The Pittsburgh Penguins franchise had many ups and downs during the decade. The decade began with a bang as hall of famer/owner Mario Lemieux made a stunning comeback in December 2000 after being retired for 3.5 years.
The team would earn its 12th straight playoff appearance in 2001 but financial reasons would lead to cost cutting moves such as trading star winger Jaromir Jagr and the cost cutting moves would continue years after.
From 2002-2005, the franchise had no choice but to go into full throttle rebuilding mode and the Penguins endured four straight losing seasons that included rumors of relocation but the latter part of the decade would turn glorious (2009 Stanley Cup Champions, New Arena agreement) due to some luck (draft lottery sweepstakes Sidney Crosby), great drafting (Marc Andre Fleury) and other factors.
Pittsburgh Penguins All-Decade Team
Line 1: LW Mario Lemieux – C Sidney Crosby – RW Jaromir Jagr
Mario Lemieux (2000-2006)
2000-2001: 43 GP – 35g – 41a – 76 pts
2001-2002: 24 GP – 6g – 25a – 31 pts
2002-2003: 67 GP – 28g – 63a – 91 pts
2003-2004: 10GP – 1g – 8a – 9pts
2005-2006: 26GP – 7g – 15a – 22 pts
*Arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, Mario Lemieux made a stunning comeback in December 2000 after being retired for 3.5 years. At age 35, Lemieux quickly established himself again as one of the games best players, scoring 35 goals and 76 pts in just 43 games played.
The return of Lemieux as a dominant player, made the Penguins a Stanley Cup contender as the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. It would be the last time Lemieux would reach the playoffs as a player.
Injuries would plague Lemieux for much of his time after coming out of retirement but in his two somewhat healthy seasons (2000-2001, 2002-2003), Lemieux posted 167 points in 110 games.
The Hall of famer/Owner would retire in January of 2006 due to a heart problem.
Sidney Crosby (2005-present)
2005-2006: 81GP – 39g – 63a – 102 pts
2006-2007: 79GP – 36g – 84a – 120pts
2007-2008: 53GP – 24g – 48a – 72 pts
2008-2009: 77GP – 33g – 70a – 103 pts
2009-2010 (as of 12/16/09) 37 GP – 22g – 24a – 46pts
*The most hyped player since Wayne Gretzky, the 2005 1st overall selection has matched the hype, winning the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy in just his second season at age 19.
In year four, Crosby would become the youngest captain to ever win the Stanley Cup.
Has established himself as a dominant two way player along with being one of the games top playmakers. An evolving part of Crosby’s game in year 5 is his goal scoring ability.
He has the potential to go down as one of the greatest of all-time.
Jaromir Jagr (2000-2001)
2000-2001: 81GP 52g – 69a 121 pts)
*Won his 5th NHL scoring title in his final season in a Penguins uniform. Jagr’s 11 year run with Pittsburgh did not end well. Jagr demanded a trade twice in the 2000-2001 season and finally got his wish following the 2001 season as the super star winger was dealt to the Washington Capitals.
However, Jagr will not only go down as one of the greatest Penguins of all-time but also one of the greatest players of all-time. Jagr won four straight scoring titles with Pittsburgh (1998-2001) but his run as the games most dominant player would end in 2001 after leaving Pittsburgh.
Line 2: LW Ryan Malone – C Evgeni Malkin – RW Marian Hossa
Ryan Malone (2003-2008)
2003-2004: 81GP – 22g – 21a – 43pts
2005-2006: 77GP – 22g – 22a – 44 pts
2006-2007: 64 GP – 16g – 15a – 31pts
2007-2008: 77GP – 27g – 24a – 51pts
*The Pittsburg native exceeded expectations posting three 20+ goal seasons during his four year tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Malone scored 27 goals in his final season in a Penguins uniform and found great chemistry with star center Evgeni Malkin that season. Malone was a player who was a great locker room player and also excelled on the penalty kill.
Evgeni Malkin (2006-present)
2006-2006: 78 GP – 33g – 52a – 85pts
2007-2008: 82 GP – 47g – 59a – 106pts
2008-2009: 82 GP – 35g – 78a – 113 pts
2009-2010 (as of 12/26/09) 31 GP – 13g – 24a – 37pts
*The 2nd overall pick in 2004 behind Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin has quickly established himself as one of the top 5 players in the game.
A calder trophy winner in 2006, Malkin is the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner and Conn Smythe Trophy Winner.
Marian Hossa (2008)
2008 (including playoffs) 32GP – 15g – 21a – 36 pts
*Marian Hossa’s stint in Pittsburgh was short but his impact on the team was major as Hossa immediately made the Penguins the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Hossa played a crucial part in the Penguins reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008, finishing second on the team with 26 points in 20 playoff games.
