With the regular season over it is time to decide who was the Most Valuable Penguin. A case can be made for many that wear the black and gold:
Sidney Crosby: He is the best player in the world and before his injury was walking away with the Most Valuable Player award. He is still in contention for the award which shows you just how unstoppable he was early on, finishing the year with 56 points.
Kris Letang: When he is not in the lineup, it shows how much the Penguins miss him. He is the quarterback. He controls the flow of the game and there is no one better going from defense to offense. He is a master of the stretch pass, which allows the Penguins to get to their offense quicker. He also finished tied with Montreal’s P.K. Subban for the most points scored by a defenseman and he is a Norris Trophy candidate.
Chris Kunitz: What is there to say about Kunitz besides that he does his job night in and night out? Whether it is playing with Crosby and Pascal Dupuis or Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, he knows his job is to go to the front of the net. He is one of the best if not the best in the league at it. He had a great year with 22 goals and 52 points.
Pascal Dupuis: What I just said about Kunitz can easily be applied to Dupuis. Dupuis was a throw in when the Penguins traded for Marian Hossa. Now looking back on that trade you would have to say he was the main piece of the deal. He has played great since coming to Pittsburgh. He can play on the first line with Crosby or on the third line. He doesn’t complain and just goes out and plays hockey. He finished the year with 20 goals and 38 points.
One could even make the case that general manager Ray Shero is the Most Valuable Penguin. It started in the offseason when he traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes, receiving a great package in return that included Brandon Sutter. But he wasn’t done. As he does every year, Shero improved the team at the trade deadline. This year he got four players in Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla and Jussi Jokinen without significantly affecting the future of the organization.
With all that being said the Most Valuable Penguin is a member that wasn’t even on the team when it broke training camp in January. The Most Valuable Penguin is Mark Eaton. Yes, your read that correctly.
Eaton has only played 23 games with the Penguins and hasn’t registered a point but it is what he brought to the defensive side that makes him so valuable. Before he joined the team the Pens were doing OK but were still giving up a lot of goals. Eaton solidified the defensive end.
In the 23 games he has played the Penguins have won 19 of those games and only gave up three or more goals eight times in that span. He is a staple on the back end and a player that is doing his job if you don’t hear his name called during a game.
Eaton is the unsung hero and the Most Valuable Penguin.