Down in the Pitts
It would be easy to say that the Pittsburgh Penguins are quite simply the personification of everything that is wrong with the National Hockey League right now. And that wouldn't be too far from the truth, either. But if you were to mull over why, in the last few years, this impoverished team has been forced to trade its top talent for prospects and money, and why the team has to push itself further and further into financial and competitive ignominy, you come to the realization that the team isn't a representation of the issues of a major league under fire, but a direct result of it.
It starts with the National Hockey League's decision to award Pittsburgh an NHL team in the 1967 expansion to follow in the city's solid minor league tradition. The Pittsburgh Penguins quickly stocked itself with aging veterans (a la 2002-2003 Maple Leafs) and found, after five consecutive losing seasons, that it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, and they began sinking among the league's bottom feeders.
But there was hope on the horizon, whether the franchise knew it or not, and it came in the form of a draft pick.
So after a series of depressing seasons as the NHL's lowest of low, the team found themselves in last place in the league in 1983 and the first overall pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. With the pick, Pittsburgh would select much-ballyhooed, sure-fire superstar Mario Lemieux, and began touting him as the savior that would pick up the team by its collar and lead it to a place among the elite. But little did management know that Super Mario would eventually have to pick the franchise out of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy death spiral and keep a disinterested...