However, the winger Ray Shero dreamed of playing alongside Sidney Crosby for the next 5-7 years spurned the Penguins 7 year – $52 million offer that summer, signing a one year contract with the Detroit Red Wings.
Pittsburgh would get revenge just a year later as the Penguins defeated the Red Wings in seven games to claim their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1992. Marian Hossa was hampered in the 2009 playoffs and finals with a shoulder injury that would require surgery after the season.
Line 3: LW Martin Straka – C Robert Lang – RW Alexei Kovalev
Martin Straka (2000-2003)
2000-2001: 82GP – 27g – 68a – 95pts
2001-2002: 13GP – 5g – 4a – 9pts
2002-2003: 60GP – 18g – 28a – 46pts
2003-04: 22GP – 4g – 8a – 12pts
Best season came in the 2000-2001 posting 95 points including 68 assists. Straka was a clutch performer for the Penguins in the 2001 playoffs, playing on one of the best lines in hockey with Robert Lang and Alexei Kovalev.
In a cost-cutting move, the Penguins traded Straka to the Los Angeles Kings on November 30, 2003.
Robert Lang (2000-2002)
2000-2001: 82GP – 32g – 48a – 80pts
2001-2002: 62GP – 18g – 32a – 50pts
*A 30+ goal scorer and 80 point producer for the Penguins in the 2000-2001 season. The 2001-2002 season would be Lang’s final year in Pittsburgh as the Penguins were forced to let him walk via free agency due to financial reasons.
Alexei Kovalev (2000-2003)
2000-2001 79 GP – 44g – 51a – 95pts
2001-2002: 67GP – 32 g – 44a – 76 pts
2002-2003: 54 GP 27g – 37a – 64pts
*One of the most talented and dynamic Penguins forwards of this decade. Kovalev had a career year in 2000-2001, scoring 44 goals and 95 pts. He was one of the few players that kept the Penguins somewhat competitive after that.
On pace for a third straight 30 goal+ season with the Penguins, Kovalev was traded to the New York Rangers on February 10, 2003 in a cost cutting move as the Penguins received mediocre players in return and cash.
At the time of the trade, the Penguins were the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference and coming off a commanding 5-2 win of the Boston Bruins.
Line 4: Jan Hrdina – Jordan Staal – Bill Guerin
Jan Hrdina (2000-2003)
2000-2001: 15g – 28a – 43pts
2001–02: 79GP – 24g – 33a – 57pts
2002-2003: 57 GP – 14g – 25a – 39pts
*An under-rated two-way player during his time in Pittsburgh who could play a first line role (Lemieux – Hrdina – Jagr) or a third line role. Hrdina had four straight 40+ point seasons with Pittsburgh and was on his way to his third straight 40+ point season of the decade before he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for Ramzi Abid, Dan Focht and Guillaume Lefebvre in March 2003.
One year later, March 2004, the Phoenix Coyotes traded Hrdina to the New Jersey Devils for Michael Rupp (current Penguins winger) and a second-round draft pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Jordan Staal (2006-Present)
2006-2007: 81GP – 29g – 13a – 42pts
2007-2008: 82GP – 12g – 16a – 28pts
2008–09: 82GP – 22g – 27a – 49pts
2009-2010 (as of 12/26/09) 38GP – 10g – 13a – 23 pts)
*The 2nd overall selection in the 2006 draft, Staal scored 29 goals in his rookie year including 7 shorthanded goals.
His production in the goal department has dropped since his rookie year but at just the age of 21, Staal has established himself as a strong two-way centerman who at times can be a dominant force at both ends of the ice.
Bill Guerin (2009-present)
2009 (Including playoffs) 41GP – 12g – 15a – 27pts
2009-2010 (as of 12/26/09: 38GP – 11g – 15a – 26pts
*A March 4th, 2009 trade deadline addition, Billy Guerin played a vital role in the Penguins earning their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1992. Guerin didn‘t have a Marian Hossa type of playoffs from 2008 but he had a “Hossa“ type of impact in elevating the Penguins as a top contender in the Eastern Conference.
Guerin’s presence in the locker room can’t be overlooked and the 39 year old winger is currently third on the team in points with 26.
