The Pittsburgh Penguins Not Decade Team
For many Penguin fans, it doesn't matter how many times you tell them that we're the Stanley Cup champions. It's just an unbelievable thought, even a couple weeks removed from Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
Since the trade of superstar Jaromir Jagr to the Washington Capitals, the franchise had taken the entire decade to remodel the team into something we can all be proud of. But it sure didn't come easy.
The early to middle part of the 2000s, or commonly known to Penguin fans as the "Dark Ages" incorporated hockey teams that nobody wanted to see. Not because they were that good, because they were that awful. For other divisional rivals, beating the Penguins was expected. Take the two points and leave.
To fully appreciate the championship that we just achieved, remembering all the suffering is a good way to start. So I present the Pittsburgh Penguins' "not" decade team.
These players were in many occasions the recipient of all our anger, frustration and misery.
Whether they came in the form of high-profile free-agent signings that fell flat on their face at the Mellon Arena, or first-round draft picks that never came close to living up to their potential, these F---ing b---ards had an influential hand in the 2009 Cup.
So enjoy, it's the roster of Penguins only seen in nightmares.
G Sebastien Caron
Height: 6'1", Weight: 170 lbs.
Born: Amqui, Quebec, Canada
To build a horrific franchise, Sebastien Caron would without much doubt be the one to have between the pipes. The Quebec native, drafted in the 3rd round in 1999, spent three seasons with the Penguins from 2002-2005.
In those illustrious years, he lead the 'Guins to an overwhelming 24 wins and 59 combined losses. Zero years with a winning record.
His final two seasons in the black and vegas gold were particularly fine. He played to a 3.83 GAA, barely scraped up a save percentage of 88, and never once won double digit games.
But he had an assist in the 2005-06 campaign.
BACKUP GOALTENDER: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
D Dick Tarnstrom
Height: 6'1", Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: Sundbyberg, Sweden
Half of the Penguins' "Rick and Dick" combination, Tarnstrom was the first defenseman in franchise history to lead the team in scoring. During the 2003-04 season, Tarnstrom raked in 52 points, miraculously in first.
As a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tarnstrom played in 174 games, amassing a ghastly rating of minus-58. Despite scoring 12 Power Play goals in his "record setting" season nearly by default, Tarnstrom requested to be traded in 2006.
D Josef Melichar
Height: 6'2", Weight: 220 lbs.
Born: Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
If there is any name that makes a Penguin fan cringe, Josef Melichar may be that name.
Another 3rd round pick by the Penguins, Melichar got the call-up as a 21-year-old in 2000. And the defensive misery began.
He played four full seasons of hockey, averaging over 15 minutes of ice-time in each one of them. He was minus-19 in those four years, contributing next to nothing in terms of scoring either.
During his abysmal 2003 campaign, he fired 78 shots on net, scoring on an astounding three percent of those shots.
Melichar has moved on to bigger and better things, and is now with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's just a freak accident that he has never played for a team outside the division cellar.
D Dan Focht
Height: 6'6", Weight: 235 lbs.
Born: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
The lumbering Dan Focht, selected 11th overall in the 1996 draft, never blossomed into anything close to what he should have.
A selection of the Phoenix Coyotes, Focht didn't break into the NHL until his 5th season as a professional. And mostly everyone involved is regretful of that.
Focht came over to the Penguins during the 2002 season, and it didn't take him long to become a true fan favorite. He didn't fight.
He didn't shoot the puck. His defensive skills were worse than placing Hal Gill on figure skates.
He just contributed nothing while on the ice.
D Janne Laukkanen
Height: 6'0", Weight: 195 lbs.
Born: Lahti, Finland
Laukkanen was already in his 30s by the time he got to Pittsburgh. He had done time with the Nordiques, Avalanche and Senators. As an established defender, he was expected to help out the team.
And in his first season, 2000, he was half decent. Nothing spectacular, just got it done.
But as he hit 31, it's as if all his wheels fell off at the same time. Whatever things had gone right for him in the past, were not any more.
Then the things that he was not so proficient at, well, they just became downright awful.
His +/- dropped 27 points. His passing was suddenly horrendous. And somehow, he was still seeing the same amount of ice time.
