With 14 scoring trophies in the last 24 NHL seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins have had NO shortage of superstars since Mario Lemieux joined the team in the 1980's. We all know Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have the lineage there but with Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Luc Robitaille, Alex Kovalev, Martin Straka, Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchet, James Neal, Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Mark Recchi - among others, the Penguins have truly had a ridiculous amount of skilled players come and go over the years.
We all know the stars, and of course there's nothing better than to see a guy like Crosby or Malkin dominate and completely take over a shift, period, game or playoff series. But what about the unsung guys?
We all have our favorite non-hero hero. The guy who doesn't get the headlines, won't make an All-Star team, but for unknown reasons you cheer for him as a fan. Maybe you got his autograph in the Civic Arena parking lot or after practice at Southpointe one day. Maybe you just like how he played. Maybe you thought he was juuuust on the verge of breaking through and becoming a core player.
After the jump, a couple of mine, and in the comments please share your own.
For me, just as cool as they come. Smooth defenseman who didn't panic and seemed under control. Wasn't the fastest, smartest, best or most skilled, but a guy who could, when he was on, do his job. His Penguin stats weren't all bad either, 252 career games with the black-and-yellow, 24 goals plus 62 assists and a career Pittsburgh plus/minus of +34. Also, Slegr has an 11 goal season for Pittsburgh (in 1999-2000), which is currently more goals in a year than Kris Letang has. Not sayin', just sayin'.
Always Jagr's sidekick, never the star. Hrdina was a slick passer who just seemed so unassuming, so soft-spoken, so content to be the background guy. The bombastic Jagr loved the spotlight and the puck, and Hrdina was always there so willingly to feed it to the big guy. He was frustrating to cheer for and an imperfect player to be sure, but something about Hrdina's just-below-the-surface untapped potential and obvious skill just made him fun for me to watch. And cheer for when all the other Pens fans would jump on his back.
Dan LaCouture played 137 games over parts of three seasons as a Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring 8 goals and tallying 13 assists. But he's still one of my favorite players. The hustle, the energy, the enthusiasm. LaCouture had no hands, but he definitely had great wheels, flying up and down the ice. He hit, he occasionally fought and he just played the game in such a hard manner, I always respected it, even as he went on as a journeyman bouncing from team to team, doing whatever he could to stay in the NHL.
Sort of similiar to the LaCouture crush, Pascal Dupuis is a player you're gonna tell your grandkids about one day- coming over in the Marian Hossa trade as very much an after-thought, but then finding a niche in Pittsburgh, especially finding chemistry with Sidney Crosby. You'll marvel at his speed, work ethic, how reliable he is in his positioning, that slapshot that's heavy, but wildly inaccurate. And how sometimes, just sometimes, Dupuis' hands would keep up with his feet long enough to put the puck in the net.
Who are some over your favorite "less than star" players out there? Past, present, doesn't matter, just list off the guys you like and the reasons you still find yourself attached and nostalgic about them.