1st Pairing: Brooks Orpik – Sergei Gonchar
Brooks Orpik (2003-present)
2002-2003: 6 GP – 0g – 0a – 0pts – 2PIM
2003–04: 79 GP – 1g – 9a – 10pts – 127PIM
2005–06: 64 GP 2g – 7a – 9pts – 124PIM
2006–07: 70 GP – 0g – 6a – 6pts – 82PIM
2007–08: 78GP – 1g – 10a – 11pts – 57PIM
2008–09: 79GP – 2g – 17a – 19pts – 73 PIM
2009-10 (as of 12/26/09) 34 GP – 0g -12a – 12pts – 28PIM
*The Penguins first round pick in 2000, Brooks Orpik has developed into a No.3 defenseman who is a punishing hard hitting defenseman and has a great skating ability.
Sergei Gonchar (2005 – present)
2005–06: 75GP – 12g – 46a – 58pts – 100PIM
2006–07: 82GP – 13g – 54a – 67pts – 72PIM
2007–08: 78GP – 12g – 53a – 65pts – 66PIM
2008–09: 25GP – 6g – 13a – 19pts – 26PIM
2009-10: 27GP – 5g – 18a – 23pts – 14PIM
*The Penguins top defenseman this decade and one of the most under-rated defenseman in the game. Gonchar recorded two straight seasons of 65+ points and has been one of the most important players to the Penguins becoming a top contender in the Eastern Conference for the past three years.
2nd Pairing: Rob Scuderi – Ryan Whitney
Rob Scuderi (2003 – 2009)
2003–04: 13GP – 1g – 2a – 3pts – 4PIM
2005–06: 57GP – 0g – 4a – 4pts – 36PIM
2006–07: 78GP – 1g – 10a – 11pts – 28PIM
2007–08: 71GP – 0g – 5a – 5pts – 26PIM
2008–09: 81GP – 1g – 15a – 16pts – 18PIM
* Like Ryan Malone, Rob Scuderi exceeded expectations during his time in Pittsburgh. Scuderi became a steady defensive-defenseman, playing a shutdown role for the Penguins during their Stanley Cup run in 2009.
Scuderi would be rewarded by the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 2009, signing a four year deal worth $13.4 million with the Kings.
Ryan Whitney (2005-2009)
2005–06: 68GP – 6g – 32a – 38pts – 85PIM
2006–07: 81GP – 14g – 45a – 59pts – 77PIM
2007–08: 76GP – 12g – 28a – 40pts – 45PIM
2008–09: 28GP – 2g – 11a – 13pts – 16PIM
*The Penguins 2002 1st round pick,. Ryan Whitney played a vital role in the Penguins rebuilding process and became one of the Penguins core players along with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury.
In his second NHL season, Whitney recorded 59 points helping the Penguins reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Playing on one foot for much of the 2007-2008 season, Whitney’s production dropped by 19 points and had foot surgery that off-season. He was eventually traded in February 2009, due to the development of young players Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang along with the Penguins need for a top-6 winger.
Pairing 3: Darius Kasparaitis – Bob Boughner
Darius Kasparaitis (2000-2002)
2000–01: 77GP – 3g – 16a – 19pts – 111PIM
2001–02: 69GP – 2g – 12a – 14pts – 123PIM
*One of the most feared hard hitting defenseman in the game during the 1990’s and early part of the 2000’s.
Kaspararitis lacked discipline at times but had a plus/minus rating of plus 11 for the Penguins in 2000-2001. He provided the Penguins with a much needed physical presence on their backend and scored one of the most memorable playoff overtime goals against the Buffalo Sabres in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
Bob Boughner (2000-2001)
2000-2001: 58 GP – 1g – 3a – 4pts – 147PIM
*Tough rugged defenseman who led all Penguins defenseman in the 2000-2001 season with a plus/minus rating of plus 18, an impressive feat on a high scoring team that had question marks on defense and at goaltender for most of the season.
Boughner was also a valuable leader on and off the ice as the Penguins made a strong attempt to re-sign Boughner to a two year deal following the 2001 season.
1. Marc Andre Fleury (2003-present)
2003-2004: 21GP – 4W – 14L – 2T – 3.64 GAA .896
2005–06: 50GP – 13W – 27L – 6 -3.25 GAA
2006–07: 67GP – 40W – 16L – 9 – 2.83 GAA
2007–08: 35GP – 19W – 10: – 2 – 2.33 GAA
2008–09: 62GP – 35W – 18L – 7 – 2.67 GAA
2009 -10 (as of 12/27/09): 33 GP – 22W – 10 – 1 – 2.44 GAA
***At age 25, the 2003 first overall pick has established himself as a franchise goaltender, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances including a Stanley Cup Championship in 2009.
