Flashback – The 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins Off-season

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 2: Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates on the ice during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 2, 1993 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Every off-season sees hockey teams make adjustments. When the Pittsburgh Penguins raise their fifth Stanley Cup Championship banner to the rafters of the PPG Paints Arena on October 4, 2017, they will have the hockey world focused on whether or not they can achieve a third straight Stanley Cup title. A feat that has not been replicated since the New York Islanders collected four straight championships from 1980-83.

Flashback – The 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins Off-season

It will not be the first time the Penguins had an opportunity to chase immortality. That chance was a quarter-century ago. What happened the last time the Pittsburgh was gearing up to begin the pursuit of a achieving a Dynasty status?

Former Glory

In the summer of 1992, no one could have predicted what a juggernaut the Penguins were going to become during the centennial season of the Stanley Cup. The 1992-93 Penguins are considered to be one of the finest teams to never win a title. The team would set the NHL on fire; re-writing pages of hockey history. They rallied together when adversity introduced itself to the locker room.

Key departures

Defenseman Gordie Roberts signed with the Boston Bruins, having appeared in 19 of the 21 games the Penguins played in the 1991-92 postseason. He collected two assists as well as earning 32 penalty minutes. Roberts also ran the gauntlet during the 1990-91 playoffs, appearing in all 24 games the Penguins skated in, earning three points (one goal, two assists) and 63 PIM, en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup victory.

Rugged Left Winger Phil Bourque, was also a key contributor to both Cup runs. He appeared in all 45 games, collecting 20 Points (nine goals, 11 assists). Bourque also went to free agency. He elected to take his act to Broadway, signing with the New York Rangers.

Free agent signings

To fill the hole that Roberts departure left on the blue line, the Penguins looked to the rival Washington Capitals to provide the stopgap. They signed veteran Dave Tippet, who the Penguins became well accustomed with during their consecutive series with the Caps. Tippet would add stability to the defence core. He provided another layer of leadership, as well as playoff acumen from eight straight post-season appearances.

The Penguins also re-signed 35-year-old right winger Joe Mullen. Mullen required knee surgery following an injury he sustained in the series with the Rangers. He would miss the first month of the 1992-93 season.

Who is the number 1?

One of the biggest question marks heading into the 1992-93 season was the status of starting goaltender Tom Barrasso. Barrasso found himself in a situation not dissimilar from the current crop of free agent Penguins looking to cash in on heroic playoff performances.

Barrasso also had a very strong case. He backstopped the team to consecutive titles and rattled off 11 straight wins in the process. The negotiations were difficult and Barrasso was threatening to skip training camp if a deal was not met.

The danger was averted when Barrasso signed a five year, $6.5 million contract ($1.5 Million AAV) in early September. It was a significant pay increase from his previous year’s work, where he earned $375,000.

To the Future

It remains to be seen what the Penguins roster will look like come that crisp October evening. What complexion will the have? Can the Penguins can muster up a 12th consecutive postseason appearance? Will the 2017-18 season hold much of the same adversity that the 1992-93 faced?

Only time will tell. A three-peat in the modern era would further solidify the legendary status of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Given the complexities of today’s game the only guarantee in hockey is, there are no guarantees. Just ask the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

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