On the Penguins: The years in numbers -- 16-30

Part II: A list for the digital age

Sometimes, it's a pretty easy call.

Even if five dozen guys had worn No. 66 for the Penguins, the unanimous choice as the top player to pull on that sweater would have been Mario Lemieux.

With a lot of other numbers, though, it's not so clear-cut. No. 22, for example. And No. 25. And No. 29.

In recognition of what all the 550-plus players who have worn a Penguins sweater have contributed to the franchise during the Civic/Mellon Arena era, the Post-Gazette is offering a multi-installment rundown of the most memorable to wear each number ever given to a Penguin, along with a few guys worthy of honorable mention (not always for their on-ice accomplishments).

The criteria are nebulous, and selections are intended to reflect what a player did as a member of the Penguins and while wearing that particular number here.

Here is Part II, covering Nos. 16-30.

16. Jay Caufield wasn't the most talented of the 26 players who have worn this number, but his physical presence contributed to their first two Stanley Cups. Mark Taylor never lived up to his considerable two-way promise, partly because of injuries.

17. Rick Kehoe, who also wore No. 8, had enough of a gift for goal-scoring that he edges out Ron Schock, an underrated two-way center and captain during the 1970s.

18. Lowell MacDonald, who likely got a bit too much credit in the first installment for his performance while wearing No. 14, did his best work wearing this number. Marian Hossa and Craig Simpson might have challenged him if they had played here longer. Wally Boyer, too.

19. Jean Pronovost was one of the most prolific goal-scorers in franchise history, putting up 316 in 753 games. Quality players like Gregg Sheppard, Ryan Whitney and Bryan Trottier weren't with the Penguins long enough to seriously threaten him.

20. Paul Gardner was downright lethal around the net and particularly dangerous on the power play. Sorry, Roman Oksiuta fans.

21. Michel Briere, for whom the number was retired after he suffered mortal injuries in an auto accident, is the obvious selection. Keith McCreary will be the only other player in franchise history to wear it.

22. Give the nod to Bob (Battleship) Kelly, whose wrist shot was almost as dangerous as his fists, but there is no shortage of contenders for the top spot. Greg Polis and Mike Bullard were skilled enough to be selected for all-star games, and Rick Tocchet's blend of talent and toughness was a lot like Kelly's.

23. Randy Hillier was a rock-solid defenseman whose personal stat sheet didn't begin to reflect his value. Kjell Samuelsson did a pretty nice job in his own zone, too.

24. Ian Moran gave the Penguins 432 workmanlike games and had the endearing habit of spraying WD-40 on his cranky knees to keep them loose. That gives him the edge on Jean-Guy Lagace, whose hip checks -- when he connected with them -- were far more spectacular, but also more conventional, than using an industrial fluid for medicinal purposes.

25. Kevin Stevens was the prototypical power forward two decades ago, and Randy Carlyle remains the only Penguin to win a Norris Trophy. Sharing a number with guys like that was a tough break for worthy candidates such as Dennis Owchar and Max Talbot.

26. Syl Apps played between MacDonald and Pronovost on the Century Line, one of the NHL's best offensive units during the mid-1970s. Wouldn't have liked his chances in a fight with Mark Kachowski, though.

27. Alexei Kovalev is one of the great pure talents to pass through the NHL in the post-expansion era and did his best work as a Penguin. Rod Schutt could score goals, even if he didn't do it as well as Steve Shutt, who, legend holds, Baz Bastien believed actually was the guy he was acquiring from Montreal for a first-round draft choice.

28. Dan Frawley had terrific intangibles, albeit no great talent of which to speak. If it came down to a sentimental choice, Mario Faubert -- who was wearing No. 5 when he suffered the ghastly broken leg that ended his promising career --would be a no-brainer.

29. Marc-Andre Fleury gets the nod over a pretty fair group of goaltenders who've worn this number. So does a versatile and often underrated guy, Phil Bourque, who was one of the blue-collar heroes of the Penguins' first two Stanley Cup clubs.

30. Les Binkley.was the first No. 1 goalie in franchise history, a distinction even Cam Newton and Philippe DeRouville could not take away.

Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . For more on the Penguins, read the new Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari can be reached at dmolinari@post-gazette.com . First Published November 22, 2009 5:00 AM


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