The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an interesting start to their season. They started strong, but hit a rough patch towards the end of October and into the start of November. The team was on a five-game winning streak until their most recent loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 26. It looks like things may be starting to turn around in Pittsburgh, but even if the Penguins lose the rest of their games this year, fans would still have plenty of reasons to be thankful for their team.
If you were to walk down the street in Pittsburgh and ask the first person you saw who is the greatest Penguins player of all time, the answer would probably be Mario Lemieux. Lemieux was drafted by the Penguins first overall in the 1984 NHL Draft. During his rookie season, he scored 100 points and earned the Calder Memorial Trophy, the NHL’s award for Rookie of the Year. He also led the team to its first Stanley Cup championship during the 1990-91 season, something they went on to do again in 1991-92.
During the 1992-93 season Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which caused him to miss most of the following year. He completely skipped the 1994-95 season to recover from the radiation treatments, but returned the next year and led the NHL in all scoring categories. Due to the effects of the radiation on his game, he announced his retirement in 1997; however, he came out of retirement three years later. In 2006, a year after Sidney Crosby joined the team, Lemieux decided to hang up his skates for good. Over the span of his career, he earned three MVP awards and brought two championships to Pittsburgh. He is a player that Penguins fans will always be grateful for.
Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang have been playing together in Pittsburgh for almost two decades. They have formed such a special bond over the years, and with the re-signing of Malkin and Letang during the off-season, they will all finish out their careers in Pittsburgh. There were mixed opinions on keeping the core together, but no one can deny how valuable they are not only as a group but also individually.
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Crosby was drafted first overall by the Penguins in 2005 and was named team captain in 2007. There is no question that the Penguins made the right decision. So far this season, he has played in 22 games and scored 11 goals with 18 assists for a total of 29 points. At 35 years old, he is not showing any signs of slowing down, and fans are very thankful to have him in Pittsburgh.
Malkin signed a four-year contract extension with the Penguins in July, but not everyone was on Team Geno. There were doubts about how productive he could be because of his extensive injury history. He came into this season ready to prove himself and he has done that and more. He just played his 1,000th game in a Penguins’ jersey on Nov. 20 in the 5-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored a goal in that game, and then scored the game-winner in a shootout against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 23. He is playing some of the best hockey of his career, and it is safe to say he has erased any lingering questions about his production level.
Letang has been a constant in Pittsburgh since the 2007-08 season as their top defenseman. He signed a six-year contract extension over the summer with an average annual value of $6.1 million. This season he is averaging 23:56 of ice time a night; however, his game has looked a little off. In 21 games he has only one goal and a total of 12 points. He has also not looked great on the power play which is an area the team needs to drastically improve. It could be that he is adjusting to playing with someone other than long-time partner Brian Dumoulin, who was moved down to the third pairing due to a lack of production. Even though he has not been at the top of his game, Letang is still a valuable weapon that the Penguins are happy to have.
Penguins Are an Elite Franchise
The truth is, Penguins fans are spoiled. The team has gone to the playoffs for 16 straight years, which is the longest active streak in North American sports. They have also won five Stanley Cups. Pittsburgh has been giving its fan base elite hockey since the early 90s and that is definitely something fans should be thankful for.
My name is Sylvie McCarthy and I am a graduate of the University of North Florida. I have spent time as a sports writer for the Casper Star Tribune in Casper, Wyoming and the Picayune Item in Picayune, Mississippi. Sports is my passion, and I am so excited to be writing for The Hockey Writers where I will be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.