Connect with us

Penguins

Anderson: Penguins Core Should be 4; Marc-Andre Fleury Legacy

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin

It’s near about mid-August. The dog days of the NHL calendar. No better time to talk about a player whose name seems to always evoke a strong response from Penguins faithful. Marc-Andre Fleury.

See? You had a gut reaction, didn’t you? Perhaps fond memories. Maybe a jolt wondering if this is going to be news of him somehow rejoining the Penguins. Possibly even some eye-rolling.

When it comes to Penguins fans, the topic of the affable, capable former franchise goaltender and his legacy never seems to fade away completely. Could be when Fleury is looking for a new contract, maybe even a new team, and rumors and wishful thinking and even dismay over a potential return surface.

Could be during the season or playoffs when highlights feature Fleury with whatever post-Penguins team he is on – he’s been on three since leaving his original team, currently on a re-upped contract with Minnesota.

Could be anytime. Because Fleury’s name is always a conversation starter in Penguins Nation, on any day of the week that ends in “day.”

So, yeah, let’s talk some Fleury.

This time, the idea of the topic was sparked by some responses when former Penguins teammate Bill Guerin, now the Wild general manager, re-signed Fleury to a two-year, $7 million deal.

The disappointment that showed up on places such as social media were understandable given that Fleury was beloved by many, if a little misguided. The Penguins weren’t bringing him back.

But the vocal minority is what stood out, what led to this discussion. Some expressed relief that there was no chance of Fleury coming back, that at 37 he was too far past his prime. And even that he was and always has been overrated.

For those in that last group, shame on you. Overrated?

Feel free to make your thoughts known in the comments, but the stance in the body of this discussion is, well, not up for discussion.

Fleury is one of the very best goalies in NHL history. A sure Hall of Famer. Since this is a thing in recent years, he arguably has a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of NHL goaltenders.

Just in terms of pure numbers, that is hard to dispute. Check out the top six in NHL history:

  1. Martin Brodeur, 691 wins, 2.24 GAA, .912 SV%
  2. Patrick Roy, 551, 2.54, .910
  3. Marc-Andre Fleury, 520, 2.57, .913
  4. Roberto Luongo, 489, 2.52, .919
  5. Ed Belfour, 484, 2.50, .906
  6. Henrik Lundquist, 459, 2.43, .918.

 

Go ahead. Try to poke-check holes in Fleury’s legacy.

Here’s something to bounce off a goalpost: Fleury should never have left the Penguins. The celebrated core should still be four – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Fleury.

That’s not revisionist history. At the time that Matt Murray was chosen over Fleury, when a handshake deal was struck to leave unprotected so the Vegas Golden Knights could select him in the 2017 expansion draft, this writer didn’t go public with it but told several people the Penguins were making a mistake.

PHN Colleague Dan Kingerski did go public.

Sure, Fleury was 10 years older and many millions more expensive than Murray, but as good as Murray was in the two Stanley Cup runs leading up to that expansion draft, Murray had never been a No. 1 goalie for the entirety of an NHL season. That was a risk that, as it turns out, came back to hurt the Penguins.

Fleury was a known commodity, even if the team’s preference in the playoffs leaned toward Murray, something apparently based on a coach’s comfort level.

It would not have been easy to fit Fleury under the salary cap at that point, but it could have been accomplished, just as bringing back Malkin, Letang, Bryan Rust, and Rickard Rakell somehow worked this offseason, even with a stale salary cap.

Fleury, in his first season with the Golden Knights, backstopped them to the Stanley Cup final and is still going strong despite some overt mismanagement by Vegas and a season with a wretched Chicago club before moving to Minnesota.

Even if his role is reduced some in the next couple or more seasons (good goalies often play to 40, you know), he should finish with the second-most wins in NHL history and other numbers competitive with other all-time greats.

Overrated? Seriously?

Where does that come from?

Perhaps because early in his career, the Gumby-like goalie relied heavily on sometimes outrageous athletic saves. He never lost that ability, but he also grew into an incredibly sound goaltender.

Perhaps the side-eye sometimes thrown at Fleury comes from his personality. He is, in a word, goofy. There’s no denying that. He has a hard time suppressing that toothy grin. He pats his goalposts as thanks when a shot goes off one of them. He’s a class-A prankster.

But don’t be fooled. Fleury cares. To his core.

You didn’t think we would post a lengthy Marc-Andre Fleury discussion without offering a couple of anecdotes, did you? These two illustrate the two sides of Fleury’s personality.

Marc-Andre Fleury Stories

In fall 2008, when the Penguins opened the season in Sweden, the players were on a prepared scavenger hunt as a team-building outing. Fleury was walking through Skansen, the Stockholm zoo, when he spotted a line of golf carts used by staff.

He ran over and looked in every one of them to see if somehow a key had been left. None had. Good thing. He probably would have commandeered one and taken who knows how much grief.

See? Goofy.

During the previous season, Fleury, who has mostly been durable during his career, was out because of a high ankle sprain. One day before practice, he went on the ice early to test the ankle, pushing off the ankle repeatedly to slide across one of the blue lines.

