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Embrace the Debate: I can't believe he was a Penguin

Today's topic: players we can't believe actually were Pittsburgh Penguins

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

According to the great hockey-reference 617 skaters and 61 more goalies have worn a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey in the first 49 years of the franchise's history.

So many are ingrained in the minds of Pens fans forever, whether it's Mario Lemieux showcasing grace and talent in a 6'5 frame not seen before or since. Or Jaromir Jagr and his glorious mullet fluttering in the wind. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Tom Barrasso, Marc-Andre Fleury. For most of those guys, it's difficult (and not fun) to imagine them in a different team's jersey.

Then again, there's the flip side of the coin too- players that just didn't look right in the black and gold. Here's our nominees but for Embrace the Debate September feel free to chime in with your candidate, heaven knows there are plenty of them over the years.

I can't believe that guy was a Penguin

John LeClair

The image conjured up with the mention of John LeClair is for that other team in Pennsylvania. LeClair was a member of the famed "Legion of Doom" line in the '90s with the Flyers and was one of the most dominant power forwards of the decade. LeClair scored 50+ goals for 3 straight years from1995/96 - 1997/98, and tacked on two more 40 goal seasons in the following two years.

After the great lockout of 2004-05, the Flyers bought the 36 year old LeClair out and the aging player chose to join his old pal Mark Recchi in Pittsburgh for a two year contract. Pittsburgh had also signed a bevy of players like Sergei Gonchar and Zigmund Palffy to go along with Recchi, Lemieux and some kid named Crosby to majorly overhaul their roster.

LeClair as a Penguin just didn't seem right. Maybe it was because he played 649 career games with the Flyers...Or maybe because he was old and had clearly lost a gear even before the post-lockout era put a premium on making the league a speedier place to be.

Either way, it was weird. LeClair was pretty decent in 2005-06, finishing 4th on the team in scoring with 51 points (22g+29a) in 73 games. The following season was a disaster from the get-to, with LeClair inadvertently involved to injuring Malkin in his first preseason game.

The USA today described the injury like this:

Malkin had just finished making a dazzling pass to LeClair when the veteran winger, after missing a great scoring chance, crashed into the boards behind the net and took out Malkin in the process. The Russian catapulted over LeClair and landed hard on the ice


After scoring just 7 points in 21 games and looking worse, the Penguins waived LeClair. He went unclaimed and neither side really wanted him to report to the minors so he was released and would never play hockey again, a sad ending in a weird place to a great career.

Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla was pretty synonymous with the Calgary Flames, appearing in over 1,200 games in 16 seasons and wearing the captain's C on his jersey for a long-time. All of a sudden in 2013 he chose to join the Penguins via trade.

At this point it all seems like a dream, the Penguins acquire one of the best right-wingers of this generation, and they chose to use him...On the left-wing for the first time in his career. It wasn't a smooth transition and came to a quick end at a sweep at the hands of the Bruins.

Iginla must have thought that was a good team because he would join Boston in free agency in his late career chase for a Stanley Cup. That didn't work, so he left the following summer as a free agent to a middling Colorado team that offered him a 3-year contract.

Still, for parts of 4 months that spring, Jarome Iginla was a Pittsburgh Penguin. It really did happen, even if all parties (including Calgary who netted no NHL assets from the trade) would probably rather forget.


Proof it happened (Photo Credit: Justin K. Allar, USA Today)

Ted Nolan

Known mainly today for being a fiery (and once allegedly black-balled) head coach/former head coach. But his playing days actually took him to Pittsburgh, where he played 18 games in the 1985-86 season (1g+1a) in what would be his final year of playing competitive hockey. I don't have much more to add, but that's definitely a name that sticks out in the franchise register and one that probably not many have a recollection of.

Scott Young

So many of the forwards from the 2 early Cups of the '90s are huge parts of franchise lore. Lemieux, Jagr, Francis, Trottier, Stevens, Tocchet. Heck even Errey and Bourque. One overshadowed player, who's name is on the Cup for 1991 is Scott Young.

Young appeared in 1,141 career NHL games from 1987/88 - 2005/06, a remarkably long run. Only 43 of those came with Pittsburgh, when Young came over in a semi-famous trade that brought Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson to the Pens. Young was definitely the distant 3rd most important piece of that trade, but as a depth player he still did score 27 points in those 43 games and added 7 more points in 17 playoff games that magical spring.

Young chose to play in Europe in preparation for the 1992 Olympics (in the era before NHL players were allowed to play) and Pittsburgh eventually traded his NHL rights to Quebec. Young had quite an interesting career; he would win the Cup a second time in 1996 with Colorado (the team Quebec turned into) and he also hung around long enough to be a part of Team USA's silver medal in the 2002 Olympics. The Pittsburgh stint was a brief footnote in a great journey for him.


Ok, that's enough from me, feel free to vote and if we left any good ones still on the table put your idea in the comments.