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Thanking a couple departed guys who left their imprint on the championship

Turnover in hockey is something you deal with.  We all see the players come and go but it's the same for coaches, trainers, managers and scouts.  Three men imparticular left their imprint on the Pittsburgh Penguins and even though things went sour and they were let go, they still deserve credit.

Michel Therrien

You knew this one was coming.  When Therrien arrived in Pittsburgh on December 15th 2005 the team organizationally was a mess.  The players, including player/owner Mario Lemieux, had slipped into lax habits and were extremely weak defensively.  Though talented and positioned well for the post-lockout rule changes, there wasn't discipline.  And boy did that change in a hurry.  Therrien installed strict systems and was demanding of his player's best efforts, something unseen in the "country club mentality".

In his first full season in 2006-07 Therrien presided over one of the best season turnarounds in NHL history.  And then, of course, the Penguins were two wins away from winning the Cup in 2008.  Therrien's methods and limits had it's drawbacks and it became apparent he had run his course of usefulness to the team.

During the final two games of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals the Penguins had to cling to slim leads against the Red Wings.  And some of the systems and skills they showed were direct carryovers from the Therrien era.

Craig Patrick and Greg Malone

If you think about it, what Craig Patrick did in 2005 wasn't too different then what Ray Shero did in 2008/09.  They both signed offensive European wingers (Zigmund Palffy and Miroslav Satan).  They brought in American power-forwards at the tail end of their careers (John LeClair and Bill Guerin).  They fired their NHL head coach and brought up the Wilkes-Barre head coach to lead Pittsburgh.  Patrick's moves didn't work out, maybe because guys like Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin weren't around and experienced enough to weather the storm if they went sour.

While Patrick and his chief scout Malone did select all of the Pens young core players (save Jordan Staal) most of those #1 or #2 overall picks were no-brainers.  The more impressive legacy the two left are the gems they found later in the draft that the Penguins organization developed into key cogs of a championship team.  Consider the following Patrick/Malone selections:

Rob Scuderi - drafted 134th overall (5th round) in 1998
Brooks Orpik - drafted 18th overall (1st round) in 2000
Maxime Talbot - drafted 234th overall (8th round) in 2002
Alex Goligoski - drafted 61st overall (2nd round) in 2004
Tyler Kennedy - drafted 99th overall (4th round) in 2004
Kris Letang - drafted 62nd overall (3rd round) in 2005

This is not to say they batted 1.000 or always made the right choices in the draft.  They didn't hit on all their picks and they didn't have any all-time great classes like the 1989 Detroit draft.  But they did get enough solid selections and benefit from the player development to set the team up in a good position.

Like Therrien, Patrick had probably gotten to a place where he needed to be replace.  Ray Shero has modernized many aspects of the organization and arena, getting the Penguins into the 21st century.  Also the rebuild Patrick supervised was prolonged and ineffective.  There's no doubt Patrick's hands were tied with financial constraints but from 2001 - 2004 he flipped star players in Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev, Martin Straka, Robert Lang and Darius Kasparaitis for spare parts long since departed and a bunch of prospects that never panned out.  Compare that to the rebuild of the Washington Capitals who flipped their star players (like Sergei Gonchar, Peter Bondra, Brenden Witt and Robert Lang) for draft picks/prospects that's panned into six roster players as of now (including Mike Green, Simeon Varlamov and Brooks Laich).

Again, it needs to be pointed out in the old CBA and the Pittsburgh financial situation, there's no doubt that Craig Patrick didn't have a lot of leverage.  But the prospects he got were turds like Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, Rico Fata, Sergei Anshakov and a bunch of other guys that never panned out.  If CP would have been able to parlay his stars into a rebuild like Washington, Pittsburgh likely would have jumped out of the gutter quicker than they did.


So while we celebrate the Stanley Cup, take a moment to recognize that we've benefited from some guys not still around in order to be where we are today at the summit.