On the Penguins: Team of the '90s
Clockwise from bottom, Mario Lemieux with the first Cup in 1991, Larry Murphy, Ulf Samuelsson, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Stevens and Bob Errey. INSET: Darius Kasparaitis.
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Things changed for the Penguins during the 1990s.
Before then, success meant just qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and players set the franchise's standard for excellence simply by being chosen to play in the All-Star Game. It didn't matter if they only got in because league rules dictated that each team be represented.
But after two-plus decades that were, for the most part, best forgotten -- except by those who are big fans of gut-wrenching defeats, bankruptcy or relocation threats -- the Penguins underwent an extreme makeover during the '90s.
They won two Stanley Cups and the only Presidents' Trophy in franchise history and, especially during the first half of the decade, never went more than a couple of shifts without sending at least one future Hall of Famer over the boards.
Which made it quite challenging to settle on the 20 members of their Team of the Decade.
The intent was not to identify the 12 most talented forwards and six most skilled defensemen, but to assemble a team that follows the rough template of the 2009-10 Penguins: Two lines counted on to drive the offense, a third that's good at both ends and an "energy line" that blends physicality with responsible defense. The defense pairings are intended to offer a balance of offense and defense.
Players were selected on the basis of their performance for the Penguins during the period of 1990-91 through 1999-2000.
Barrasso: Could have been playoff MVP in 1992.
Bourque: Played a good game long before he started talking one.
Coffey: Made things exciting at both ends of the ice.
Errey: Reliable and responsible, played bigger than he was.
Francis: One of the great two-way centers in NHL history.
Hatcher: Too bad he didn't have brother Derian's mean streak.
Jagr: Adored, then abhorred, like few others.
Kasparaitis: Will anyone forget that knockout hit on Eric Lindros?
Kovalev: One of hockey's greatest pure talents.
Lang: Arrived on waivers, left as a star.
Lemieux: The cornerstone of it all.
Mullen: Skill and instincts surpassed only by his willingness to compete.
Murphy: Blended steady, cerebral defense with excellent offensive ability.
K. Samuelsson: Had the wingspan of a pterodactyl, and used it effectively.
U. Samuelsson: Hard-hitting, often nasty, game made him a folk hero here.
Stevens: A prototypical power forward -- big, tough, fast, skilled.
Straka: Small but speedy, could play anywhere up front.
Tocchet: Rugged, combative style complemented some pretty fair talent.
Trottier: Capped Hall of Fame career by winning two Cups here.
Wregget: Labeled a backup, but didn't play like it.
First Published January 24, 2010 12:00 am