5 Most Underrated Pittsburgh Penguins in Franchise History

Steve Rodenbaugh@rodeyslContributor IIINovember 7, 2013

5 Most Underrated Pittsburgh Penguins in Franchise History

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    Since they joined the NHL in 1967, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans have had more than their fair share of great players whose names and accomplishments adorn the halls and rafters of the Consol Energy Center.

    Unfortunately, this wealth of legendary great players has overshadowed the accomplishments of lesser known talents who, had they played for most other franchises, might find their own jerseys hanging from the rafters.

    While much has been made of the Hall of Famers who have worn the black and gold, let's look at the five most underrated Pittsburgh Penguins in franchise history.

5. Rob Brown

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    Whenever fans think of the great goal scorers in Pittsburgh Penguins' history, Rob Brown is never included in the conversation but he should be.

    Having lit up the Western Hockey League, where he still holds single-season records for assists (136) and points (212), Brown was drafted with the 67th overall pick in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and was one of the few bright spots on some of the Pens teams in the late 1980s.

    Playing alongside Mario Lemieux, Brown tallied 112 goals and 143 assists in less than four seasons in his first stint with the Pens and helped the franchise go from being a laughingstock to a contender.

    While Brown's critics have referred to him as a "goal suck," a player who ignores his defensive responsibilities and only looks to score, Brown, despite his 5'11", 185-pound frame, wasn't afraid to play physical and averaged more than 100 penalty minutes per season with the Pens.

    During his time in Pittsburgh, Brown was an overlooked but steady contributor for the Pens and, despite playing only a combined seven seasons with the Pens, still ranks 13th among the franchise leaders in goals scored.

4. Bob Errey

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    If one were to describe a Penguins forward who possessed speed, tenacity, a hard left-handed shot and a knack for scoring big goals, most fans would think of current Penguin Pascal Dupuis.  However, before Dupuis, there was Bob Errey.

    Drafted by the Pens with the 15th overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft after a 53-goal/100-point season in the Ontario Hockey League, Errey became a fixture on the Pens' top two lines, where he earned the distinction of being named an alternate captain because of his leadership and workman-like approach to the game.

    Despite being only 5'10" and weighing just 180 pounds, Errey was fearless around the net, and from 1988 to 1992, he averaged 22 goals and 115 penalty minutes per season and was an integral part of the Pens' back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 1991 and 1992.

    If the true value of a player is determined by how the team performs without him, then Errey was invaluable to the Pens who, after trading him to the Buffalo Sabres in 1993, were upset by a gritty New York Islanders team.

3. Larry Murphy

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    When discussing the best defensemen in Penguins history, names like Randy Carlyle and Paul Coffey are usually the most often mentioned names, but Larry Murphy deserves to have his name included in the conversation.

    Acquired from the Minnesota North Stars in 1990, Murphy was seen as a solid two-way defenseman, but playing alongside stars like Mario Lemieux and fellow-blue liner Paul Coffey, Murphy showed that he could be a dangerous offensive threat as well.

    In his five years with the Pens, Murphy twice topped the 20-goal mark and was a point-per-game performer in the postseason.

    Despite his accomplishments, Murphy was largely overlooked by the hockey world and, despite his steady play and offensive exploits, was chosen for the NHL All-Star only once as a member of the Pens and is often overlooked by fans even today.

2. Alexei Kovalev

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    The words "enigmatic," and "all-star" may trigger memories of Jaromir Jagr, but Alexei Kovalev fits the bill, too.

    Blessed with one of the greatest wrist shots in the NHL history and an amazing ability to stick-handle through traffic, Kovalev at times was able to take over a game seemingly whenever he wanted to.  The problem was that he didn't always seem to want to.

    Arriving in 1999 in a trade with the New York Rangers for disgruntled forward Petr Nedved, Kovalev was a natural fit for a talented-laden Pens team and teamed with Robert Lang and Martin Straka to form probably the best second line in the NHL from 1999-2002.

    Despite spending only the equivalent of five full seasons with the Pens, Kovalev still ranks 14th in goals scored in franchise history and averaged over a point-per-game in his Penguins career.

1. Martin Straka

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    While he was not as well known outside of Pittsburgh as fellow-Czech Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka's gritty play and impressive stats earned him a place in Pens fans' hearts and the top spot on this list.

    Drafted by the Pens with the 19th overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, Straka made an immediate impact with the Pens and tallied 30 goals and 34 assists during his rookie year in 1993-94.

    After being traded to the Ottawa Senators in 1995 and bouncing around the NHL for the next few seasons, Straka would return to Pittsburgh in 1997 and form a dynamic duo with Jarmoir Jagr, averaging a point-per-game for the next seven seasons before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 2004.

    Despite being traded twice by the Pens twice in his career, Straka still ranks ninth in goals and 10th in both games played and points in franchise history, and his infamous series-clinching goal against the Washington Capitals in the 2001 Stanley Cup playoffs remains one of the greatest moments in Penguins' history.