

The rest of you can blame injuries (I have in the past), Michel Therrien, or Ray Shero (or Hossa, or Satan), for that matter.  

I'm blaming the "Powder Blues."

As far as I am concerned, King Tut has nothin' on the Curse of the Third Sweater.

As a merchandising/marketing gimmick, the powder blue retro sweaters were fantastic for the Penguins. Fans gobbled up the sweaters adorned with 87 and 71, and items with the original logo sold like hotcakes (I have a waffle tee and trucker hat, by the way). I made it back to Pittsburgh for a game this season, and I'd say that one third of the sweaters worn by fans were the Powder Blues.

The throwback design first appeared in the 2008 Winter Classic, which was a great event (not only because the Penguins won). I really enjoyed the sense of nostalgia that the retro ensemble injected into the experience. 

However, now that the powder blue unis are the official third look for the Pens, I am not so enamored.

The Penguins have a record of 2-4-1 in the Powder Blues (not counting the Winter Classic), and one of those wins was decided by a shoot-out.

The Penguins' record before the 2008-2009 season debut of the Powder Blues was 10-4-2, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Their record since the Nov. 15 game against Buffalo is 16-20-3 and the Pens are struggling to make the playoffs.

I am now reminded of those heady days in the early 1990s, when the Penguins, led by Lemieux, won back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. During the 1991-1992 campaign, the Penguins introduced a third sweater with the flying penguin logo—an attempt to "modernize" the skating penguin logo.

For the 1992-1993 season, the Pens went completely to the flying penguin design. It would take the Pittsburgh Penguins 15 years to get to the Stanley Cup Finals again.

I see a disturbing trend here. The team introduces a third sweater on the heels of success, switches to the new design, and condemns the team to failure.

I sincerely hope that the Pittsburgh management realizes that merchandise sales are not as important as winning.

You can thumb your nose at superstition, but I think the record is clear. Don't change to the Powder Blues, Mr. Shero. I don't want to be a Los Angeles Kings fan.

Post Script: Here are some records of other teams wearing retro sweaters this season.

Edmonton: 3-4-2

Philadelphia: 5-1-2 (a fitting, Broad Street Bullies record, so I guess the retro look is working for the Flyers)

Vancouver: 3-5-2

Montreal lost to Boston 3-1 in their first game sporting the "barber pole" look (I will refrain from further comment...)

I'd like to add that the Capitals also "modernized" their logo in 1995 and, after several disappointing seasons, wisely went back to a design reminiscent of the original in 2007-2008. They are doing much better now.

(Winter Classic results ignored for this article.)