Nope. The ankle wasn’t ready. Fleury slammed his stick on the ice and had to be consoled by a member of the Penguins training staff.

See? He cares.

Much of his heart is still with Pittsburgh, too. Did you see the report at the trade deadline last season that Fleury invoked a clause in his contract and declined the trade to Washington because of the Capitals’ long rivalry with the Penguins and his remaining loyalty to the club that drafted him first overall in 2003?

Maybe one day Fleury will do something whacky – or, really, not so whacky – and sign a one-day tryout contract or some such so that he can retire as a Penguin.

Well, that has been our Marc-Andre Fleury discussion for the dog days of the NHL summer.

But we can’t wrap it up without some hockey eye candy. Here you go:

Subscribe to PHN+

Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

23 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
23 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Keith Yanda
Keith Yanda
1 month ago

While you’re at it bring back Syl Apps, Jean Pronovost and Ron Stackhouse! 🙄🤦🏼‍♂️

DaGama
DaGama
1 month ago
Reply to  Keith Yanda

Good one.

Tom Tarka
Tom Tarka
1 month ago

Solid take! Thanks!

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
1 month ago

Agree with (most) everything you wrote until the Mt. Rushmore statement. Ken Dryden, Dominick Hasek, Jaque Plante off the top of my head. MAF has a single Vezina, while Hasek has like 7. In fact, I can’t remember another year that MAF was even a nominee besides the 20-21 season.

Great Penguin? Absolutely. Mt. Rushmore goalie? no

jackw
jackw
1 month ago

Let’s not forget that Fleury played most of his career on a team that focused more on scoring goals than preventing goals. The polar opposite of Brodeur.

Ellen
Ellen
1 month ago

Disappointed that more than half of these were with Vegas.

Cal
Cal
1 month ago

Don’t forget the amount of $ Fleury and his jersey sales alone generated. I believe the first year he went to Vegas his jersey was # 1 in sales that year. He is extremely marketable = $$$$

Timm
Timm
1 month ago

I’ll never forget the special handshake/gesture that Letang and Fleury had at the end of every game before leaving the ice. He wa… is family.

wilber
wilber
1 month ago

how about fleury getting replaced by his backup in 6 post seasons and having several playoffs with a sub 900 save%. lol

Pepper
Pepper
1 month ago
Reply to  wilber

My second thought. Right after he’s a really good goalie and human being. But he cost them as many or more playoff series than he won for them. And went through long stretches with low confidence and mental fragility.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
1 month ago
Reply to  wilber

All those wins. Winning in the playoffs is hard. Every player loses. Even Sidney Crosby has performed badly in playoff games. Fleury helped the Penguins win 3 Stanley Cups. That is more than the majority of players achieve.

Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
1 month ago

Roy let in 11 goals before demanding a trade, nobody’s perfect on that top list, Luongo & Lundquist I don’t think have a ring, Belfour & Brodeur had some of the best Defensemen. Fleury had his ups & downs, but he does have his name on the cup & Pittsburgh had more parades, nothing to slouch at.

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
1 month ago

Great guy. Great goalie.
Losing MAF still hurts!

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

Great article. Miss him to this day. Would have him back in a hot minute if it could be pulled off. What a great tandem he and Jarry would make.

Dorothy Tecklenburg
Dorothy Tecklenburg
1 month ago

Hated it when he left, followed him where he went, and wish he could have played a few more years here. He will always have a place in my heart.

Cummins
Cummins
1 month ago

Whatever it takes, he will retire as a Penguin. Most likely the one day contract theory. I’m here for it.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 month ago
Reply to  Cummins

To the rafters!

Michael
Michael
1 month ago

You conveniently skipped the number one reason, by far, that people think he is overrated (and that a certain coach wasn’t, as you said, comfortable with him): his playoff performances were extremely inconsistent and he went through a playoff funk that lasted several years of Sidney Crosby’s prime. No GM in their right mind would have kept that uncertainty for that many millions over someone who was money in the playoffs at the time and way cheaper. we all know that didn’t turn out well, but it was sound decision making at the time and to deny that is a… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

Well, the playoff runs stopped when he left. That is coincidence i suppose.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago

No it’s not and that is a very valid point. He was a huge part of those and Murray was also never the same after he left. But none of that negates my point above that the reasons people (including Sullivan) began to doubt MAF were also valid and based in the reality of his unreliable playoff performances.

Dan Kingerski
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

It would seem you’re omitting the 2015 and 2017 playoff performances.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Jeez you too, Dan? As the site owner here I don’t think you need to fall into this black and white logic. I am not saying that Fleury has been a bad or unreliable playoff performer throughout his career and that we are better off without him. I am saying that he had been extremely unreliable at certain times, that that unreliability fueled the feeling of distrust that people in and out of the org had for him, that it was the right call given that distrust and salary considerations at that time to gamble a little and go with… Read more »

Hongkong
Hongkong
1 month ago

Bring him back, Pittsburgh fans deserve it and so does the hall of fame core.