No matter what your favorite sport or your favorite team, everyone at one point or another has sat down and tried to figure out a “Top Ten” list of some sorts to rank players. Whether it is your all time favorite players, most exciting players, most underrated players, it doesn’t matter. You could sit for hours and come up with different criteria to create as many categories imaginable. So today’s Rant will be one of these Top Ten lists but of course it is mine. I am going to look at the Top Ten Pittsburgh Penguins in my life time. What I mean by “My Life Time” is the player would have had to play during the time I have followed the sport/team. I have been a Penguins fan for over 20 years so I do have a large canvas to paint this idea.
#1 – MARIO LEMIEUX
This one is a no brainer to me and is not really up to dispute. There is no greater talent, player or leader in the history of The Pittsburgh Penguins than #66 Mario Lemieux. The Pens all time scorer has saved this franchise on multiple occasions. He was able to do things on the ice that we had never seen before and have not seen since. Mario WAS the franchise during the low times and was the center of the team when they were winning Stanley Cups.
#2 – SIDNEY CROSBY
I know I will get questioned on this and people will wonder how he places above Jaromir Jagr on the list. Sidney Crosby is at 24 years old, a much more complete player and better leader than Jagr was during his tenure in Pittsburgh. Crosby has a much deeper passion and drive and will do anything to improve his game. He has the ability to take over a game that was only truly shared by one other Penguin in history, Mario Lemieux. Crosby has reached the next level and will now cement his place as one of the best ever.
#3 – JAROMIR JAGR
I had a tough time with deciding whether to place Jagr at #2 or #3, but I ultimately decided on #3. I believe he is second to only Mario Lemieux in his one on one skills but what separates Lemieux and Crosby from Jagr is their ability to make those around them better. Jagr did not consistently display this and also was not as well rounded a player as Mario or Sid. This is ultimately what dropped him down a peg in my list.
#4 – RON FRANCIS
When Craig Patrick made the deal to bring Ron Francis over from the floundering Hartford Whalers, I was very excited. Francis was one of the best 2 way players in the NHL, was a premier play maker who could feather the puck to team mates and was a fantastic leader. He had his best statistical seasons with The Penguins and also gave them a two line punch that is still the deepest in franchise history. Francis was a great player who made a great team even better.
#5 – MARC-ANDRE FLEURY
I know that this will be another controversial selection and again I was torn between Flower and Geno but I ultimately went with Fleurty at #5 and this is why. At this time, Marc-Andre Fleury has taken the next step in his evolution as a too goalie in the NHL and was the team MVP in my eyes last season. Fleury is putting up numbers that put him as the top goalie in franchise history and has many intangibles that separate him from his brethren in the NHL. The most noticeable is ability to not get too down after a bad goal or game. He can shake it off right away and still make the big save late in the same game to win the game.
#6 – EVGENI MALKIN
There are two things holding Geno back from being higher on my list and they are consistency and focus. When he is in the zone and focused on what he has to do to be successful, Geno is one of the best players in the world. On the other side of the coin though, he has not been consistent enough with that focus to take that next step of evolution in his career just yet. Malkin reminds me of a lot of Jagr and that is good and well, bad at the same time. He has all the tools and talent, just needs to develop the consistency to become great.
#7 – PAUL COFFEY
There has never been a more explosive defenseman or smoother skate in Penguins history than Paul Coffey. He was able to bring the ability to score 30 goals and 100 points from the point that the Penguins were never able to have again. Every new defenseman that comes into Pittsburgh will always be judged by Coffey and what he brought to this team. He was also a great dressing room guy and a solid leader on a franchise that had few offensive threats during the majority of his stay in Pittsburgh.
#8 – KEVIN STEVENS
A former 50 goal scorer and 100 point man, Kevin Stevens was a pure power forward. He may have been the best player in Penguins history to combine physical play, goal scoring ability, grit and speed. Stevens was the perfect line mate for Mario Lemieux as he complimented the skill and finesse that Mario supplied to the line. He was a perfect team mate who made his own place in the history of the Penguins.
#9 – TOM BARRASSO
Until the emergence of Fleury, the only solid goal tender that The Penguins had in their recent history was Tom Barrasso. Although he is not as flashy as Flower or did not put up the numbers that Flower has, Barrasso was a solid goalie who lead the team to back to back Stanley Cups. He was a stand up goalie who was similar to Grant Fuhr in what he brough to the team. Barrasso made few mistakes when handling the puck and did his job to keep the team in games.
#10 – ULF SAMMUELSSON
Whether you like him or hate him, Ulf Sammuelsson was a key on the back end for the Penguins during his stay with the team. His reputation preceded him and you know that he was in his opponents mind when ever they skated down his side of the ice. Sammuelsson was a borderline dirty stay at home defenseman that relished the chance to play against the other team’s top players. He was the player you hated to play against but loved to have on your team.