First off, Mario and JJ's mullets in the picture at the top of this article could make up an all-time lineup of their own... now on to business.
This is my take on the all-time lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I am not only taking into account statistics, but also positions. For example, a player who was a center during his career cannot make the list as a left wing, and vice versa.
Head Coach: "Badger" Bob Johnson
A man that led the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup and was never the topic of a negative comment, the Badger was a true class act behind the bench. He had a passion for winning, but more importantly, he respected the game of hockey above all else.
LW- Kevin Stevens:"Big Arty" was a big, bruising forward who surprised most people by his soft-handedness around the net, enabling him to become fifth on the Penguins' all-time goal scoring list.
C- Mario Lemieux: If you didn't know this was coming, you shouldn't be reading this article. The true "Great One", Mario Lemieux may not have been the best player to ever play the game, but he surely was the most skilled. Mario made everyone around him better, and made the opposition look like they belonged back in the pee-wee's.
RW- Jaromir Jagr: When Jags wasn't "dying alive" in Pittsburgh, he was the second best hockey player to ever wear a Penguins jersey. Second to only Mario in every major offensive category in the Penguins' record books, Jagr's youthful passion during the Penguins' Cup runs blossomed into one of the best offensive skill sets in the NHL throughout the 90's.
D- Larry Murphy: Murphy spent five seasons with the Penguins, winning two Stanley Cups, while patenting the "Murphy Dump" that Bob Errey so endearingly refers to during TV broadcasts. Murphy was as sound as they come in his own zone, could handle the puck well, and had a slap shot that could surprise a goalie, considering Murph didn't shoot all that much.
D- Paul Coffey:The Doctor is in for this pick. Coffey might have been the most gifted offensive defensemen to ever play in the NHL. Countless times, Coff would take the puck behind his own net, gain the center line, and instead of dumping it into the corner, he would keep on skating right around the defense and get a shot on goal before retreating to the bench for a change. Sitting ninth on the Penguins' all-time scoring list, Paul Coffey was recently inducted into the Penguins' Hall of Fame. Despite only playing five seasons with the Penguins, Coffey recorded 440 points.
LW- Rick Kehoe: Sitting at number three on the Penguins' all-time scoring list, Rick Kehoe was a gifted winger who played 11 seasons for the Pens, from 1974-1985. Kehoe was a quick, smooth-skating winger who loved to shoot the puck quickly off the rush in order to surprise the goaltender. 312 goals later, I'd say he did a pretty good job.
C- Ron Francis: In his day Francis was to Lemieux as Malkin is to Crosby today. At many times Francis flashed Lemieux-esque moves, and was one of the best faceoff men in Penguins' history. Francis was also a gifted passer who possessed quick wrists and an excellent vision of the ice. Francis sits in the number four slot on the Penguins' all-time scoring list.
RW- Jean Pronovost: I once heard Pronovost described as "a pillar of consistency". That seems like a pretty fair assessment for a player who inhabited the right wing for the Pens for ten seasons, filling his lane with speed and determination, digging for loose pucks in the corners, making smart passes, and picking up the big goals. Despite Pronovost being fifth all-time on the Penguins' scoring list, he was a very gifted defensive forward.
D- Sergei Gonchar: Gonchar is the most underrated defenseman in the NHL today. He has been snubbed off of the Norris Trophy ballot numerous times in his career, despite putting up numbers that sit in the top five among defensemen in every offensive category on a regular basis. Over the past two seasons, as Gonchar has matured, and learned Michel Therrien's system, he has improved his defensive game tenfold. Gonchar is now, I feel, among the five best defensemen in the NHL. He's a great power play quarterback, he has good speed, he has experience, he has improved defensively, and he will continue to be a key factor in the success of the current Penguins' team.
D- Ulf Samuelsson: Opponents rarely uttered a kind word about Ulfie, but no one can deny the importance of a physical defenseman. Samuelsson was brought to Pittsburgh in an attempt to protect Mario and Jaromir on the ice. He did that, and much, much more. Samuelsson retired as one of the most intimidating, feared, hated players to ever play in the NHL. Ulfie was big, he was strong, he was mean, and he wasn't shy about sharing it with everyone.
