Penguins fans remember the heartbreakersCNNSI.com looked at a few of the transactions that made Penguins fans shout, "Say It Ain't So." Then we opened the mailbag and let users vent on those and other dirty deals from over the years. Here is a sampling of your reactions:
Ron Francis? Surely it was just the result of a typo that he was left off your list (or, perhaps you don't consider the failure of the Pens to re-sign him as a "trade"?). In any case, the loss of St. Francis was a big blow to the team in terms of both skills and leadership.
When I was reading your "Say It Ain't So" archive of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I noticed a couple of heartbreakers that were not included. The first is Sergei Zubov to Dallas for Kevin Hatcher. Craig Patrick traded our best defenseman for a person who is nothing more than a liability on the ice. Dallas is probably still laughing at that deal, and I don't blame them. The next is us not coming to terms with Patrick Lalime. He should have been considered our goaltender of the future and we got practically nothing for him. Our goaltending situation would be so much better now if we still had him, instead we have two young, virtually unproven goaltenders.
Your selections are all valid, but why limit yourselves to the Craig Patrick era? This franchise was a laughingstock prior to Patrick's arrival, and there are certainly plenty of trades during this time to support this.
Many of them were made by Adlege "Baz" Bastein, the GM who was very adept at botching trades and helping the rich get richer at the Penguins' expense. One trade which stands out in my mind was one made in the early 1980s with the Minnesota North Stars. Pittsburgh traded George Ferguson to Minnesota for Anders Hakkensen and another player whose name escapes me, which is indicative of the noteworthiness of the players involved and the impact that any of them had. However, part of the deal involved exchanging No. 1 picks in the 1983 draft. The Penguins finished dead last, but the North Stars had the No. 1 pick.
Of course, history shows that this cloud had a silver lining. First, the North Stars chose Brian Lawton, who never did much (Pat LaFontaine went No. 3 that year and Steve Yzerman went No. 4). The Penguins then proceeded to have another horrible year in 1983-84. While they were on their way to finishing last again, Bastein was killed in a car accident before he had a chance to make another brilliant trade. Ed Johnston took over as interim GM and, unlike Bastein, rebuffed many offers and held on to the No. 1 pick. The Penguins then selected Mario Lemieux in the 1984 draft, and the rest is history.
I was totally crushed when the Penguins sent Norm McIver away for Neil Wilkinson. Neil played what, like six games for the Pens over the next three seasons? Norm was the man. He quarterbacked the power play like no others since then (except Zubov, who didn't shoot anyway). After the Penguins traded him their power play went in the toilet and they haven't recovered on the blue line since.
John Moore, Pasadena, Md.
I have a few issues with your choices for the Penguins' edition of "Say It Ain't So":
1) That "Mario" character you hauled out for the tale of the Jagr trade --How about swapping it with a REAL Pens fan's opinion? I, for one, was sorry to see him go. For many of us, he was the successor to Mario's throne, even the second coming of Mario. But it's no use keeping a man somewhere he's unhappy, especially when you can't afford to keep him and re-sign your dozen or so essential free agents?
2) Glen Murray for Ed Olczyk wasn't as mind-boggling as you seem to think. Sure, Murray has suddenly emerged, but he was so non-productive at the time that most Pens fans were glad to see the back of him. We basically traded a minor talent for an old minor talent. No big whoop.
3) How about a pre-Craig Patrick event? The Pens have had so many boneheaded general managers (Tony Esposito) and coaches (Pierre Creamer) that it's no wonder the team was a laughingstock for so long. Or how about something that WASN'T a trade? This is the franchise that has declared bankruptcy twice. This is the franchise that suffered through so many horrible seasons before drafting their saviour. This is the franchise who lost Michel Briere, a sure-fure breakout star, to a car accident in 1974. This is the franchise whose pet penguin mascot died of pneumonia a few days after the franchise was announced (Talk about bad omens!). There's enough "Say It Ain't So" moments to fill a book.
How about this one. Mark Recchi and Paul Coffey for Rick Tocchet, Ulf Samuelson and Ken Wregget. That was just plain dumb. Yeah, we got the Cup, but those three players weren't exactly regular-season performers. It tore my heart out when they traded the Rechin-ball to the hated Flyers. Now Recchi is thriving in Philly and where is Wregget? Manitoba. How about Tocchet? Flyers. Samuelson? No one really cares.
Or how about trading rookie phenom goaltender Patrick Lalime, you know, the guy that set an NHL record for consectutive wins for a goalie. Remember him? Barrasso came back prematurely from a leg injury and we shipped good ol Patrick back to the minors. Then proceeded to trade away the goaltending future of the Pens. If we had had Lalime throughout the whole late half of the '90s or how about in the '96 conference finals, we would have a few more Cups under our belt.
Even better, getting rid of Shawn McEachern to Ottawa.
Wait, there's more. How about trading Lucky Luc? Imagine the best sniper in the league on a line with Super Mario, but no that couldn't be. Mario sat out Robitaille's season with the Pens. Sorry, but a sniper can't score without a good passer. And since Jagr got Ronnie Francis on his line. That left no one for Robitaille.
The Markus Naslund deal? Don't even get me started on that.
In need of a star defenseman? Notify the Pittsburgh Penguins immediately.
The trade that sent Lucky Luc and Ulf Samuelsson to New York got Petr Nedved and Sergei Zubov. Zubov was eventually dealt to Dallas for the services of the aging Kevin Hatcher. The reason: Zubov didn't shoot enough. Well, maybe they were right but everything else he did was great and he sure could be used on the blue line in Pittsburgh now. To make it even better, Hatcher was dealt to the New York Rangers for Peter Popovic who the Penguins let go through free agency to the Boston Bruins. Eventually, we were giving the Stars Zubov for aging and extremely slow defenders who thankfully are no longer in Pittsburgh. Stars: Big Win. Penguins: Nothing in Return.
Last season, one of the Pittsurgh fan favorites was given away to an absolutely horrible Tampa Bay team. Yes, I'm talking about everyone's favorite player, Matt Barnaby. He was traded for Wayne Primeau just so they would have more meat on their forward line. I was deeply distraught to see him leave, and hope that the Tampa Bay fans except him as did the Pittsburgh fans.