As all signs point to the end of The Crosby, Malkin, and Letang Era. I have become introspective, perhaps even sentimental. I realize in my old age that I have been lucky enough to live through 2 different dynasties from the penguins. The Lemieux and Jagr era are mostly fleeting memories of the hall of farmers that won two cups. Those teams helped develop my taste for hockey at a young age. Even with so much history and glory hanging in the rafters of the Igloo, it was my teenage years into my adulthood that cemented my love for this team. Those years were powered by three individuals who won 3 cups appeared in 4, and made 16 consecutive playoff appearances. The names of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang will live on forever in the minds of Penguins fans. As it was these three who made up the core of greatness that surpassed the previous Lemieux and Jagr era. I thought it would be fun to look back on the names that won’t find their way into the rafters of PPG Paints Arena, but instead, the names that helped solidify the franchise’s second dynasty. Without further adieu here are the top 10 players that helped define the Crosby, Malkin, and Letang dynasty.
10 – Pascal Dupuis
He was considered a throw-in a piece in the Marian Hossa trade. Pascal Dupuis would go on to not only play on the top line with Sidney Crosby, but he would steal the hearts of Pittsburghers. Dupper was a glue guy, a character on and off the ice. Whether he was smacking Dan Potash on the ass with his stick or helping Fleury pull pranks on people Pascal Dupuis helped mold the character of this franchise. After being forced to retire early from the game his impact on the team was felt for years to come. He would leave a lasting impression on the young stars to come like Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel. Solidifying what it meant to put on the black n’ gold.
09 – Max Talbot
What more can you say about a guy who scored two goals to win a Stanely Cup. Well, when it comes to Max Talbot there is a lot still left to say. A cult hero, a Pittsburgh Sports Legend, and the sole owner of two of the biggest moments in Penguins history. Whether he was shushing the crowd in Philly or scoring two unbelievable timely goals in game 7. Talbo came to Pittsburgh to be a legend needless to say mission accomplished.
08 – Bill Guerin
When Bill Guerin arrived to the Penguins in 2008 he was cooked. The Penguins added him in an attempt to add leadership and to show this team how to win. Luckily Billy G did more than that. He galvanized a young roster into men and helped lead them to their first Stanely Cup. What makes Billy G’s time so special here is even after his retirement his fingerprints were all over two more Stanley Cups. As an assistant GM he helped build the teams that would go on to win the cup in 16 and 17.
07 – Jake Guentzel
If Chris Kunitz was Sid’s first winger Jake is Sid’s perfect winger. No flash in his game just goals. Maybe the smartest player on the ice Jake the Snake just knows how to play with one of hockey’s greatest players. He made his impact in the 2017 cup by lighting the playoffs on fire. The following year he lead the playoffs in scoring all the way to the cup final despite only having played in eleven games. He has scored 30 goals twice on Sid’s wing and is a true monster in the playoffs.
06 – Patric Hornqvist
The rough and tumble Sweed came to Pittsburgh in a trade for former winger James Neal and what he left was a legacy that is borderline hall of fame worthy. He wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t fast but he was tough and he did the things you have to do to win games. Horny was the piece that unlocked a deadly power play and was the first guy into a scrum to defend his teammates. He scored a cup-winning goal and he did it all with a big grin.
05 – Brooks Orpik
What more is there to say other than the soul of a team. For decades Brooks Orpik anchored the Penguin’s top defense pairing with strength, poise, and a touch of nasty. You knew when he was on the ice Sid and Geno were safe. Sid may have worn the C, but it was Orpik who was the vocal leader of the team. The first one to stand up and demand his teammates be better, and then go out there and show how. He was the last of a dying breed of defencemen, and truly a cornerstone to this franchise. May we never forget Game 6 of the 2009 Stanely Cup Final where he had four hits in one shift against the Red Wings.
04 – Phil Kessel
Though his time in Pittsburgh was short his impact will be flying in the rafters of PPG Paints Arena for the rest of eternity. After Jordan Staal left it was obvious the Penguins were missing something. They needed more depth past the powerhouse top 2 lines. After years of trying they finally found the perfect guy. Phil The Thrill was considered a bust after years of being the relied upon a star in Toronto. He was burnt out, hated hockey, and more so hated the media. He was still producing at a superstar pace but was unable to get the Leafs over the hump. When Jim Rutherford traded for him he paid peanuts, and what he got was the piece to effectively make the Penguins three line of pure offense. In all honesty, Phil should have won the Conn Smythe in 2016. Had it not been for a broken wrist and years’ worth of prejudice from hockey media he would have. It wouldn’t be long till Phil wore out his welcome with coaching and management. But judging from the number of 81 jerseys you see to this day, he still holds a special place in the heart of Penguins fans everywhere.
03 – Jordan Staal
Love him or hate him there is no denying Jordan Staal’s place in Penguin’s lore. He was the first rookie to make a giant impact in the playoffs. He was the first guy to define what a true third-line center needed to be. And he gave maybe the greatest lineup of centermen in NHL history. We were unbeatable down the middle in the early years of this dynasty because of Staal. He also was the first to leave the young Penguins. He was traded over the summer unceremoniously forcing the tight Penguin’s locker room to experience the business side of hockey for the first time.
02 – Chris Kunitz
When it’s all said and done Chris Kunitz will be looked upon as the Ron Francis of this generation. He wasn’t drafted by the Penguins and he didn’t spend his whole career in the Burgh. But from day one it was obvious, that there was no one more suited to play alongside Sid. Lighting quick, hard-nosed, and with an aptitude, for net-front play, Koony was the perfect complement to Sid’s game. With a myriad of big goals over his time in the Burgh, it’s easy to place Chris Kunitz at number 2.
Before we get to number one here are three honorable mentions: Bryan Rust, James Neal, and Sergei Gonchar
01 – Marc-Andre Fleury
The original puzzle piece. He was drafted in 2003 and was the first glimmer of hope the Penguins were going to return to greatness. He played as an eighteen-year-old and was eclectic from day one. School bus yellow pads, a flashy glove hand, and lateral movement made Patrick Roy blush. He secured the Penguin’s pipes for the better part of two decades and was the backbone to 3 cup runs. Had things been different Flower would have been a Penguin for life. Hopefully, when his Hall Of Fame career comes to an end he will come home and retire a Penguin. More importantly, hopefully, the franchise recognizes his contribution to this dynasty and raises the number 29 in the rafters.