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Fanspeak: Lemieux (stunner!) voted greatest Penguin in franchise history

Aug 21, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

Mario Lemieux Getty Images

This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Pittsburgh Penguins

1. Mario Lemieux (2,726)

2. Sidney Crosby (588)

3. Jaromir Jagr (393)

4. Evgeni Malkin (129)

5. Ron Francis (96)

There’s really not much to say here as No. 66 is easily the greatest and most important individual in franchise history, as evident by the voting totals. In fact, his body of work both as a player and owner goes beyond the Penguins organization — in terms of cultural sporting icons in Pittsburgh, Lemieux is on par with the likes of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw.

So, let’s examine the rest of this list.

Crosby likely bested Jagr for three reasons: 1) he resonates more with a younger audience, 2) Jagr was (unfairly or not) constantly viewed as Lemieux’s sidekick, and 3) No. 68 burned a few bridges upon his return to the NHL in 2011, spurning a reunion with the Penguins to sign in Philadelphia.

That said, it’s tough to overlook all Jagr accomplished during his 11 seasons in Pittsburgh: two Stanley Cups, five Art Ross Trophies, one Hart Trophy and one of just two players to score 1,000 points in a Penguins uniform (Lemieux was the other).

As for players outside the top five…

— Jean Pronovost still sits third behind Lemieux and Jagr in games played (753) and goals (316)

— Hall-of-Fame defensemen Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy both played in Pittsburgh, though only for five seasons each.

  1. mrdonkeydick - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    jagr at 3 is a shocker.

    • sjsblitz - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      Pens fan boo him like crazy, guarantee they’ll try to retire his number/possibly build a statue of him

    • steelcity333 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      Yeah he should be #2. Crosby’s been great but hasn’t been around long enough yet.

    • blomfeld - Aug 22, 2014 at 1:11 AM


      Sorry Crosby … it ain’t gonna happen, because there was someone ‘way’ better than you who blazed that trail long before you ever did … ya dig, punk ?

  2. 950003cups - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Not at all surprising. However, I’m surprised Jagr isn’t on the list.

    • 950003cups - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      TYPO SHOULD READ: Not at all surprising. However, I’m surprised Jagr isn’t on top of the list. But I guess Crosby is better? I don’t feel that at this point in his career, Crosby is having more success. I’m not a stat guy, so I don’t know.

  3. lowenni - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    I hate the Penguins but Lemieux is an absolute legend and would be considered Gretzky’s equal if he had stayed healthy his whole career. His battles with cancer and injury are an amazing story, amplified by his continued legendary production even after that. One of the greatest players to ever play the game, I still wonder what kind of totals he could’ve reached or what records he could’ve broken had he been healthy his whole career. Absolute legend.

    • dchambers144 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      I would also be interesting if he played in a slightly different era. I watched an old Pens game from the height of Lemieux’s career the other day and there were guys literally holding on to his jersey and shadowing him around the ice.

      • dchambers144 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:11 PM


      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Now he’d face goalies who are 4 feet wide and the current mania with shot-blocking d-men and forwards. Perhaps 6 of one, a half-dozen of the other.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      I was ready to come on here and voice my two cents but you pretty much said everything I was going to say. He’s the only player that had the capability of challenging Gretzky’s records and unfortunately injuries got in the way. But definitely one of the tow best players I’ve ever watched, 66 and 99 those two numbers are iconic for a reason.

  4. rmccleary97 - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Can’t believe there was no love for Rob Brown.

  5. ronniethec - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    I can’t believe Mario beat out Les Binkley!

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      The Ken Schinkel fan club has already filed for a recount.

  6. claysbar - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Kinda thought Ronnie would get a bit more love than that.

  7. broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    Jagr is much better than Crosby.

    • runhigh24 - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      People may thumbs downing you because they think you hate Crosby but you have a valid point. Jagr played his prime mostly in the dead puck era and would be second in all time points if he didn’t go to Russia for 3 years or miss the equivlant of 2 seasons due to lockouts. Seriously look it up.

      • rmccleary97 - Aug 21, 2014 at 6:38 PM

        Jagr had a slight benefit in that (A) he did get to play with Lemieux for most of the first 7 years of his career and Francis for much of his first 8 (the ’90-91 season being the exception), (B) in the first 6 years of his career, league scoring was still over 6 goals per game (low of 5.97 in the 1995 lockout season). Crosby has played in an era where league scoring has been under 6 goals per game every season except his rookie year, and has been more like 5.40 the last 5 years, and has been the Lemieux of his team with Malkin playing more of the Jagr role – and there’s no comparable to Francis in that group.

        But yes, if Jagr doesn’t go the KHL route he’s probably over 2000 points by now. By the same token, if Lemieux isn’t racked with injuries and miss swaths of games he’s close to Gretzky’s total for points (if not past it) and he’s up near 1000 goals (if not past it). No matter how you slice it, you’re talking about some pretty damn good players in that group.

  8. timmons94 - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    No comment from ray rice lover ravanator.. Must be working overtime at Burger King today….

  9. westof1club - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:38 PM


  10. jaybaileys - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    This should be unanimous. Lemieux meant everything to Pittsburgh and hockey. If he wouldn’t have come here no doubt in mind the Pens would have been gone long ago.