LW- Evgeni Malkin: Gino and Sid are both on my third line, for the simple fact that although they will likely go on to challenge Mario & Jaromir as the greatest Penguins duo of all-time, they haven't been around long enough yet. Last season, Malkin proved his worth as one of the five best players in the league, challenging Ovechkin for the MVP and scoring title, just a season removed from winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie. Malkin will be great, just how great, well that's up to him.
C- Sidney Crosby: The receiver of the proverbial torch, passed down from Penguin icon, Mario Lemieux, to the "Next One", Sid the Kid. Gretzky has said that Crosby will likely break most, or all of his records some day. But then again, no one cares what Gretzky thinks. Sid is the face of the NHL, and with good reason. After winning his first Hart Trophy at the age of 19, Crosby has rocketed into icon-status in the city of Pittsburgh. His distinguished manner and laid back attitude have undoubtedly been influenced by landlord, Mario Lemieux, but they have enabled Sid to keep his clean-cut image off the ice, no matter how many 'F bombs' he blatantly drops on the ice. All jokes aside, this kid will be an MVP contender every year for the next decade-plus.
RW- Mark Recchi: Despite his most recent lackluster stint with the Pens, the Recch'n Ball was a vital ingredient on the Penguins' road to their first Stanley Cup in 1990-91. Recchi led the Penguins in scoring during that regular season, netting 40 goals and recording 113 points. Though Recchi may have fell short in size or talent on occasion, he never lacked heart, and that is what made him a success in the Steel City.
D- Ron Stackhouse: At 6'3", 185-pounds, Stackhouse was a skilled offensive defenseman who spent nine seasons with the Penguins from 1973-1982. Stackhouse finished his NHL career as a Penguin, playing the final 621 games of his career here, while recording 343 points as a Penguin, good for fourteenth on the all-time list.
D- Darius Kasparaitis: Kaspar was the perfect combination of a big-hitting defenseman, an agitator, and a decent goal scorer, all wrapped up into one big ball of Lithuanian fire. Kaspar was a joy to watch on the ice, and his game winning goal in Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals still gives me chills to this day.
LW- Joe Mullen: One of the most underrated players in NHL history, Joe Mullen scored 153 career goals as a Penguin, and ended his career as a member of the 500-club, recording 502 goals. Mullen was a key ingredient in both of the Penguins' Cup runs and was one of the classiest players to ever play the game. A two-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy, Mullen was a guy that you simply couldn't not like.
C- Syl Apps: Apps became an instant star in Pittsburgh following his trade from the Rangers in 1971. By his third full season in the NHL, Apps had developed into one of the league's best play-makers. Playing alongside Pronovost and Greg Polis, Apps led the Penguins' in assists and points from 1971-1974. In 1975-76 Apps recorded 99 points in 80 games for the best season of his career.
RW- Alexei Kovalev: Kovalev spent five seasons with Pittsburgh, and is remembered by many as one of the best snipers to ever wear the black and gold. Kovalev has a wrist shot that rivaled most defensemen's hardest slapshot. Kovi spent most of his time playing on the opposite wing from Martin Straka. Kovalev sits in the twelfth slot on the Penguins' all-time goal scoring list.
Marc-Andre Fleury: While Barrasso may be the more proven of the two, Fleury seems to be paced to be better, and that is a bold statement considering the kind of numbers Tommy B put up in his days as a Penguin. Between his shaky rookie season, which he spent the majority of in the AHL, and his emergence into a true number one goalie in last year's playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury has been a bit inconsistent between the pipes. However, this kid has uber amounts of talent, and he is finally starting to harness that talent into solid, form-following goaltending. Under the tutelage of Giles Meloche, Fleury will be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL for many years to come.
Tom Barrasso: While he may not be the most lovable Penguin goalie of all time, Barrasso was probably the best. Like him or not, without Tommy B, the Penguins would not have even come close to winning back-to-back Cups in the early 90's. His 43 wins and 3.01 GAA during the Penguins' President's Trophy season in 1992-93 speak for themselves. Tommy was the real deal.
So there it is, the all-time Penguins lineup.
Posted in full at: Experiencing the Evolution.
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