D Andrew Ference
Height: 5'11", Weight: 190 lbs.
Born: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Ference was an 8th round selection of the Penguins in 1997, and made his debut at 20 years old in the 1999-00 season. Hindsight is always 20/20, and no way should he have been in the NHL at that stage.
He didn't play many games at first. But when he did, he would get considerable minutes.
Known as a tough guy, Ference was no brick wall on defense nor was he an enforcer in black and gold. Just the old defenseman you throw on the ice to waste some minutes.
D Hans Jonsson
Height: 6'1", Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: Jarved, Sweden
When Hans Jonsson was drafted by the Penguins the summer after winning their second consecutive Stanley Cup, little did he know that it would be another eight years before he would see action at the NHL level.
And honestly, he shouldn't have seen Mellon Arena ice at all.
He was never known as a scoring machine, yet that was the role he needed to fill. In his Penguin career however, his +/- rating was nearly as high as his total points scored through four years (that is, if you take the absolute value).
After an incredibly forgetful 2002-03 season, Jonsson returned to his native Sweden, where he still takes up hockey as a hobby, playing for MoDo Ornskoldsvik.
RW Rico Fata
Height: 6'0", Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
Drafted 6th overall by the Calgary Flames in 1998, Fata had mashed every level of minor league hockey in North America. But in three seasons and never scoring a goal with Calgary, he was shipped to the New York Rangers.
Fata finally scored, but it didn't matter. Within a year and a half, he was shipped off again, this time to Pittsburgh. I wonder why nobody seems to want him?
However, Rico finally reached his potential in 2003-04, turning in a record setting performance. No, not the fact that he actually bagged double-digit goals for the first time in his career. He was just on the ice almost every time the opponent scored.
Reaching a nearly unfathomable rating of minus-46, Fata became an expert at watching others put the puck in the net. He just could never mirror their skill.
Firing over 160 shots that season, it would be very interesting to see how many shots he actually ATTEMPTED.
RW Kelly Buchberger
Height: 6'2", Weight: 210 lbs.
Born: Langenburg, Saskatchewan, Canada
When Kelly Buchberger signed as a free-agent with the Penguins in the summer of 2003, he had already played 16 NHL seasons and was 37 years old.
It also wouldn't be wrong in saying that his career reached it's pinnacle 12 years earlier and had been on the decline ever since.
Despite seeing over 10 minutes a game in ice time and playing 71 of the 82 regular season games, Buchberger amassed one goal during that time and managed to take countless undisciplined penalties.
He would thankfully retire after the season ended, but the damage was done.
RW Konstantin Koltsov
Height: 6'0", Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: Minsk, Belarus
If someone made a case for why Konstantin Koltsov was the worst first-round selection in Penguin history, they'd make some great points. Koltsov was lauded as the "Russian Rocket II" in honor of the great Pavel Bure due to his immense speed and stick skills.
But it's a sin to even mention Koltsov in the same sentence as Bure.
Playing on one of the top two lines in both of his two full seasons, Koltsov showed flashes of brilliance. Except those flashes came maybe once every ten games, to the dismay of the Igloo faithful.
In the other nine games, Koltsov would have been a tricky man to spot, even while on the ice. He only managed 12 goals in 144 career games while averaging near 15 minutes of ice time.
It almost makes you want to gag, thinking he once wore the now-beloved "71".
RW Ziggy Palffy
Height: 5'10", Weight: 185 lbs.
Born: Skalica, Slovakia
In his fairly decorated career, Palffy was a gifted goal-scorer for many years. He had three consecutive 40-goal seasons from 1995-98 while with the New York Islanders, and nine straight seasons with at least 20 or more goals.
But in August of 2005, Palffy inked a 3-year deal with the Penguins to play as a winger alongside first overall pick Sidney Crosby.
However, in his 12th NHL season, Ziggy failed to find any chemistry with one of the greatest passers in recent memory, and only bagged 11 goals in 42 contests. He also managed to find himself on the ice for 20 minutes per game.
And on January 18, 2006, Palffy decided to retire from the NHL, right in the middle of the season.
LW Steve McKenna
Height: 6'8", Weight: 260 lbs.
Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
If there is one man who should have never been on skates in the first place, Steve McKenna is that man. To say he had a "position" is an insult to hockey.
