There are times when any fan base witnesses a signing during the offseason that leaves the collective group of die hards scratching heads, punching walls and crashing message boards with usernames like "KrisBeechStillSucks" and "WhyMikeRupp?" But there also comes a time when that same fan base realizes, "Hey, uh, that wasn't a bad signing after all."
Now there was a healthy degree of doubt and a plethora of questions making way around the interwebs when the Pens announced the signing of a guy like Mike Rupp. And there was even a little doubt with a guy like Brent Johnson. Come to think of it, the Jay McKee signing got a little criticism as well. Oh wait, even Skoula...
You see my point, right?
Whenever a new guy comes on board, it's my firm belief that the fan base wants immediate results. Hockey fans are labeled a lot of things - crazed, loyal, neurotic, insistent, to name a few - but patient certainly isn't one of the labels at the forefront. So I decided now would be as good a time as any to give these guys there due. On a team riddled with injuries that is still finding ways to get it done, sometimes you have to look past the 100-point scorers, third line agitators, starting goaltender and offensive defensemen to really give credit to the guys who consistently get it done.
Take the jump before voting and speak your piece.
#74 / Defenseman / Pittsburgh Penguins
Sep 08, 1977
|2009 - Jay McKee||1||4||5||5||42|
For a guy who makes his living as a shot-blocking defenseman, one would've thought it was just a matter of time before Jay McKee went down with some sort of injury. But how many of you actually predicted it would be a finger infection? Up until his injury report from a little over a week ago, McKee was leading all Pens in blocked shots and found himself right atop the league in the same category. When he came on board during the offseason he did so at a discounted rate. Granted it's only a one-year deal AND he had his last contract bought out by the Blues, but the guy is committed to winning. He proves that every time he throws his body down on the ice to block a shot.
#17 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Jan 13, 1980
|2009 - Michael Rupp||5||2||7||3||34|
It nauseates me to no end that the stock photo we have for Mike Rupp still shows him in a Devils jersey, but I'll let it slide for now. The man known around these parts as "Noted," as in "Noted goal scorer Mike Rupp," was on the receiving end of a fair share of criticism before even stepping foot at Penguins camp. "Why?" "Who?" and exasperated "Whats?" all fueled fans to criticize this signing. Reasoning included, but was not limited to, the followng:
Why? - They have Eric Godard for that.
Who? - I've never heard of him.
What?! - What?!
#1 / Goalie / Pittsburgh Penguins
Mar 12, 1977
|2009 - Brent Johnson||6||300||3||1||15||3.00||146||131||.897||0|
Admittedly a back-up goaltender will hardly get as much attention as, say, a forward. But for a team like the Penguins that have had Marc-Andre Fleury out of the lineup for at least three weeks over the past two seasons, it's nice to know there is a formidable talent ready to jump between the pipes when needed. The Pens got that with Brent Johnson. Many (including myself) thought this season was the ideal opportunity for the Pens to call upon WBS goaltender John Curry to fill the second string role. However, Ray Shero once again showed his market expertise and signed on former Capital netminder Brent Johnson to the Number Two spot. So far this season it's been anything but easy for Johnson. Of his three wins not a single one has come in regulation. The first two, Florida on October 23 and Columbus on October 30, ended in a shootout. win His most recent, against Boston on November 14, came within .4 seconds of registering as a loss before Bill Guerin forced OT and the Pens took it down in extra time. So really, the guy's had to work out there for each 'W,' but he's getting it done despite keeping us all on the edge of our seats. It also doesn't hurt that he's a huge Zeppelin fan.
#41 / Defenseman / Pittsburgh Penguins
Oct 28, 1979
|2009 - Martin Skoula||3||3||6||-2||2|
Martin Skoula played 81 games with the Wild last season, scoring 4 goals and picking up 12 assists. This season, with only 15 games on record with the Pens, Skoula is only one goal short of last season's total with still a lot of time to play. While Skoula may be limping around the ice a bit right now with a supposed foot injury, whatever downside or pain he's experiencing is not showing up on the scoreboard. If not for Skoula's two goals the Pens would've fallen short against the Thrashers Saturday night. When you can't get big scoring going from guys like Malkin or Crosby, it's nice to see a defenseman, specifically one not known for scoring, picking up a goal or two to help the cause. The former 1998 first round pick has found his place with the Pens and has really stepped up in the wake of all these injuries.
#12 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Jan 29, 1986
|2009 - Christopher Bourque||0||3||3||-4||10|
In all fairness I had to include him. Bourque was claimed off waivers on September 30 and has since been struggling a bit in the Pens' lineup. Or is it just another example of high expectations? FSN seems hung up on producing countless videos and features for the kid, but when his shots go right across the goal mouth or directly into an out-of-position goalie's logo, you tend to consider the reality of root of the animosity. Bourque has three assists over 16 games and is even getting some quality time on the first power-play unit. To his credit the hustle is there and he can, at times, play a strong game that doesn't register on the score sheet. But until (if) he cracks that first goal I feel the criticism will continue.
There is no right or wrong way to register your vote in this poll. It's merely a matter of one's own perception. Who do YOU feel is standing out the most? Who do YOU feel makes the Pens a better team? And just for posterity's sake, I know Ryan Bayda also signed in the offseason but he has yet to play for the parent club.
Now, get on with the voting and debating.