The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the first teams created during the first expansion of the NHL in 1967. They play out of Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, although plans for a new arena have been implemented, and hope to be completed by the 2010-2011 NHL season. The Penguins have won two Stanley Cups(1990-91, 1991-92).
Through the team’s early years in the late
60s and early 70s, Pittsburgh met with very limited success, making the playoffs in a few of their seasons but never reaching the Cup Finals. The Penguins were nearly sold and moved out of Pittsburgh in 1975, due to bankruptcy, but the intervention of new owner Wren Blair saved the franchise.
The 1980s saw a new look for the Pens, as their colors were changed from blue and white to black and gold. The new uniforms did little to help the struggling franchise. However, the poor finishes in the 1983 and 1984 seasons enabled Pittsburgh to draft superstar Mario Lemieux.
Lemieux became the face of the Penguins during his tremendous career. The results were not immediate, but as soon as the Penguins acquired some help for Mario (Kevin Stevens, Paul Coffey and goalie Tom Barasso), they were able to once again reach the playoffs.
In 1991, Jaromir Jagr was drafted, giving the Pens the best one-two scoring tandem in the NHL. The Penguins won their first Stanley Cup, and successfully defended their title the following year. The Penguins could have been the greatest team of the 1990s, but Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and was forced out of the lineup. One of the great achievements in sports history was accomplished when Lemieux returned from his treatment after missing 24 games to win the NHL scoring title with 160 points.
After Lemieux’s retirement in 1997, Jagr became the most dominant player in the NHL, winning four straight scoring titles. The Penguins once again ran into money problems and seemed headed for collapse, when Lemieux stepped in and offered to turn his deferred salary into equity with which he purchased the team. After becoming a major owner of the club, Lemieux then returned to the ice in 2000. He would play until 2003, when he retired due to recurring back problems.
After the trade of Jaromir Jagr to the Washington Capitals (more of a salary dump than anything else), the Penguins struggled to make the playoffs. These struggles proved to be worth it, however, as they laid the groundwork for the drafting of the young talent which now populates the Pens’ powerful roster. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted first overall in the 2003 entry draft. The Penguins lost the 2004 lottery to the Washington Capitals who selected Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin, but were able to draft Evgeny Malkin with the second overall pick.
While these two draft picks have been very beneficial to the Penguins organization, the lottery following the 2005 lockout gave them the first overall pick with which they drafted perhaps the greatest player since Wayne Gretzky and Lemieux, Sidney Crosby. Crosby was named team captain at age 19, making him the youngest NHL captain in history. The settlement of Malkin’s contract dispute with his Russian team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, gave the Penguins another great tandem of superstars, which has proven to be highly successful.
Despite an impressive season, the largely inexperienced Penguins were elminated in the first round of the 2007 postseason by the Ottawa Senators. The 2008 postseason has been much more successful, as the Pens have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since they won the Cup in 1992.
The addition of Crosby probably saved the franchise from relocation, as the city of Pittsburgh finally settled a contract dispute with the franchise in 2007, and approved the building of a new arena. The Penguins are now set to remain in Pittsburgh through the year 2040.
Stanley Cups Won: 1990-91,1991-92
Notable Players: Tom Barasso, Andy Bathgate, Paul Coffey, Sidney Crosby, John Cullen, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ron Francis, Johan Hedberg, Marian Hossa, Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev, Mario Lemieux, Evgeny Malkin, Ryan Malone, Alexei Morozov, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Brooks Orpik, Jordan Staal, Kevin Stevens, Martin Straka, Bryan Trottier, Sergei Zubov