Nine different Penguins made the Top 100, but that doesn’t mean they will automatically make our list here. Some of those players were only in Pittsburgh for a short time, in one case just a year, and that isn’t enough to qualify them as one of the greatest players in franchise history.
Here are the 10 greatest players based solely on what each player did while donning a black and gold sweater:
Honorable Mention: Tom Barrasso
Goaltender of the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion teams from 1991 and 1992, Barrasso held a 226-153-53 record in his 12-year Penguin career. He also posted an .896 save percentage and 3.27 GAA during the highest-scoring era in NHL history.
Barrasso helped lead the team to 10 playoff appearances and two Stanley Cups during his tenure. He won all 16 playoff games, including 11 in a row, in 1992, and would have won the Conn Smythe Trophy if it weren’t for a guy named Mario. Barrasso was 11-0 with a .927 save percentage and 2.14 GAA in his final 11 postseason games that spring as he led the Penguins from back from a 2-1 game deficit to the New York Rangers in the second round and then went on to sweep the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks in the next two.
Incredibly, Barrasso also still leads the franchise in wins in an individual season with 43. He set that mark in 1992-93 when the Penguins won their only Presidents’ Trophy. It’s amazing that record still stands because it pre-dates the shootout era when games still ended in ties.
— Penguins History (@penguinshistory) January 25, 2017
10. Paul Coffey
He played just four and a half seasons with the Penguins, but Coffey makes our list as one of the best defensemen to ever play the game. In 331 games with Pittsburgh, Coffey scored 108 goals and 440 points. His 1.33 points-per-game average rivals Sidney Crosby and will likely never be repeated by a defenseman in franchise history.
Coffey scored 113 points in 1988-89 and then 103 points in 1989-90 with the Penguins, the two most prolific seasons ever by a Pittsburgh blueliner. Those were two of his four 100-point seasons in his career, an accomplishment a defender has only achieved 14 times in league history.
The Penguins traded Coffey in the middle of the 1991-92 season, so he won just one Stanley Cup with the team. He also won the Norris Trophy three times, but not during his time in Pittsburgh. Coffey only played longer for the Edmonton Oilers than he did the Penguins, but his stay in the Steel City still wasn’t long enough to place him higher on this list.
9. Marc-Andre Fleury
Hopefully one day Fleury will get his due as one of the greatest Penguins of all time. With 370 wins, a 2.58 GAA, .912 save percentage and 43 shutouts, Fleury owns every goaltending record in team history, and it’s not even close. He has more wins than the next two winningest goalies in Penguins history combined, and more than twice as many shutouts as Barrasso.
Fleury’s had playoff struggles over his career, but his postseason numbers are still better than Barrasso’s, and the 32-year-old also has a pair of Stanley Cup championships. In 2008 and 2009, Fleury led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.31 GAA with three shutouts.
With Fleury as the team’s No. 1 starter for 12 seasons prior to 2016-17, the Penguins have made 10 straight playoff appearances and will tie the franchise record of 11 as long as they hold onto a playoff spot this spring. Nicknamed “The Flower”, Fleury will also go down as one of the greatest “team players” and teammates of the Sidney Crosby era.
8. Jean Pronovost
Pronovost is one of two players on our list that pre-date the championship years. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the only Penguins with more goals in franchise history than Pronovost. He is fifth with 316 goals and seventh with 603 points on the all-time Penguins lists.
He played 10 seasons with the Penguins, and over his final nine years, Pronovost scored at least 20 goals a season and averaged 33.3 goals. He set a franchise-high with 52 goals and 104 points in 1975-76. Pronovost also still holds the record for the fastest goal in Penguins’ history, scoring six seconds into a game in 1976.
From 1973-78, he averaged 40 goals, and in his 10 seasons, he helped the Penguins to the postseason five times. He scored nine goals and 18 points in 29 playoff contests.
— Penguins History (@penguinshistory) January 23, 2017
7. Rick Kehoe
The forward finished just behind Pronovost with 312 goals but edged him with 636 points. He remains sixth in goals and fifth in points behind only Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby and Malkin.
Kehoe began his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he joined the Penguins in 1974-75 and scored at least 27 goals in each of his first nine seasons with the club. In 1980-81, he averaged over a point per game for the second time in his career and set a new franchise record with 55 goals. He also won the Lady Byng Trophy that season.
He held the record for goals in a season and points in a career until Lemieux shattered all his records. Kehoe also scored four goals and 21 points in 39 playoff games.
— Penguins History (@penguinshistory) January 20, 2017
6. Kevin Stevens
For younger Penguins fans that don’t know Stevens, he was the Chris Kunitz of the 1990s. He brought a scoring touch and physical presence to the top line and made a living protecting the team’s superstar. He is the only player in franchise history with over 1,000 penalty minutes.
Stevens missed a lot of games because of his style, but he still averaged over a point per game during his Penguins tenure. He finished his days in a black and gold uniform with 260 goals and 555 points in 522 games, which was good enough for 1.06 points per game, ninth-best in franchise history.
From 1991-94, the power forward averaged 45 goals and 102 points per season and scored a career-high 55 goals in 1993. In the 1991 and 1992 playoffs, Stevens scored 30 goals and 61 points in 45 games.
— Pens Historical Soc. (@PensHistorian) January 11, 2017
5. Ron Francis
Perhaps the most underappreciated player in NHL history, Francis is fifth all-time in points and second in assists only to Wayne Gretzky. Francis spent seven and a half of his 23 years in the NHL with the Penguins, and during that time, he tallied 164 goals and 613 points in 533 games.
