Big Lead Sports Bar


10 Reasons to Watch the Penguins

I know we're in the midst of another exciting season of smashmouth Pittsburgh Steeler championship football, but there's another developing situation in the city's sports scene that deserves some attention. No, I'm not talking about Charlie Batch leading the NFL in passing; I'm talking about Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.
The Penguins may or may not be here by this time next year, but if this turns out to be their final season in Pittsburgh, it should be a memorable one. I know some Pittsburghers have sports
tunnel-vision this time of year. But to those of you only worried about pigskin matters, I ask you to give Penguins hockey a chance. You will be pleasantly surprised.
If you need some factual evidence why you should pay attention, here are 10 Reasons to Watch the Penguins:
10. Jordan Staal - He may make the team this year, he may not, but eventually Staal will be a star in the NHL. As a birthday present from his new teammates, Staal was treated to a public caning via hockey sticks in front of 1,200 onlookers at training camp. And he can look forward to a future of comparisons to his older brother Eric, a la the Manning brothers, for the rest of his career. Which means we'll see the hockey equivalent of Archie Manning roughly 700 times the in first game where his sons face each other.

Jordan Staal: now he's legal

9. John LeClair- LeClair, in his 52nd NHL season, brings a veteran presence to "the room". He occasionally spins yarns of hockey days gone by to the young Penguins; like in 1998, when he played on a U.S. Olympic team that finished sixth at the Olympics and trashed a series of Nagano hotel rooms.

This plastic likeness is actually more flexible than its real-life counterpart

8. Jarkko Ruutu - As Mark Madden would say, "There's no I in team, but there are three U's in Ruutu". Ruutu is a muckracker that Pittsburghers will fact, they may already love him. The picture below shows Marty Straka retaliating to a hit Ruutu laid on Jaromir Jagr at the Olympics. So for those who still hold a grudge against The Mulleted One, this Ruutu's for You.

The first of many retaliatory shots you'll see taken at Ruutu this season

7. Sergei Gonchar - The 32-year old defenseman has a lot on his shoulders. First, he has the burden of living up to a five-year, $25 million contract. On top of that, he now has the added responsibility of watching after countryman Evgeni Malkin in his rookie season. Upon hearing the news, Gonchar immediately called Maurice Clarett and asked for his advice on buying a bulletproof vest.
Clarett would recommend the Kevlar IIA

6. Colby Armstrong - He was Robin to Sidney Crosby's Batman last season, scoring 40 points in 47 games last year. But his role for this season is not yet cast in stone, as evidenced by his two-way contract that includes a provision for Armstrong being sent to the minors.
While Armstrong is a gritty, exciting player, I have to admit, there's not too much out there on his off-ice life. He seems to be a pretty normal, down-to-earth guy, which translates to "Blogger's Nightmare". If he wants more coverage in the Blogosphere, he needs to do something extreme. Like buy a Bentley. Or date Sally Wiggin. Or invite some NFL players to a party in the Strip District. And watch his popularity skyrocket.

5. Brooks Orpik - In Orpik's short career, he has acheived some level of infamy. You see, in the 2005 campaign, ol' Brooksie intentionally checked Carolina's Erik Cole from behind, crashing him into the boards and fracturing his C5 vertebra. Cole was knocked out for the remainder of the season, only returning for Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals.
But here's the best part of the story: the Penguins traded Mark Recchi to Carolina to take Cole's spot in the roster a few days later. Upon his arrival, Orpik asked Recchi for Cole's phone number in order to apologize. Cole declined. Circle October 14th on your calendar, as they will have a little reunion planned.

4. Mad Mike Therrien - The Penguins' head coach brings a fiery temper behind the bench for a second season. Some believe he is on a short leash because he was not hired by the Penguins' new GM, Ray Shero. So Therrien will be under a certain degree of pressure to win now. Which goes against the Penguins' strategy the last four seasons, which is to finish low enough to draft first or second the following year and build a SuperTeam of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Staal.

