The Franchise Four. The Mount Rushmore. Four players who tell the story of an organization. In this series, I’ll be taking a look at the history of all 30 NHL squads. For criteria, I’m choosing one forward, defenceman, goaltender and a wild card from any position.
Since entering the NHL in 1967, the Pittsburgh Penguins have won three Stanley Cup titles.
During said time frame, the Penguins have iced the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Tom Barrasso, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Ron Francis, Rick Kehoe, Jean Pronovost, Kevin Stevens, Larry Murphy, Mark Recchi, Joe Mullen, Ron Stackhouse, Brooks Orpik, Larry Murphy, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ken Wregget.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Goalie – Tom Barrasso
Tom Barrasso helped backstop the Penguins to a pair of Stanley Cup titles. During the 1992-93 campaign, Barrasso topped all goaltenders with 43 wins and finished second in Vezina Trophy voting. Barrasso was also third in Vezina voting in 1997-98. In Penguins franchise history, Barrasso ranks second in games played (460) and wins (226), fifth in save percentage (.895), seventh in goals-against average (3.27) and second in shutouts (22).
3. The Defenseman – Paul Coffey
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Paul Coffey helped lead the rush on the Pens’ 1990-91 Stanley Cup championship squad. During that run, Coffey garnered 11 points across 12 postseason contests. A four-time All-Star with Pittsburgh, Coffey finished in the top five in voting for the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Across 331 contests with the Penguins, Coffey recorded 108 goals, 332 helpers and 440 points.
2. The Wild Card – Jaromir Jagr (RW)
A future Hall of Fame inductee for certain, Jagr played eleven seasons with Pittsburgh and helped lead the club to two consecutive Stanley Cup titles. With the Penguins, Jagr was a six-time All-Star. Jagr won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1998-99, was a five-time Art Ross Trophy winner and twice a Ted Lindsay Award recipient. With the Pens, Jagr led the league in helpers three-times, points five-times and game-winning goals once.
During the postseason, Jagr registered 65-goals, four of which were overtime deciding tallies. In Penguins’ franchise history, Jagr ranks second in games (806), goals (439), assists (640), points (1,079), even-strength goals (320), power-play goals (110), goals per game (0.54) and first in plus/minus (207) and game-winning goals (78). Jagr is the most prolific player of the “dead puck era” and may have topped this list if not for Super Mario.
1. The Forward – Mario Lemieux (C)
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Mario Lemieux saved hockey in Pittsburgh as a player and owner. Lemieux instilled instant credibility to the Penguins from Day 1. Lemieux played parts of 17 seasons with Pittsburgh. In his rookie campaign, the 19-year-old Lemieux racked up 43 tallies, 57 assists and totaled 100 points, earning the Calder Memorial Trophy. It was the first of six consecutive 100-point seasons for Lemieux, who recorded 10 such campaigns throughout his career. Lemieux led the league in goals and assists three times and points six times.
A 10-time All-Star, Lemieux, a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, set career highs in goals (85), assists (114) and points (199), but only finished second in voting in 1988-89. Lemieux was also a six-time Art Ross Trophy winner and a four-time Ted Lindsay Trophy winner, along with one Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Lemieux led the Penguins to two consecutive Stanley Cup titles, twice earning the Conn Smythe Trophy. In those two championship campaigns, Lemieux led all skaters in points, notching 44 and 34 respectively. In Penguins franchise history, Lemieux ranks first in games (915), goals (690), assists (1,033), points (1,723), even-strength goals (405), power-play goals (236) and short-handed goals (49).
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.