“It’s not going to last forever”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby deviated from the script on Thursday. The company’s course of action has been to ignore or pretend to ignore the potential demise of the greatest team core in the salary cap era and one of the greatest team cores in the history of the NHL. Instead, Crosby admitted the unknown and wistfully acknowledged that the end of Crosby-Malkin-Letang might be near.

Crosby will savor what could be the last race for him and his teammates once bound by youth, then championship money and maturity.

Franchise stalwarts Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin are pending free agents after the season.

“Even if you don’t want to think about it, it’s something that you understand could be a possibility…I think you try to enjoy it as much as you can and try to take it all in because you know it’s not going to last forever,said Crosby.

Crosby mentioned in passing that the crew had dealt with uncertainty before, but not quite like this. In 2019, there were the Malkin trade rumors. There have also been quiet trade murmurs in the recent past.

But the management and ownership of the Pittsburgh Penguins have held the core together, even under difficult circumstances.

Changing Pittsburgh Penguins

Now everything is new. GM Ron Hextall will lead the team to the next chapter. Mario Lemieux sold the team to Fenway Group. And on Wednesday evening, the Chairman and CEO David Morehouse resigned.

“And whether it’s this year, a little later, you can only play for so long. So I think just trying to enjoy it and be grateful for the opportunity we have to do it again,” Crosby concluded. .

For everything there is a season.

This season, PHN tried similar requests with Letang, Malkin and Bryan Rust. Yevgeny Malkinwho was the second overall pick in 2004 and made his NHL debut in 2006-07, swerved as he cracked: “I’m like a rich guy.

Letang categorically said they hadn’t thought of that. “No,” he shrugged before going into a standard answer about whether the playoffs were likely.

Rust, who is also a pending free agent, had a similar response.

And these make Crosby’s sweet admission feel more honest and genuine. It will remain. Crosby is on a life sentence and he is still producing at the elite level. Sportsnet reporter extraordinaire Elliotte Friedman has placed the Penguins captain in his three-man mix to be the third Hart Trophy finalist.

In 68 games, Crosby had 84 points, including 31 goals.

Kris Letang was among NHL defensemen with an impressive 67 points (9-58-67).

Malkin underwent serious knee surgery last June and only returned in February. He hasn’t returned to his best form but has 19 goals in just 40 games.

Crosby and Letang were part of the Penguins’ 2005 NHL Draft class. Crosby, of course, was the first overall pick, but Letang was a highly touted third-round pick. The defender spent another year at the juniors before playing seven games at the end of the 2006-07 season.

It was the first time the Big Four were together, as you count Marc-Andre Fleury. Or the Five with Brooks Orpik, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round draft pick in 2000.

Many of the Penguins’ star players and some of the team’s core have moved on, but three remain, 15 years later. The brightest lights followed the franchise’s darkest moments after bankruptcy, Mario Lemieux’s fierce fight for an arena that was just steps down the hall from the Kansas City Penguins’ existence, down to the painful Generation Next and its $23 million payroll.

From the struggle to exist was born the struggle for championships.

At the end of Letang’s second full season, he had just 52 points (18-34-54) in 144 games. Longtime fans may remember Letang’s disastrous struggles in the playoffs in 2007-08.

Or remember Malkin throwing hay at Henrik Zetterberg in a late Game 2 fight in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

You may remember the wicked goals. Letang dancing around the offensive zone or scoring the 2016 Stanley Cup winning goal. Malkin slicing through defenders or galloping past them. Malkin’s career indeed has better highlights than this fight, but it was one of the major moments when these once too young, too unruly Penguins fought for their place.

Former Penguins head coach Michel Therrien laughingly told PHN the story of the boys being sent home. After practice, they stayed on the ice. Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury hung around for hours. All they knew was hockey.

From January 28, 2019: PHN Extra Video: Therrien explains why Penguins Core is special

“It’s won. Win, win. They were almost teenagers and I had to kick them out of the rink,” smiled Therrien at the time. “They spent their days at the rink. That’s all they knew, spending time together. After 13, 14 years, the only thing you can say, these guys still have the passion…”

Things didn’t always go well. Playoff meltdowns from 2011 to 2015 included 3-1 series leads, selfish play, inexplicable retribution penalties and other finger-wagging no-no’s.

But they persevered. Two more Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 – still the only team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back cups after full seasons in the NHL (no disrespect to Tampa Bay, which won the Bubble and the 2021 season of 56 games).

Head Coach Mike Sullivan has had something to do with turning the franchise around and rebuilding the legacy as well.

“We are in a profession where change is inevitable. And that’s part of what we all sign up for. When it comes to these guys and what they’ve accomplished and the legacy they’ve built here in Pittsburgh, it’s impressive,” Sullivan said. “And they deserve to be recognized for what they’ve accomplished. When I look at this core of players, I think it’s the best core I’ve ever had. »

It may be over. Maybe not. Crosby at least foresaw the possibility of new owners and managers moving in.

It was a run like few others in NHL history and like no other in the 21st century.

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