When you sit atop your respective sport and deploy the greatest player of his era, it brings with it a certain degree of envy. Hatred, even. The rest of the sports world wants to be you — and since they can’t — they don’t like you. The New England Patriots are the best example of this in modern day sports but now, the Pittsburgh Penguins have joined them.
And like the Patriots, the Penguins have forced you to respect them.
Back-to-back championships in the salary cap era is essentially an impossible feat. At least, for most teams it is. Organizations like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have recognized a ton of success recently but while they were able to win multiple times, none of them were consecutive. It takes a great deal of skill, will, and yes — luck — for this type of run to happen. The Penguins have had all three over the past two seasons but most importantly, they’ve had a cast of players that bonded together like brothers with one mission in mind. Like New England, they’ve exhibited the ability to plug holes with lesser known names and not miss a beat. No matter the adversity, they just keep winning.
Oh, and they have a group of leaders in both the coaching staff and core players that could rival any other organization in professional sports. It all starts with Sullivan, but their captain is the main catalyst.
The Crosby Show
Sidney Crosby, despite his dominant play and professionalism both on and off the ice, is a polarizing figure in the hockey world much like Tom Brady in football. “He’s a great player, but…” is commonly used to preface him being a whiner, diver, dirty player or the league’s golden boy. The truth is — like Brady — he blocks out most of that noise and continues to be one of the hardest working individuals in his field. Greatness isn’t guaranteed and even those at the top of their respective sport have to continue working at their craft.
No one epitomizes captaincy or commitment like Crosby.
In just 12 months time, Crosby has won two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe’s, a World Cup of Hockey gold medal, a Rocket Richard Trophy and is nominated for a Hart Memorial Trophy. He’s the first player to lead the league in goals and go on to win the Stanley Cup since Wayne Gretzky did so during the 1986-87 season and he’s the first player to win back-to-back Conn Smythe’s since Mario Lemieux in 1991 and 1992. He’s cemented among the league’s best all-time and at 29-years old, there’s likely more to come.
Will there be more moments like this?
What. A. Moment. pic.twitter.com/n1cztjLFfQ
— Mike Necciai (@Michael29Angelo) June 12, 2017
Throughout Brady’s career, football fans and media have just assumed the Patriots would be in the mix every season. And for those outside of the New England fan base, it’s been torture. The Penguins have sent a similar notice to the rest of the hockey world but with Sullivan at the helm, the days of early postseason exits and disappointing conclusions are seemingly gone. They’ll continue to be hated, torn apart and nitpicked as long as they’re the best and honestly, they likely aren’t giving up that title anytime soon.
Could the Pittsburgh Penguins Three-peat?
The short answer to that question is, well, yes. While highly unlikely, Pittsburgh’s core remaining intact and the idea that youngsters like Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Conor Sheary will continue to improve means this team has a legitimate shot at contending for the Cup yet again next season. They’ll suffer plenty of turnover with Matt Cullen likely to retire and Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Nick Bonino and of course, Marc-Andre Fleury likely on their way out but the Penguins’ organizational depth is impressive. Those players will be replaced and the beat goes on.
They’re already the early favorites…
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 12, 2017
The next few weeks will be a whirlwind. Buyouts, an expansion draft, an entry draft, and free agency means exciting and nerve racking times throughout the first half of summer. Rosters will be flipped on their heads in order to try and duplicate what the Penguins have created. Some will succeed, and new logos will be in the postseason mix when the 2018 playoffs arrive. The Penguins will be there too, though, going about their business as the model franchise in today’s NHL. They truly have become the Patriots of hockey, so expect the backlash and envy to continue multiplying until they’re eventually dethroned.
But brace yourself. It could be a while.