Over the course of a player’s career, it is almost impossible to not hit at least one major milestone. Whether it’s the total number of goals, assist, points, penalty minutes or games played, they have different meanings and different impacts on a player’s career.
The Pittsburgh Penguins boast one of the most explosive young rosters in the NHL today. The added bonus to having that roster is getting to see some of the personal milestones pile up over the course of a few seasons. The biggest spotlight will be on the Pens’ big three as next season gets underway.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal are all approaching significant milestones at this point in their early careers. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that all three of these players have played in at least four NHL seasons. Crosby has only one more season in than Malkin and Staal.
I’m sure that most players keep these milestones in the back of their minds and try to focus on helping the team rather than padding their career stats. Only in rare cases, like the season finale with the Islanders last year, players throw all logic out the window, go a little out of their comfort zone and try a full on assault to hit a certain number.
Remember the fire in Crosby’s eyes when he got that first goal in last year’s season finale? It seemed that it was only a matter of the game ending and the “Richard” was all his. Even though he had to share his trophy with Steven Stamkos, he couldn’t have put up a better performance as far as I’m concerned. He showed everyone in the building that night that he wanted that hardware.
So, without further adieu, let’s have a look at what Pittsburgh Penguins players’ milestones we should be aware of and keep an eye on for this upcoming season.
Crosby’s NHL Totals: 371 GP | 183 G | 323 A | 506 Points | 356 PIM
Sidney Crosby is certainly making a name for himself where NHL records are concerned. He’s been in the league for five seasons and has already amassed 506 total points. That’s an average of roughly 101 points a season.
With seasons like last year, Crosby is finding new ways to elevate his game, and that will most definitely have an impact on his career stats.
Imagine what happens if he continually puts up 50 goals a season? Could Sid hit 500 goals before he turns 30? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. He is Sidney Crosby after all.
While that total puts an enormous amount of pressure on Sid to produce, he is actually on pace to crack the top 15 All-Time Points leaders in the next 10 years. This season, Sid only needs 94 points to hit a total of 600.
Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, here’s a look at what milestones Crosby can achieve this season.
Crosby’s attainable milestones in the 2010/2011 Season:
450 Games Played
Malkin’s NHL Totals: 309 GP | 143 G | 238 A | 381 PTS | 338 PIM
Evgeni Malkin will be looking to erase last season from everyone’s memories, including his own. With a new season on the horizon, I have no doubt that Geno will return to being a player who can challenge for the Art Ross Trophy.
The reason I say that with such conviction is that he will be injury-free and the pressures of last season are all but a distant memory. These are two key ingredients in order to have a very productive Geno.
It remains to be seen where Malkin will land on the Pens’ depth chart this season. One would have to think that playing on a line with Crosby all year could put him on pace with his Art Ross season of 2008-2009.
If that is the case, Malkin could eclipse 500 career points this season. He would need 119 points to make it happen. That total may be slightly out of reach, but here’s one thing to remember, it’s hard to stop a player with something to prove.
This season will put Malkin in the spotlight as far as critics are concerned and hitting these milestones should get the skeptics off his back.
Malkin’s attainable milestones in the 2010/2011 Season:
Staal’s NHL Totals: 327 GP | 84 G | 84 A | 168 PTS | 173 PIM
Jordan Staal is known for being a very talented two-way center in the NHL. The defensive aspect of his game and centering the Pens third line has kept his production very modest. He’s not known for being a major contributor to the offense, but his numbers help and all that is about to change.
We should all be pretty safe in assuming that Staal will center the second line when the season starts. That will only give him more ice time to produce and his role will slightly change from before.
Depending on who his line mates will be, it could be a season that sees Staal getting a boost in his career point totals. If the last two seasons are any indication of what Staal is capable of, then it’s safe to assume that the following milestones can be reached by this season’s end.
Staal’s attainable milestones in the 2010/2011 Season:
Cooke’s NHL Totals: 738 GP | 114 G | 157 A | 271 PTS | 859 PIM
I’m sure some of you are thinking, how did Matt Cooke make the milestone list? Could it be some suspension milestone that he is nearing? It’s quite the opposite. Believe it or not, Cooke is about to start his 12th NHL season this year.
It’s not hard to determine the reasoning Penguins’ GM Ray Shero had for keeping Matt Cooke in Pittsburgh for an additional three years. He’s one of those role players who delivers knock out hits and scores a big goal here and there. The most important factors he brings to the team are his work ethic and voice in the locker room.
Sure, one can always count on Cooke to take an undisciplined penalty and get suspended, but a lot of teams would love to have him and most hate to face him. He’s just one of those character players who is vital to a team’s success.
So why does Cooke make the milestone list? He’s approaching a big number in games played and his penalty minutes are really starting to add up as well. Yes, they aren’t the most impressive milestones to have, but milestones they are nonetheless.
Cooke’s attainable milestones in the 2010/2011 Season:
800 Games Played
Here is a quick look at some of the other less popular milestones we could see from Penguins’ players this season:
Craig Adams – 600 Games Played
Pascal Dupuis – 600 Games Played / 250 Career Points
Eric Godard – 800 Career Penalty Minutes
Tyler Kennedy – 200 Games Played / 100 Career Points
Chris Kunitz – 450 Games Played / 300 Career Points
Mike Rupp – 600 Career Penalty Minutes / 100 Career Points
Max Talbot – 350 Games Played / 300 Career Penalty Minutes / 100 Career Points
Alex Goligoski – 100 Career Points
Kris Letang – 100 Career Points
Paul Martin – 450 Games Played / 200 Career Points
Zbynek Michalek – 200 Career Penalty Minutes
Brooks Orpik – 500 Career Games Played / 100 Career Points / 600 Career Penalty Minutes
Marc-Andre Fleury – 350 Games Played / 150 Career Wins / 20 Career Shutouts / 10,000 Career Saves
Brent Johnson – 130 Career Wins / 7,000 Career Saves