    • chanceoffleury - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      Agreed. With all due respect to Crosby, Malkin, Francis, and Jagr, there is nobody else. Pittsburgh’s greatest player debate begins and ends with Super Mario. Jagr’s longevity within the game as a whole and being successful in all the different eras is tempting, but Lemieux’s dedication to his franchise is hard for any player to match. And it is, in fact, *his* franchise. He is the father, the son, and the holy spirit of hockey in the city of Pittsburgh. Everyone else, including the other players on this list, have just been fun accessories to decorate the empire he’s built. That being said, I think there are cities where you could stick Crosby, Malkin, Francis, and especially Jagr and they’d be the greatest player to play in that franchises history at this point. So they shouldn’t be too disappointed. We’ve just been blessed with quite the plethora of riches here in Pittsburgh for such a young franchise. But the skates that Mario lay when he left will very likely just never be filled in the same way Orr and Gretzky’s never will in Boston or Edmonton. Simply put, they’re the best. period.

  11. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Jagr burned bridges before 2011. Being a no show in the 2001 ECF vs New Jersey and his on/off nights towards the end of his run in Pittsburgh. Once Mario retired Jagr stopped being a team player. I myself will have no problem seeing 68 in the Rafters of Consol. Crosby won’t ever pass Mario in terms of being the greatest. Mario will always win and hell always be my favorite of all time.

    • broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 21, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      By your logic Crosby is beginning to burn his bridges by being a no show in the entire previous playoffs and by throwing temper tantrums on the bench, arguing with Bylsma. Mario is without a doubt the greatest Penguin but Jagr comes in at a very close second. Not to mention that Jagr sported whats is arguably the NHL’s most epic mullet. I may have always hated the Pens but I loved how Jagr played.

  12. terrier92 - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    The only list so far in this series that I feel is accurate. I despise the Pens however saw both play in their prime and I felt Mario was a better player than Gretzky. Mario was abused by other teams. Never understood why Pens didn’t give him an adequate body guard.

  13. ronniethec - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    Mario was Fabulous but Gretzky was even better.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      Kindly explain the relevance of that to this Penguins poll.

  14. phtjoey - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    mario was the best ever Laval Voisins, Montreal Midget AAA, and best ever to come out of the Ville-Émard Hurricaines minor hockey system.

    never liked the fact that he refused to go to the pens table when he was selected first overall in 1984. that’s a once in a life time experience.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      I’m not familiar with the details of that, but could his lack of English-speaking skills at that time have been a factor?

      • phtjoey - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:26 PM

        no. he snubbed the pens because they were in a dispute over the details of the contract.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:37 PM

        OK, upon further review, he evidently was acting on his agent’s advice and has long since apologized for the snub, saying he felt bad about it soon afterward. We all do less-than-brilliant things as teenagers. He’s more than made up for that one.

  15. blackandorangeforlife - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    Jagr 3rd?….Seriously?…..18 seasons with 20+ goals and 14 seasons with 40+ assists
    who ever voted that way needs their head checked!

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      One could argue he should be No. 2, but this is a Penguins poll. He played 11 seasons with a bird on his sweater. His years with other clubs would seem irrelevant in this context.

      • blackandorangeforlife - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        Ok…..In 11 seasons 806 games 439 goals 640 assists 1079 pts
        Sid…9 seasons 550 games 274 goals 495 assists 769 pts
        so in the next 2 seasons Sid would need to play 256 games yet only 164 are possible… those 164 games he would need 165 goals or 82 per season (his highest so far is 51)….145 assists or 72.5 (only once did he get more)
        and 310 pts or 155 per…his best was 120…..Again how is Sid any better?
        Also 2 Cups vs 1 Asterisk!

  16. nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    This poll was the very definition of a no-brainer. The upcoming Bruins poll should be as well. I am looking forward to those for the Wings, Habs and Leafs, unless I oopsed and missed them.
    Howe or Yzerman; Rocket, Lafleur, Beliveau, Dryden; Mahovlich, Bower, Sundin? Lots of worthy candidates.

  17. penguins87and71 - Aug 21, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    I unfortunately wasn’t around when Mario Lemiuex was in his prime and playing for the Penguins. I could imagine that he was a beast of a player back in the day.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      I think in a playoff game, Mario breaks up ice, only one man to beat, but it’s future HHoF D-god Ray Bourque. He slips the puck between Ray’s feet, skates around him and top shelfs it. That was Mario.

  18. rushledger - Aug 22, 2014 at 3:29 AM

    I guessed the first four correctly, Malkin will pass Jagr eventually, not because fans are still bitter about the 2011 thing, the fact he still has a decade plus to add on and has a conn smythe to go with the debate something Jagr won’t get.

  19. Hard to BeLeaf - Aug 22, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    Man… That top 4 is so unfair. I hope you Pens fans know how truly lucky you are.

    • jason9696 - Aug 23, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      Ron Francis was one hell of a good player too at #5.

  20. jason9696 - Aug 23, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    In my eyes Mario Lemieux is the best player of all-time. Not just the greatest Penguin.

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