?Nov. 18. Baldwin, with a consortium of other businessmen that does not include Martha, buys the team from DeBartolo for $41 million, and rumors are rife that several highly paid players, including Lemieux, will be sold, despite repeated statements to the contrary by Baldwin.
?Nov. 26. Johnson dies.
Bowman's best efforts notwithstanding, Johnson has so far proved irreplaceable. Badger Bob had a special ability to keep everyone on the team—even players who were frequently scratched from the lineup—feeling involved and important. When their time came, these players produced. Pressed into service last spring, backup goaltender Frank Pietrangelo won four postseason games. Seldom-used forward Jiri Hrdina scored two goals against the New Jersey Devils to help win the series-clinching game in the first round of the playoffs.
"Bob made so much of the time he was given," says left wing Troy Loney. " 'Every day's a bonus!' he'd tell us. If a guy was tense the morning of a game, he'd say, 'Go see a movie—see a Western!' or 'Try walking your dog!' He was a teacher; he loved hearing different ideas, talking, being around people."
Bowman is "much more traditional," says Loney. "With Scotty, it's "Your line's up, get out there and do your job.' "
Instead, the Penguins have done half a job, reluctant to defend against goals while eager to score them. Lemieux, Stevens and Jaromir Jagr were the starting forwards for the Wales Conference in January's All-Star Game. Stevens emerged in last season's playoffs as one of the league's power forwards, and at week's end he was second in the NHL in scoring with 92 points. Jagr, who's averaging more than a point a game, is a prodigiously skilled 20-year-old Czech. Mullen, who turned 35 last week, had 36 goals.
Trouble is, to produce all that firepower the forwards have been playing run-and-gun at the expense of their out-manned defensemen and their vulnerable goalie. Consequently, as of Sunday, Pittsburgh had the fourth-worst goals-against average (3.82) in the NHL. More worrisome for the Pengiuns, the better teams in their division had them solved. Pittsburgh was 1-4 against the Washington Capitals, 2-4 against the New York Rangers and 2-4 against the Devils.
Unbalanced and stale, Pittsburgh needed a kick start. So for the second straight year, Patrick pulled the trigger on a late-season blockbuster deal. Will the trade, which makes sense for the Penguins on paper, ignite them again?
Having learned of the trade, Coffey laced up his skates and went out on Pittsburgh's empty Civic Arena ice. He skated alone for 30 minutes, until 2 a.m., thinking, he later told reporters, "about the good times" he'd had in Pittsburgh.
Come playoff time, we will be able to tell whether more good times await the Penguins, or if they will have to make do with memories.