Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Four Seasons Later, '09 Ring Still Sits Alone

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Four Seasons Later, '09 Ring Still Sits Alone

Article excerpt

The Penguins, of course, never said anything of the sort. Not publicly, anyway.

That would have been too brash. Too brazen. Too far out of character.

Doesn't mean they didn't think about it, though.

And they probably should have.

There's no question plenty of people outside the organization did.

Indeed, when the core of their team -- guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury -- came together in the middle of the last decade, the most popular question about the Penguins was not whether they could win a Stanley Cup, but whether one hand would be enough to contain all the rings they'd have a chance to earn.

Not because they'd be competing against inferior talent, but because the combination of bad hockey (which yielded lots of high draft choices) and terrific luck (which led to them getting Crosby's rights in the 2005 draft lottery) had allowed them to assemble a group of almost unbounded potential.

That promise began to be realized in the spring of 2008, when the Penguins surged to the Stanley Cup final. A year later, they won a best-of-seven rematch with Detroit, and the party started.

Went on for quite a while, too. But eventually, the celebration stopped. And there hasn't been another since.

The primary reasons have varied -- sensational goaltending by Montreal's Jaroslav Halak in 2010, losing Crosby and Malkin to major injuries a year later, a total meltdown versus Philadelphia in 2012 and a sudden inability to score against Boston this past spring -- but the bottom line hasn't.

Despite being a fixture on the short list of serious Cup contenders for years, the Penguins have just one title to show for it as they prepare for the 2013-14 season.

Winning even one championship, of course, is an epic accomplishment, a feat of which most NHL players can only dream.

" 'Disappointed' is a strong word," Crosby said. "Would I rather be Chicago and have two? Yeah. But I'd [also] rather have more than two. I think a lot of guys would want one, as well."

Still, the bar of achievement for this team, whose lineup is laced with so many elite talents, is set far higher than for most franchises.

Ray Shero replaced Craig Patrick as general manager in 2006 and recognized even before accepting the job that the foundation of a perennial contender looked to be in place, with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Orpik already on the depth chart.

"I know there were always expectations, but these guys were 19, 20 years old when I came in," he said.

He noted that the Penguins reached the Cup final, then won a Cup, faster than many observers had anticipated, but also that they also have seen how an apparent title run can be derailed quickly.

Shero pointed to 2010-11, when the Penguins steamrolled the league through December, only to lose Crosby and Malkin to season- ending injuries. …

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