Perhaps it’s a statistical anomaly, perhaps it is a product of a lineage of generation talents, or it is a combination of all-world talent and a short-season sprint without the grind of an 82-game slog. Whenever the NHL season is shortened, the Pittsburgh Penguins stars, from Jaromir Jagr to Sidney Crosby, have been spectacular.
And, they have been snubbed.
There have been two previous shortened seasons due to lockout, and the 2005-06 season followed a full-season lockout. We’re currently experiencing the first season in 101 years to be affected by a worldwide pandemic. However, in each of the shortened seasons, the Penguins superstar tore up the league.
We’re currently in a holding pattern due to COVID-19, though any further delays could technically be considered a lockout as there is an active CBA in place. Currently, the NHL and NHLPA are working towards the framework of the 2021 season and haggling over significant financial issues.
In a weird bit of coincidence, in each of the three seasons following the lockout, a Penguins star was overlooked and finished second for an individual award. In 1994, Jaromir Jagr won the scoring title, but voters denied him the Hart Trophy. Then, in 2005-06 (which was a full season), Sidney Crosby finished second to Alex Ovechkin for the Calder Trophy, and Crosby again finished second in 2012-13 for the Hart Trophy.
But the lessons are clear. In a short season, the stars can go all out, and the statistics follow.
1995 Jaromir Jagr
For one season, Jagr was the Pittsburgh Penguins savior as Mario Lemieux sat out the season to rest and recuperated from a string of injuries and his cancer treatment. So, Jagr was the man. And he dominated.
Jagr played all 48 games and scored a whopping 70 points (32g, 38a). He won the Art Ross Trophy in a tie with Eric Lindros, but Jagr had more goals.
Lindros got the last laugh as the winner of the Hart Trophy. Jagr finished second and received only two of the 15 first-place votes. Goalie Dominik Hasek finished third but received three first-place votes. Jagr’s Hart loss may go down as the second biggest Penguins snub in the modern era behind Mario Lemieux not winning the 1988-89 Hart Trophy despite scoring 199 points and carrying an otherwise undertalented team.
The 1994-95 Pittsburgh Penguins were hardly the stuff of legend and far removed from their recent Stanley Cup run. Though in a bit of normalcy, the Penguins did beat the Washington Capitals in a seven-game first-round matchup.
2005-06 Sidney Crosby
After the full-season lockout and the Penguins’ miraculous ping pong ball luck, they snagged Sidney Patrick Crosby with the first overall pick at the 2005 NHL Draft held in an Ottawa hotel ballroom because the NHL and NHLPA only weeks before agreed to end the lockout.
Crosby burst onto the scene but initially had some help from his owner, teammate, and roommate, Mario Lemieux. Crosby lived with Lemieux for his few seasons in the league. However, a heart condition forced Lemieux out of the lineup by December, and he retired in January, which left Crosby to carry the aged and poorly constructed Penguins.
While the veterans, including John Leclair, Ziggy Palffy, and Jocelyn Thibault, fell off, one by one, Crosby was the bright spot. Though a couple of kids, Ryan Whitney and Colby Armstrong, also showed they had game.
The rookie Crosby persevered through one of the worst Penguins seasons ever to score 102 points (39g, 63a). However, the brash Russian rookie Alexander Ovechkin (now Alex) scored 106 points, including 52 goals.
PHN always prefers a center to a winger, especially when the winger didn’t play defense, but voters gave the Calder Trophy to Ovechkin. “Ovi” received 124 of 129 first-place votes.
2012-13 Sidney Crosby
The 2012-13 lockout remains the silliest and the most needless lockout of them all. The two sides were not far apart, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman held firm, and we missed half of a season.
When the puck finally dropped, Sidney Crosby was again healthy after missing most of the past two seasons with concussion-like symptoms, which were later discovered to be a soft tissue neck injury.
Crosby and the Penguins blitzed the NHL regular season. Three years removed from their Stanley Cup championship, questions mounted if the core had the right mental makeup or coach to win again. Crosby plowed through the regular season with 56 points (15g, 41a) in just 36 games.
The players awarded Crosby the Pearson award as the best player, but Hart Trophy voters were a little more stubborn. Alex Ovechkin won the Hart Trophy, this time with a razor-thin margin. Ovechkin received 50 first-place votes and a total of 1090 points. Crosby received 46 points and 1058 points.
That really was Crosby’s Hart. The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the Conference Final but were manhandled by the Boston Bruins in four quick games.
Now, how about 2021?