Pittsburgh acquired the former No. 4 pick at the 1991 deadline, and he proved to be the missing piece to the Penguins’ first championship team. In 1991, he scored seven goals and 17 points in 24 playoff games.
The following spring, he tallied eight goals and 27 points in 21 postseason contests and helped fill the void left by Lemieux when the latter broke his wrist in the second round against the Rangers. In the team’s first game without their superstar, Francis scored a hat trick to help even the series at two. Pittsburgh wouldn’t lose again that postseason.
During his Pittsburgh tenure, Francis also won the Lady Byng Trophy twice (1995 and 1998) and the Selke Trophy once (1995). His best statistical season with Pittsburgh was in 1993 when he recorded 24 goals and 100 points.
4. Evgeni Malkin
“Geno” became the fourth-leading scorer in franchise history before turning 30 and passed Pronovost for fourth on the team’s all-time goals list last week. He achieved that despite missing 176 regular-season games over the first decade of his career. Malkin is sixth all-time in franchise history with 1.18 points per game.
In 2009, he became the first Russian player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, leading the Penguins to their third Stanley Cup. He scored 14 goals and 36 points in 24 games that postseason. Last spring, he tallied six goals and 18 points in 23 postseason games as he carved his name into Lord Stanley’s Cup a second time.
Crosby has been widely considered the best player in the game for a decade, but there really isn’t a huge gap between “Sid the Kid” and Malkin. Very few can take over a game like Malkin, and at his very best, he is arguably more dominant than Crosby. That potential was on display in the 2009 playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference Final, where the Russian forward scored six goals and nine points in a four-game sweep.
Malkin has won the Art Ross trophy twice, leading the NHL in scoring in 2008-09 and 2011-12. He also won the Hart Trophy in 2012 and the Calder Trophy in 2007. Without a doubt, he is the biggest snub among current players from the NHL’s Top 100 player list.
3. Jaromir Jagr
Jagr is still second on the Penguins’ all-time list in goals, assists and points, and this season became the second-leading scorer in NHL history. Only Gretzky has more points than Jagr and only Gretzky and Gordie Howe have more goals.
Before current Florida Panthers teammate and Pittsburgh-native, Vincent Trocheck was born, Jagr had already won two Stanley Cups. Prior to the birth of No. 1 pick, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Jagr already had 199 goals, 489 points and an Art Ross trophy.
During his time in Pittsburgh, Jagr won the scoring title five times and the Hart Trophy once. He scored a career-high 62 goals in 1995-96 and then 127 points in 1998-99. Jagr has continued to play well with the seven other teams he’s played with since leaving Pittsburgh in 2001, but he’s never led the league in scoring again or won the Stanley Cup with any other team.
In the postseason, Jagr scored 65 goals and 147 points in 146 games with the Penguins. He also remains the franchise’s all-time leader in plus/minus (plus-209) and game-winning goals (78).
2. Sidney Crosby
Crosby cemented his legacy last summer with a Conn Smythe Trophy and a second Stanley Cup championship. That gave him the edge over Jagr on our list despite trailing him in goals, assists and points.
However, Crosby likely won’t trail Jagr for long. No. 87 is 14 assists and, ironically, 87 points, from passing Jagr on the Penguins’ all-time list. Crosby should pass Jagr in both categories by the end of 2018. “Sid the Kid” is also just seven points away from becoming the third Penguin to reach the 1,000-point mark. Barring the worst slump in his career, he will achieve that mark in under 800 games and before turning 30.
There aren’t many trophies Crosby hasn’t won. In addition to the Conn Smythe, he’s won two league MVP awards, two scoring titles and a Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals with 51 in 2009-10. With an NHL-leading 28 goals and 55 points at the All-Star break, Crosby has a chance to add to his trophy case this season.
If he can also lead Pittsburgh to another Stanley Cup this spring, becoming the first team to repeat in nearly two decades, or win a third championship at some point in the coming years, it isn’t inconceivable to think Crosby could challenge for the top spot on our list when his career is finished.
1. Mario Lemieux
The term “Pittsburgh legend” comes to mind when thinking about “Super Mario”. If not for his injuries, many believe he would have challenged Gretzky for several all-time NHL records. As it was, Lemieux finished with 690 goals and 1,723 points, which places him in the top 10 on both lists, and he did it all with the Penguins.
He scored at least 100 points in each of his first six seasons in the NHL, recording a career-best 85 goals and 199 points in 1988-89. That season, he became just the second player to score 70 goals in two seasons and the fourth player to score 50 goals in 50 games. Lemieux was also the only player to score 13 shorthanded goals in one season, and his nine hat tricks in 1988-89 are the same amount of hat tricks Crosby has in his career.
Lemieux won the Calder Trophy in 1984-85 and then captured six scoring titles in a nine-year span starting in 1987-88. In two of the three seasons where he didn’t win it, he missed significant time due to back problems. “Super Mario” won scoring titles in 1991-92 and 1992-93 despite missing 18 and 22 games in those seasons, respectively. In the spring of 1993, he returned from cancer to lead the NHL in scoring and win the MVP.
He retired after winning his sixth Art Ross trophy in 1996-97, but three years later, he returned to the ice and continued to average more than a point per game for the next three seasons. From his return in 2000 until his retirement in 2006, he led the league in points-per-game average.
Despite all the awards and playing success, Lemieux is the greatest Penguin, and will likely remain so, because he saved the franchise…twice. The excitement he brought to the rink helped bring the Penguins out of bankruptcy in the mid-1980s. Then, he bought the team when it was in trouble, threatening to fold or move in 1998.
Without Lemieux, there is no hockey in Pittsburgh today, and behind his leadership, the Penguins are tied for the most Stanley Cups since 1990.