Even though McKenna only logged a couple minutes of ice time per game, he was certainly a noticeable player, brawling with anyone in sight. In his three seasons in Pittsburgh, McKenna played to an abysmal minus-32 despite seeing much ice.
I could only imagine how that number would be had he seen, who knows, 10 minutes?
Calling him slower than a street sweeper in first gear would be appropriate.
He now coaches the Australian National Hockey team, otherwise known as the "Mighty Roos".
LW John LeClair
Height: 6'3", Weight: 225 lbs.
Born: St. Albans, Vermont, United States
There are a few players in hockey who should never put on a Penguin uniform. John LeClair was one of them.
A ten-year veteran with the Philadelphia Flyers, LeClair killed the Penguins on numerous occasions. He scored 50 or more goals in three consecutive seasons during the mid-90s, and had 5 straight 40 goal seasons.
But arriving in 2005 with Sidney Crosby, LeClair joined a talented young group of players and was asked to provide some offense and leadership. In hindsight, he did neither.
He never connected with any of his line mates and was eventually demoted to the AHL during the 2006-07 season.
LW Ramzi Abid
Height: 6'2", Weight: 215 lbs.
Born: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Abid was drafted twice, first in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche, then two years later in the third round by the Phoenix Coyotes. Don't ask how his draft stock managed to fall as he matured.
He then came over from Phoenix in the most pointless trade in NHL history, where Abid, Dan Focht and Guillaume Lefebvre came to Pittsburgh for Jan Hrdina and Francois Leroux.
During his illustrious Penguin career, Abid found himself on the Disabled List far more than he was on the ice.
He only played 19 games in two seasons, but managed to amass a minus-10 rating.
LW Krzysztof Oliwa
Height: 6'5", Weight: 240 lbs.
Born: Tychy, Poland
After winning a Stanley Cup in New Jersey, Oliwa came to the Penguins as a not-so-much needed enforcer.
He scored 150 penalty minutes in Pittsburgh while averaging slightly over five minutes in ice time per game. Five in the box, five on the ice.
After being cut loose from the Penguins, Oliwa played for four different teams in less than three years. He is currently facing jail time for assaulting his girlfriend with a hockey stick.
C Kris Beech
Height: 6'3", Weight: 215 lbs.
Born: Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada
Beech was the 7th overall selection of the Washington Capitals in 1999, but it's no surprise they took an underachieving centerman who has some size that early.
However, his time in the Capital city would be short lived. He would come to Pittsburgh in one of the most infamous deals in franchise history, as it saw Jaromir Jagr go to Washington.
Beech played a 79-game season in 2001, but got progressively worse in the years to come, and also saw his playing time decline. After being traded to Nashville in 2005, Beech eventually came back sadly during the 2008 season.
I guess management was dying for a center who knows how to lose faceoffs.
C Brian Holzinger
Height: 5'11", Weight: 185 lbs.
Born: Parma, Ohio, United States
Although Holzinger was already 30 years old by the time he got to Pittsburgh, it didn't take him long to make his mark.
During his only full season, the veteran went minus-27.
C Tomas Surovy
Height: 6'1", Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Surovy was a fourth-round draft pick of the Penguins in 2001 and he was called into action shortly after.
He averaged 42 games a season in his three years as a Penguin, playing fairly well during that time but never when it meant anything.
He signed with Lulea HF of the Swedish Elitserien in 2006.
C Milan Kraft
Height: 6'4", Weight: 210 lbs.
Born: Plzen, Czech Republic
Another disastrous first round pick by the Penguins. Kraft was taken 23rd overall in 1998, and in the four seasons he played in Pittsburgh, he never once showed he belonged in the NHL.
During the lockout, he played for his hometown club of Plzen and never returned to the U.S.
Coach Ed Olczyk
No coach in Penguin history has played to as poor of a mark over a two-year span as Olczyk's teams did from 2004-2006.
He amassed a total of 80 points in 113 games while coaching several big-name free agents in addition to Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Martin Straka, Aleksey Morosov, and Sergei Gonchar.
His record as Penguins coach stands at 31 wins, 74 total losses and 8 ties.
He would be replaced mid-season in 2006 by Michel Therrien.