This is a post originally posted on my blog (SHAMELESS SELF PLUG ALERT) that I can provide the link for anyone that is curious. I wrote this in a fit of rage after last night's Staal-Prust shenanigans, and I thought my fellow Rangers fans might enjoy it. I apologize for the length in advance, but I was PISSED.
I will admit that this post is directly related to last night's Penguins-Rangers clash, a game that the Rangers lost 2-1 in a shootout. However, this has nothing to do with the fact that the Rangers lost, and instead with the 2nd period altercation between the Penguins' Jordan Staal and the Rangers' Brandon Prust. After a clean hit by Prust on a Penguins player, Staal skated from the other side of the ice and punched Prust with a gloved hand. This action resulted in a match penalty, a five minute penalty and missing the rest of the game. However, despite typically doling out a suspension, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decided to reinstate Staal for the next game. This exchange highlights what I, and many others, perceive as unfair treatment towards the Penguins, the league's 'marquee franchise', by the league office. While I'm in the mood, here are some other criticisms I have towards the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise.
1. Bandwagon Fans
Where to start with this one? The Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era is not the first era of great hockey in Pittsburgh. The Penguins had one of the five most talented players in the history of the league in Mario Lemieux, and won consecutive Stanley Cups when Lemieux was partnered with Jaromir Jagr. However, after Lemieux's retirement and Jagr's departure, Penguins fans abandoned the arena in droves, showing that a great run of success could not maintain fan interest in the team once the run ended. The Penguins became a major threat for relocation until they were able to draft Crosby. If the 'fans' forgot the team after Lemieux and Jagr, who says that they'll stay after the Crosby-Malkin winning ceases. Is this really the team the NHL wants representing their sport?
For the uneducated, tanking is the practice of intentionally losing games towards the end of the season in order to better a team's draft position. While many teams have been guilty of this practice, the Penguins are by far the primary offenders. Starting in the year 2002, the Penguins had the 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, and 2nd picks in the draft in consecutive years. And these picks were not flops, as they produced Crosby, Malkin, Staal, and Marc Andre-Fleury, the cornerstones of their team. Seeing as these top picks produced good players, there is no reason why they should have been picking in the top 5 five years in a row.
3. Dirty Play
Even while injured, Crosby recently made headlines by threatening to sit out the NHL All-Star game in order to protest the NHL's stance on hits to the head. While this stance may seem nice at first, Crosby came to this realization only after he was concussed himself, on a completely incidental hit. And by the way Crosby, have you met Matt Cooke? Your teammate, who started this whole concussion scare by his completely indefensible hit on Marc Savard, practically ending his career? (http://tinyurl.com/yb45wth) This hit would have been slightly more acceptable had Cooke been a big hitter, and this hit could have possibly been an attempted big hit gone wrong. However, judging by Cooke's performance against Evander Kane (http://tinyurl.com/yc8arja) he is just a cowardly cheap-shotter. This dirty play hasn't been limited to lesser Penguins either, as Malkin and Crosby have both been guilty of performing a 'slewfoot', a dirty maneuver that is incredibly dangerous and often results in injury (http://tinyurl.com/5uap82o
). Not only have these slewfoots endangered the victims, the NHL's refusal to penalize these dirty moves has resulted in lesser players, such as PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, to attempt them, endangering other players.
I am not saying that all Penguins fans are bandwagoners, nor am I suggesting that the NHL contract the Penguins. I am simply stating that the Penguins are undeserving of being the NHL's premier franchise of the post-Lockout era. Because of the aforementioned factors, it would be unwise for Gary Bettman to cast aside franchises that have had strong fanbases for generations in order to promote this franchise that might not have the same following in 15 years and may send the wrong message to prospective fans.