Even though they will never be synonymous with the team, two former Pittsburgh Penguins were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week when it was announced on Wednesday that Marian Hossa and Jarome Iginla are part of the 2020 class.
Their induction means that there have now been — as of this moment — 14 different Hall of Fame players to dress for the Penguins in franchise history.
That number will increase by one next year when Jaromir Jagr is all but certain to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Then probably a decade from now Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will continue to add to the list, with maybe a few other players eventually joining them.
With all of that said, I decided to rank the contributions that each of the Hall of Fame players made to the Penguins during their time with the team.
It is important to point out that I am only including players that are already in the Hall of Fame (so Jagr, Crosby, and Malkin are not included, even though they all seem to be slam dunk locks to get in).
I am also only including Hall of Fame PLAYERS. So no general managers or coaches. That is why Craig Patrick, Jim Rutherford, Bob Johnson, and Scotty Bowman are not included. Also omitted is Glen Sather, who briefly played for the Penguins, but went into the Hall of Fame as a builder and not a player. Rutherford also played for the Penguins but his Hall of Fame status is because of his work as a general manager and builder. Again, we are only looking at Hall of Fame PLAYERS.
To the rankings!
- Mario Lemieux. I mean, do we really need to go over the reasons why? At worst he is a top-three player in NHL history. He is arguably the greatest player in NHL history. He spent his entire career with the Penguins and became the franchise.
- Ron Francis. He spent seven-and-a-half years with the Penguins and was one of the final pieces to the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup winning teams. He blended elite offense and great defense to be one of the most complete players in the league. He is the only Penguins player to ever win the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward and finished in the top-six in the voting four different times. That includes one time as a runner-up.
- Paul Coffey. While the Francis trade may have been the biggest trade in franchise history I will still to this day argue that the Coffey trade was the most important. Yes they are different things. His acquisition gave the Penguins a second superstar to pair alongside Lemieux and helped put the franchise on the map. Lemieux did not play a playoff game until Coffey arrived. His time here was brief, but it was impactful.
- Larry Murphy. The Penguins acquired Murphy during the 1990-91 season from the Minnesota North Stars (the team they beat later that year for their first Stanley Cup). This was during a one year period in 1990-91 where the Penguins acquired FOUR future Hall of Famers (Murphy, Francis, Joe Mullen, and Bryan Trottier). During Murphy’s four-and-a-half years with the Penguins he won two Stanley Cups, put up massive offensive numbers, and finished in the top-10 in Norris Trophy voting in each of his four full seasons, including three times in the top-five of the voting.
- Mark Recchi. I don’t think people realize how little time Recchi spent with the Penguins early in his career. He played just two-and-a-half seasons with the team in the late 80s and early 90s before he was traded (along with Coffey) during the 1991-92 season for Rick Tocchet. He came back later in his career with mixed results. But that first stretch, brief as it may have been, was significant. He was as productive as any other winger in the NHL between the 1989 and 1991 seasons.
- Joe Mullen. Getting Mullen for a second-round pick might be one of the more lopsided trades in franchise history. Even though he was on the downside of his career he still ended up being a massive offensive contributor for two Stanley Cup winning teams. He played more seasons and games with the Penguins than any other team in his career.
- Bryan Trottier. He was only a role player at this point in his career, but he brought championship experience and added some essential depth to those early Stanley Cup teams.
- Marian Hossa. His time was VERY brief (and maybe that makes his ranking a little on the high side), but as I said on Tuesday the impact he made was immediate and massive. He helped take the Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin era to the next level and even though it did not result in a championship that year, they got right to the front door and positioned themselves to kick it in the next season.
- Luc Robitaille. Just one season (and only a lockout shortened half season at that) but it was a fun season. With Lemieux sidelined he gave Jagr and Francis another superstar to work alongside and he was outstanding in the regular season and playoffs.
- Sergei Zubov. Another star player that played just one season with the Penguins. I wish it would have been more seasons because he was outstanding and should have been a perfect fit with the roster at the time. He would have been the clear-cut No. 1 defenseman for a very long time. His 1995-96 season is still one of the more productive single season performances by a defenseman in franchise history.
- Jarome Iginla. There were such high expectations but it simply did not work out. The popular consensus here is that Dan Bylsma and the Penguins did not use him correctly and wasted him on the wrong side of the ice. I argue the biggest mistake was making the trade in the first place. Not because Iginla wasn’t still good, but because they just did not need him and it continued what had been a series of moves that simply made the Penguins older and slower just before the start of the playoffs. It was originally reported that Iginla had been traded to Boston until the Penguins swooped in the last minute and acquired him. From the very beginning it seemed like the biggest motivation in acquiring him was to simply keep him from going to the Bruins.
- Andy Bathgate. He scored the first goal in franchise history and had two decently productive seasons (with a two-year gap between when Bathgate went to play in the Western Hockey League.
- Leo Boivin. The Penguins selected Boivin from the Detroit Red Wings in the 1967-68 expansion draft and kept him for a year-and-a-half before trading him to the Minnesota North Stars. He played 114 games with the team and posted respectable numbers for a defenseman from the era.
- Tim Horton. Horton played one injury-plagued — and mostly forgettable — season with the Penguins during the 1971-72 season. This was way before my time so I got nothing else here. A big name in NHL history that briefly played here.