The Pittsburgh Penguins joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1967. Their first year saw them place fifth in the western division
and out of the playoffs. The team wasn't a year old before owenership issues came to the front. As they worked through the financial
issues, the Penguins would get the first taste of posteason play in their third year. They finished second in their division, making the
NHL playoffs and before losing to the St Louis Blues in the semi-finals. After yet another change in ownership and front office moves,
the Penguins were back in the playoffs in 1971, only to be swept by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Pittsburgh Penguins went hot and cold streaks through much of the 1970s. They missed the NHL playoffs for two consecutive years in
1972-1973. They turned it around in the 1974-75 season, finishing third in the newly establised Norris division. The Pens rolled throuh
the first round, sweeping the St Louis Blues and faced off against the New York Islanders. They took a quick three games to none lead,
but saw the Islanders comeback all the way to tie the series, and eventually win it with a 1-0 shutout of the Pens in game seven. The
next couple of seasons saw the Penguins either lose in the first round or miss the NHL playoffs all-together. The team was back in
the playoffs in 1978, losing to the Boston Bruins in the quarter-finals. In 1979 the Penguins unveiled a new uniform, relegating
their blue and white uniforms for a black and gold outfit, similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates.
The new uniforms and the new decade saw the Pittsburgh Penguins start off by making the playoffs in their next three years even though
they ended up losing in the first round in each of those three years. The 1983-84 season saw Pittsburgh fall to last place overall in
the NHL. The upside was the ability to draft Mario Lemieux
as their first overall pick in the 1984 NHL entry draft. Lemieux was considered a superstar in the making and he did not disappoint.
Mario scored 100 points in his first year and won the Calder trophy as the best NHL rookie. His on ice numbers continued to imporove
and he was soon named an NHL all-star. Even with Lemieux's superb on-ice play, the Penguins continued to struggle as a team. They
finished at or near the bottom of their division for six years, in the process missing the playoffs. The turnaround began in 1988-89
when the Penguins found themselves in the playoffs, making it to the division finals. Craig Patrick came in as the general manager in
late 1989, and would go on to put his stamp on the team. His most significant trade involved prying Hartford Whaler great
in a multi-player deal.
Soon after in the 1990 NHL entry draft, Patrick made two equally significant moves by drafting
as their first round draft
pick and hiring Bob Johnson as coach.
These additions had an almost instant impact. The Penguins finished first in the Patrick division during the 1990-91 season. They worked
their way through the playoffs and defeated the Minnesota North Stars in a six game series to win their first ever Stanley Cup
championship. The playoffs cemented Mario Lemieux's position as the most dominant player in hockey, as he won the Conn Smythe trophy
for most valuable player in the playoffs. The Penguins continued to take advantage of Lemieux's offensive dominance the next season as
the high scoring squad won its second straight Stanley Cup championship, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games. The
offseason though was marred with tragedy as Bob Johnson was diagnosed with brain tumors and was replaced by the legendary Scotty
Bowman behind the bench. Johnson would pass away in the fall of 1991 and the team would have to continue its on-ice quest for a
three-peat with even more troubles. This time it was their super star player Mario Lemieux, diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.
Lemieux had radiation treatment for a month, and surprisingly returned to the NHL to pick up where he'd left off by winning the
scoring title. The Pens made quick work of the New Jersey Devils, but were stunned by the New York Islanders in a seven game series.
The next few years saw the emergence of Jaromir Jagr as a dominant force in the NHL. Mario Lemieux was still the marquee player, but
back problems were hindering his playing time. In the summer of 1994 he announced that he would take a year off from the game to recuperate
from his ailments. The Penguins playoff performances seemed to fall short of the two Stanley Cups they won in the early '90s. Lemieux
returned in 1995, scoring a league leading 161 points and bagging the Art Ross trophy. Injuries though would continue to hamper
his play and he finally announced his retirement at th end of the 1996-97 season. That off season also saw the firing of veteran coach
Ed Johnston in favor of the defensive minded Kevin Constantine. The team changed its style of play of a more defensive one and finished
first in their division, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 1998 NHL playoffs.
Change in Pittsburgh continued as the Penguins struggled to maintain their previous stature. The economics of the game put a huge
strain on the team, which could still field a very potent lineup. The Pens continued to make the playoffs but were unable to re-establish
any long term marks. 2001 saw the dramatic comeback of Mario Lemieux and it took no time before 'Super Mario' was back in his usual form.
Though unable to play back to back games, he still provided the Pens with a potent offensive threat. But short lived was the stay of
the Penguins' premier offensive weapon Jaromir Jagr. Jagr would be traded to the Washington Capitals for some draft picks; a trade
that was for all intents and purposes a salary dump. The Pens continued to struggle with the economic realities of today's NHL, having
traded Alexei Kovalev to the Rangers and going for a young (and inexpensive) team under coach Eddie Olczyk with Mario Lemieux
handling the multiple roles of player, Chairman and CEO of the Penguins.
Lemieux wasn't available for most of the 2003-04 season, playing in only 10 games due to several injuries. The team was lead by Dick Tarnstrom and his
52 points and finished with a meagre 23 wins and league low 58 points. The Penguins are hoping to turn things around in the 2005-06 season after drafting
young phenom Sidney Crosby
and with a hopefully rejuvenated return of
Mario Lemieux. They also spent big dollars to sign free agents Sergei Gonchar, John LeClair and Zigmund Palffy. But the team got off to a poor start and
changes were swift with coach Ed Olczyk handing over the reins to Michel Therrien. Ziggy Palffy announced a surprising retirement in the middle of the season and
Mario Lemieux had to finally call it quits due to an irregular heart beat. They finished second last in the overall NHL standings and replaced long standing GM
Craig Patrick with Ray Shero, formerly an assistant with the Nashville Predators. The team hopes to bring in another great prospect Evgeni Malkin into the mix
for the 2006-07 season.
Pittsburgh Penguins Overview:
Team name: Pittsburgh Penguins
Arena: Mellon Arena
Stanley Cups won: 2
(1991, 1992, 2009)
Pittsburgh Penguins Resources:
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