Therrien wonders how he could possibly translate all these top draftees into wins

3. Marc-Andre Fleury - No, he doesn't have a 15-year contract. But the giggly Canadian can finally look forward to a full season in the Burgh, with no more shuttling back and forth to and from the minors. Fleury will build upon a 2005 season in which he posted a 3.25 goals-against average and 13 wins. Hopefully he'll be able to crack the 20-win barrier, a milestone not achieved by a Pens goalie since Johan Hedberg in 2001. 20 wins is even more foreign a concept to our baseball team, who hasn't had a 20-game winner since the legendary John Smiley in 1991.

Never before have yellow pads looked better on a bobblehead

2. Evgeni Malkin - Where, oh where, do we start with Malkin?
The Russian Mafia?
Being smuggled out of Finland?
Being the best player not in the NHL in 2005?
To say the least, Malkin will be a fun storyline this year. He's been compared to everyone from Jean Beliveau to Mario Lemieux. And it will be interesting to see him on the power play with Crosby. But most intriguing will be his adjustment to a city that keeps everything in perspective. A city with priorities. A city that gives a thunderous ovation when a football player emerges from a Port-a-john.

No one rocks a jean jacket like Malkin

1. Sidney Crosby - Does anyone have a copy of the NHL by-laws? I want to look up the rule that says the Penguins must have the most exciting player in the game at all times. The rule came into existence in 1984, when the Pens drafted some guy from the Laval Voisins. The rule came up once again in 1990, when Pittsburgh selected an 18-year-old mulleted Czech named Jaromir Jagr. And in 2005, the Penguins literally won the lottery and had Crosby fall into their lap.
Crosby energized a lethargic franchise with a magnetic personality that popped up everywhere from The Tonight Show to Reebok ads. He did not disappoint on the ice either, becoming the youngest player to ever score 100 points, breaking Mario Lemieux's Penguins rookie scoring record in the process.
Unfortunately, Crosby was not that impressive in the eyes of one Wayne Gretzky, who happened to be GM of Team Canada in the Olympics. Gretzky had the task of assembling a seventh-place team, which he pulled off without a hitch. A roster full of Todd Bertuzzis and Shane Doans is better suited for the seventh-place team than a roster full of Sidney Crosbys and Eric Staals.
But what the Great One didn't realize is that he added an Exxon station to the fire that burns in the belly of the hockey prodigy born on 8/7/87. If Crosby has any of Richard Nixon in him, he has an enemies list. I'm sure every member of the Flyers is already on that list; and now Gretzky's name has just been etched onto it as well.
I don't know about you, but I think watching Crosby prove Gretzky wrong on a nightly basis will be a fantastic reason to watch the Pens this year.

Crosby reminds everyone of his draft position


Unknown said...


Great work as usual. I loved the trick jersey comment and picture. Is the trick jersey available from your Steel City company?

Anonymous said...

Another reason to watch....with the hope that maybe, just maybe, they'll play a game with the igloo dome open? Market that and see a guaranteed sell out. It'll give the crazy bastards in Pittsburgh another reason to sit outside in cold weather, drinking and watching sports. Honestly, besides Sudden Death, when was the last time the Civic Arena had the top open for a game?

Anonymous said...

Penguins' sighting: I think I saw Jordan Staal in the Chatham Center parking garage the other day -- it was the first time in my life I ever saw a Saskatchewan license plate.

SAMO said... to see if they give someone a 15 year contract.

Joshua said...

Meadowbrookalum2, it's too expensive to open the dome. And who knows if the upcoming winter will be as mild as last winter?

Anonymous said...

Actually... the huge video scoreboard that was installed at the Arena (on the dime of the Sudden Death production company) prohibits the dome roof from opening.

Apparently, it weighs too much for the structure to support it when the roof is open. Thus rendering the coolest feature of the building more useless than Rico Fata.iyou

Anonymous said...

I remember an advertisement for an Aerosmith concert with the dome open back in the 80s or something.

I was pretty young then, so I could have just imagined the whole thing.

Steeltown Mike said...

Malkin: The Saga Continues