2. Johan Hedberg (2001-2003)
2000-2001: 9GP – 7W – 1L – 1 – 2.64 GAA
2001-2002: 66GP – 25W – 34L – 7 – 2.75 GAA
2002-2003: 41GP – 14W – 22L – 4 – 3.14 GAA
***Acquired in March of 2001 from the San Jose Sharks, the “Moose” went 7-1-1 in the regular season to earn the starting job for the Penguins in the playoffs. Hedberg won 9 playoff games in 2001, leading the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals.
—TIOPS Decade Awards —
All-Decade First Team
LW Mario Lemieux – C Sidney Crosby – RW Evgeni Malkin
D Brooks Orpik – D Sergei Gonchar
G Marc Andre Fleury
Player of the Decade – Sidney Crosby
328 GP – 155g – 289a – 444 pts
Best Draft Pick – Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury
2003 1st Overall Selection
Best Signing – Defenseman Sergei Gonchar
5 years worth $25 million
Most under-rated player – Defenseman Brooks Orpik
2000 1st round draft pick (2003-Present)
Best Coach – Dan Bylsma
2009 Stanley Cup Winning Coach in 1st season
Best Team 2008-2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
Not the most talented Penguins team of the decade but defied all odds in going from 10th in the Eastern Conference in Mid-February to winning the Stanley Cup in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings.
Most Talented Team – 2007-2008 Pittsburgh Penguins
*Boasted a top line that consisted of world talents Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa along with a second line of Ryan Malone, Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora. A team that could beat you in a number of ways offensively and was among the toughest teams in the league. The Penguins went 12-2 through the first three rounds of the playoffs, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Most Exciting Team – 2000-2001 Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaromir Jagr (121 pts), Alexei Kovalev (95pts), Martin Straka (95pts) and Robert Lang (80pts) combined for 391 points while Mario Lemieux added 76 points in just 43 games after coming out of retirement.
Lemieux’s thrilling comeback as one of the games most dominating players made the Penguins a must see team every night.
For the Penguins 2000-2001 squad, the season would end in disappointment losing to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals in a season that can be described as “what could have been.”
Lemieux began to hit a wall in the playoffs, playing through injuries, while Jaromir Jagr battled a nagging groin injury in the playoffs that limited him.
It was the last Stanley Cup title run in the Craig Patrick era and Patrick knew it would be due to growing financial concerns as he nearly pulled off a blockbuster deal for Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake in January of 2001 that would sent Darius Kasparaitis as a center piece in the deal going to Los Angeles.
After failing to acquire Blake, Patrick had a deal in place to acquire Phoenix Coyotes winger Keith Tkachuk but backed out of the deal after deciding not to involve prospect Milan Kraft. Kraft was also deal breaker in the Los Angeles deal
Best Trade of the Decade
Pittsburgh Penguins acquire forwards Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis in exchange for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito, and the Penguins’ first-round pick in 2008 (Daultan Leveille).
Although Marian Hossa only wore a Penguins uniform for four months, the addition of Hossa put the Penguins above the rest in the Eastern Conference as the Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 6 games in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
Pascal Dupuis was an afterthought in the trade and has been a valuable role player for the Penguins since 2008.
Worst Trade of the Decade
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded 5-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Washington Capitals for three minor league prospects (Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, Ross Lupaschuk) and $4.85 million dollars.
Despite Pittsburgh’s financial woes, the trade was a head scratcher as Pittsburgh failed to even land a 1st round pick or the Capitals top prospect in exchange for the league’s best player.
Beech, Sivek and Lupaschuk failed to make any kind of impact at the NHL level.
Biggest Disappointment – RW Zigmund Palffy
Signed after the 2004-2005 lockout to a three year – $13.5 million contract, Palffy (2005-2006) quit on the Penguins in mid-season, retiring from the NHL in Janaury 2006 at the age of 33.
Palffy was an elite winger during the decade, posting 30+ goals from 2001-2003 and could have been Sidney Crosby’s top-6 winger for 3-4 years that the Penguins coveted for sometime. Not to mention Palffy was signed at a reasonable cost.
Palffy had 42 points in 42 games for the Penguins at the time of his sudden retirement.
Most Memorable Moment – December 27, 2000
Mario Lemieux scores a goal and two assists in his comeback game out of retirement as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 at Mellon Arena.
Most Memorable Off-Ice Moment – March 14, 2007
The Penguins and government officials ended months of difficult negotiations and rumors of relocation, agreeing to a $290 million arena deal that ensured that the franchise will stay in Pittsburgh. The Penguins will open the Consol Energy Center in Fall 2010.
—The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins end the decade as the reigning Stanley Cup Champions — With Crosby, Malkin, Fleury locked up for the long run and the opening of a new arena, the next decade has the look of being a storied one for the Penguins franchise.