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(Kudos to EN reader Joy Fredrick)
What did Gary Roberts do?
We can't recall any player in Penguins history or even Pittsburgh sports history quite like Gary Roberts. We don't remember fans falling in love so deeply with a player in such a short period of time. Sure people adored Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby right off the bat but that was because they were proclaimed saviors of the franchise in one way or another. We seem to recall Ulf Samuelsson becoming a fan favorite quickly, but we have a feeling fans loved him because they loved saying "Ulf" as much as they liked his brutal style of play. We imagine Pittsburgh fans jumped on Jack Lambert's bandwagon immediately as well, but we weren't alive back then so we can't make that call.
It's hard to quantify what Gary Roberts meant to this team or its fan base. He only had 28 points in 57 career games here. That puts him in a tie for 199th place on the team's all-time scoring list with such luminaries as Grant Jennings, Tom Roulston and Joe Dziedzic. By the time he got here, statistical accomplishments just weren't part of Roberts' game. Attitude was.
He made defenseman think twice about retrieving pucks in the corner with his forechecking.
He could make life miserable for goaltenders by setting up shop in the crease.
He held opponents responsible for transgressions against his teammates.
He drank water:
Most of all, he played the sport the way most of us probably hope we would if we were lucky enough to get one shift in the NHL. He went all out. He left every bit of his soul on the ice. He's much more than just a hockey player but in many ways, that's exactly what he is.
But it's time for him to go. At least in his eyes. Roberts' agent said his client will continue to play in the NHL next season. It just won't be in a Penguins jersey next season.
It's probably time Roberts moves on in all honesty. For as much as his heart and desire is celebrated, he's essentially a third- or fourth-liner. He averaged only 13:20 of ice time in the regular season and dealt with injuries throughout the regular season and playoffs. Roberts' fire might've still been there but his body just wasn't. Even Gary Roberts can only do so much to combat age.
Regardless of what direction the Penguins or Roberts take come July 1, his impact on this franchise will be remembered for quite some time. WDGRD? He became one of the most popular and beloved Penguins of all-time.
Starting tomorrow, the Post-Gazette's Web site will undergoing a few changes. One of those changes will be a new publishing platform for Empty Netters and some of the Post-Gazette's other blogs. This platform will allow you to post comments and do a few other things. In general it will be more interactive and less clunky than this current platform.
We're going to need a few days to get used to this new platform so excuse us if things are a little slow here for a while. We fully anticipate being ready for July 1 when we blog the first day of free agency.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-Evgeni Malkin is still willing to take a lower salary in order to help the Penguins stay competitive.
-If Malkin isn't going to take the Continental Hockey League's money, who is?
-Today's reminder that Marian Hossa probably won't re-sign with the Penguins is brought to you by Dave Molinari.
-Faceoff-Factor followed up on our post from yesterday comparing the Lightning to the Penguins and pointed out Tampa Bay had some lousy drafts.
-Georges Laraque hosted "Off The Record," a Canadian talk show. One of his guests was Gary Roberts.
-Roberts is well on his way towards becoming one of the most popular Pirates pitchers of all time as well:
-The Senators bought out goaltender Ray Emery. He is now an unrestricted free agent.
-The Maple Leafs are not expected to bring back restricted free agent forward Kyle Wellwood. Also, new Toronto coach Ron Wilson will announce today he is bringing in Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler as assistant coaches. Both served under Wilson in that capacity in San Jose.
-The Maple Leafs asked a potential draft pick a really odd question.
-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was very coy when asked if his team was interested in Marian Hossa.
-The Lightning's new owners/ring masters proclaimed that their team would be "shockingly aggressive" with free agents.
-Forward Vaclav Prospal agreed to a four-year deal with the Lightning.
-Barry Melrose is expected to be announced as Tampa Bay's new coach today.
-Coyotes assistant and former Penguins forward Rick Tocchet is expected to join Melrose as an assistant.
-The Hurricanes put forward Jeff Hamilton and defenseman David Tanabe on waivers.
-The Capitals put forward Ben Clymer on waivers. (Registration required.)
-If you're a Capital, you don't want to be unveiling a new uniform.
-Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk got married in a pretty elaborate ceremony recently.
-The Predators signed defenseman Shea Weber to a three-year deal. The Hockey News considered Weber the top restricted free agent out on the market.
-The Blackhawks signed forward Andrew Ladd to a two-year contract.
-The Kings might not be able to buy out goaltender Dan Cloutier as planned. The goaltender might have suffered an injury that would prevent the Kings from setting him free.
-This week's NHL owner involved in something illegal news item is brought to you by Henry Samueli of the Anaheim Ducks. Samueli pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Security and Exchange Commission. He is expected to be placed on probation and pay 12.2 million in fines.
-The average NHL salary is approaching $2 million.
-James Mirtle went all pie chart on a post we made last week.
First Published June 24, 2008 6:41 am