In life and in sports, power begets more power. Wealth leads to more wealth. Opportunity opens up more opportunity.
The present-day Pittsburgh Penguins are a tremendous example of this. They are the NHL’s 1 percenters, as the events of this week demonstrate.
The term “power play” applies in the boardroom as well as in hockey, and it’s a perfect description of what Penguins have pulled off. After the acquisitions of Brendan Morrow, Douglas Murray and, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh has defined itself as the clear Stanley Cup favorite.
A team on a 13-game winning streak wouldn’t seem to have much room to rise, but Penguins general manager Ray Shero has shown what a combination of money and power can yield.
There’s that word again – power. Backed by the clout of billionaire Ron Burkle and living legend Mario Lemieux, the Penguins are unequivocally the NHL’s premier destination. Despite coming up empty in a quest to sign Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter last summer, Pittsburgh reestablished itself the place to go to win a title.
But it’s more than that. According to multiple reputable reports, Iginla was essentially practicing his New England accent Wednesday night as the Bruins had reached a deal in principle to acquire the top prize of this season’s trade market.
Instead, Iginla flexed his hard-earned influence to stall that potential move and force Calgary GM Jay Feaster to consider Shero’s offer of two middling college prospects and a first-round pick for his franchise player.
Since Iginla could walk away as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Feaster decided to at least get something for his trouble. He was boxed in by the longtime face of the Flames, and Shero hung around long enough to provide a viable escape hatch.
Now, Iginla joins fellow Cup-less veterans Morrow and Murray in the city where Yuengling trumps Sam Adams. As much as it helps Pittsburgh to welcome that motivated trio, it has to hurt Boston to see them go elsewhere, even with good alternatives still available.
Iginla and Morrow were the captains of their respective teams, but their previous experience with the man who wears the ‘C’ for the Penguins bodes well for their snug fit in the dressing room. Both played with Sidney Crosby on the 2010 gold-medal winning Canadian
Olympic team, with Iginla getting the primary assist on Crosby’s overtime goal against the Americans in the final.
Crosby memorably called for the puck on that play, and maybe No. 87 put in a call of a different kind to nudge Iginla toward Pittsburgh. Hard to believe Iginla would need much of a push to skate alongside this year’s presumed MVP and scoring champion, but reminiscing about Vancouver coudn’t have hurt.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Crosby will center Iginla, not with fellow dominant pivot Evgeni Malkin close to returning from injury. It’s also anyone’s guess as to how well the physical duo of Morrow and Murray will assimilate.
But while coach Dan Bylsma and his staff will be challenged to connect new parts to an already-humming mechanism, the fact remains that the Penguins won the trade season before it even got started.
Shero deserves credit for his shrewd, persistent efforts, as does the ownership tandem of Burkle and Lemieux for brandishing the aggressive attitude that has defined their joint tenure.
The Penguins have learned in the past three springs that having a great core of talent guarantees nothing besides great expectations. The hype will only get more intense from here, but they’ll have every opportunity to justify it, both this year and in the future.
That’s the privilege of power, and the Penguins are desperate to make the most of their time on the mountaintop.