Saw this on r/penguins and liked the premise for a steamy July Saturday- what is a ranking of the Pittsburgh Penguins teams in the Sidney Crosby era. Somehow year 14 (!!!) is about to start. Time sure does move fast.
#13: 2005-06 (22-46-14)
Easiest one to pick, the Pens were terrible and a mess this season. Ironically in the only year that Crosby and Mario Lemieux were NHL teammates, there was nothing to remember at all with a mix-mash lineup, no defense at all to speak of, terrible goaltending and the coaching of Ed Olczyk.
#12: 2014-15 (43-27-12)
Besides 05-06, this is only full-season team of this period not to get to 100 points of the standings. The Mike Johnston stink is all over this one with the lowest Goals For (221) in a season for a Pittsburgh team in this era, just 2.69 per game. Add in tons of defensive injuries to a substandard NHL coach that put a bad scheme on an offensive team and it was a very forgettable season.
#11: 2010-11 (49-25-8)
Forever the season known for the pain of Sidney Crosby’s concussion/neck issue that would linger for a long time to come, plus Evgeni Malkin tearing his ACL. The Pens admirably soldiered on but weren’t going to do anything without their top players. Defensively this team was tight (199 goals allowed is the only sub-200 GA season), but that didn’t seem to help in the quick playoff loss.
#10: 2009-10 (47-28-7)
The young Pens were defending champs for the first time and seemed to sleep-walk through the season. Then they got Halak’d in Round 2, starting a new trend of blowing home ice and arguably losing series they shoulda/coulda won. And this ended the Mellon Arena era with a dud of a G7 loss, which colors this season even worse.
#9: 2011-12 (51-25-6)
They scored a whopping 282 goals (tied most of this era). Evgeni Malkin and James Neal were such a force, combining for 90 goals. Crosby shook off his injury problems to return and....the team lost all semblance of composure in the playoffs against an inferior opponent. Marc-Andre Fleury was b-a-double d bad. Neal and Kris Letang were completely out of control. The coaching staff was trying to fight the other bench. A talented team, but a train wreck and one that would give the Pens a bad reputation for years to come.
#8: 2006-07 (47-24-11)
A young, exciting version of the Pens team. Jordan Staal’s rookie year magic. Evgeni Malkin’s introduction to America with a Calder trophy. Crosby’s first MVP season with a whopping 120 point season (no one in the league has scored more points in a season since). This team didn’t have a lot of defense or depth, but they were very talented and planted the seeds for the future Stanley Cup runs.
#7: 2013-14 (51-24-7)
On one hand, with 109 points this was the second best regular season performance a Penguins team has had in this era. Crosby won the scoring title and league MVP. On the other hand, in the final year of Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero, things just felt stale. The team didn’t really seem to have the energy or anything special powering them. And they blew another series lead at home yet again, which makes this team a tough one to rank. I think you could make a good argument to rank them up or down a few spots due to a great regular season, yet another totally predictable disappointing ending.
#6: 2017-18 (47-29-6)
This team was deep on paper, but suffered shooting % issues and also didn’t get much goaltending or defensive play. The 250 goals against are the most since the bad 2005-06 team. Pittsburgh went on a historic run from 2016-18 and whether it caught up with them or they just didn’t get the quality play in key moments, they came up short.
#5: 2007-08 (47-27-8)
This core’s first trip to a Stanley Cup Final. Everyone remembers the tough lesson Detroit gave them once they got there, but how about Pittsburgh going 12-2 in the Eastern Conference portion of the playoff? they were a steamrolling machine hitting on all cylinders. They weren’t quite ready for prime time, but a total treat to watch.
#4: 2012-13 (36-12-0)
Another tough team to rank in the big scheme of things. Coming out of the lockout, this Pens team was on full-season pace for what would have been a whopping 123 point season (14 points or 7 wins better than any other Pens team). That has to count for something. A lot is remembered of the unnecessary decision to trade for Jarome Iginla and play him out of position, but beyond that this was a roster with basically no holes and a ton of strength. The end was as difficult as it was unblievable getting swept by a red hot goalie, but Boston was going to their 2nd SCF in 3 years, wasn’t as if they were a random team. Still, for all the “what could have been”, this one looms largest.
#3: 2016-17 (50-21-11, STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS)
Tough to rank Cup champs. This one wasn’t dominant, but was a great TEAM effort. Fleury and Matt Murray teamed up to combine for tremendous goaltending. Letang went down with injury and all 6 defensemen took between 19-21 minutes of time per game. They got outshot, but not outworked. Forwards like Jake Guentzel offered timely scoring. This team wasn’t as glamorous as the others, but they weren’t to be denied and that speaks for itself.
#2: 2008-09 (45-28-9, STANLEY CUP CHAMPS)
There’s always a sweetness to the first Cup. (Obviously not the franchise’s first overall, talking for the Crosby/Malkin days). And both big boys were at the heights of their powers with Sid scoring 15 playoff goals (a feat not surpassed since) and Malkin winning the scoring title and then Conn Smythe with a 36 point effort, best in the post-lockout NHL.
Add in Sergei Gonchar gutting it out, Max Talbot having the spring of a lifetime to become an all-time legend and getting the perfect ending in avenging the prior year’s loss in the ever-so-rare Stanley Cup rematch. Topped with Fleury making one of the greatest and biggest saves the sport has ever seen in Game 7 on HOF’er Nick Lidstrom with time expiring and....man. What a ride this one was.
#1: 2015-16 (48-26-8, STANLEY CUP CHAMPS)
Probably the best Pens team ever. The addition of Phil Kessel was huge and added an extra star. Fellow new additions in Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino helped form the super magical HBK line. Young players like Murray along with Bryan Rust and Brian Dumoulin played key roles, with the 21 year old Murray basically on cruise control going 15-6 in the playoffs. Kris Letang was a force of nature, eating unreal minutes, putting up points and crushing possession. Crosby and Malkin were Crosby and Malkin. This edition, and they way they played in the spring, was as good as any team that’s existed in recent NHL history.
OK, your turn in the comments. What’s your ranking of the teams, everyone can and should have different lists so it’ll be interesting to hear the weekend takes. The one thing that stood out to me was that the top-6 of these teams all had legitimate chances to win it all. Looking back on it, though some of the misses in the 2010-15 period hurt, it’s pretty incredible how balanced and consistently dangerous the Pens have been. There are a bunch of really, really good teams on this list, as you would expect since the Pens have the most wins in the salary cap era.