The Penguins are out of the playoffs. But several former Penguins players are still in the playoffs. So let’s put on our Flyer fan hat to rank the best cheering options down the stretch.
As a rule, this ignores all team associations and simply looks at the happiness we would have to see the individual lift the Cup. So having Tom Wilson win isn’t going to knock any points off for Orpik, for instance in this ranking at least. Surely for who Pens fans will cheer for in terms of which TEAMS they want to see win will be different, but we’re just taking it as a narrow focus.
The order we’d want to see ex-Pens win:
“Ehh, whatev” level
9. David Perron: Didn’t really work out in Pittsburgh for some reason for him or the team but there’s no real ill will. Good for him if he wins it, but there’s not too much emotion or attachment still left.
8. James Neal: What could have been if he was a little smarter and had more self-control at a younger age? Alas, mostly bad memories for Neal as a Penguin aside from his charmed interactions with Evgeni Malkin and the one season they lit up the league, followed by an absolute meltdown in the playoffs.
“Hey, that’s pretty cool” level
- Nick Bonino: It would be a 3rd straight Cup for Bonino, a big part of why the Pens won their last two gives good reason at this point to cheer him on personally in return for everything he did for Pittsburgh.
- Deryk Engelland: His career has been incredible and he’s one of the few players who has actually somehow improved as he’s aged. And his voice after the Vegas shooting was very admirable, raw and real.
- Ryan Reaves: So sue me. Would be fun to watch him cap off a tough 12 month period where he’s been traded by two different teams by ending up as a champion.
- Brooks Orpik: Keep suing me. The vet catches a lot of crap, probably none moreso than from fans of his own team since he’s old and kinda not very good anymore. But it would be redemption if he earns another Cup at age 37. (And, lowkey, could this be a final run for Orpik? Gotta be possible he’s bought out and if so would anyone be interested in signing him?)
Totally stoked level
- Marc-Andre Fleury: Duh. Handled his exit from Pittsburgh with class and grace and turned in the best season of his career. Ending it with a 4th career Cup and leading an expansion team to a title in their first year ends any and all remaining debates about Hall of Fame worthiness.
- Chris Kunitz: Getting a 5th career Stanley Cup would be very awesome, and for a guy who will be 39 before next season starts, this seems likely to be the last hurrah.
1. Matt Niskanen: (never forget)
That’s our list, feel free to give your personal one in the comments below.