Marc-Andre Fleury: Goalie, Teammate, Inspiration

What can be said about Marc-Andre Fleury that hasn’t already been said? Plenty!

Fleury the goalie…

Will have his name etched in the NHL and Penguins history books for a long time. “Flower” is one of only three goalies drafted 1st overall in NHL history. The other two were Michel Plasse of the Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders in 2000. Plasse lasted 299 games, DiPietro 318 games, while Fleury has racked up 691 NHL games and counting. In the Penguins history books Fleury exclusively holds six different team records. As I just mention Fleury has played in 691 games, a Penguins record for Games Played by a Goaltender. Other team records are as follows, Goaltender Wins 375, Shutouts 44, Most Games Played by a Goaltender in a season 67 (3x), and Most Shutouts in a Season 10.

But please, don’t let these incredible records distract those of you who’ve had a Jekyll and Hyde, love, hate, relationship with the 2x NHL All-Star, since his debut with the Penguins in 2003.

Oh, and please don’t turn an ankle jumping on and off the bandwagon for the 3x Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist. As if those stats alone aren’t enough to warrant a city and fanbase’s unconditional love, Fleury is more than his records and stats, he’s and incredible teammate.

C_g2IyjXUAEhhK4

Fleury the Teammate…

Is something that no one, not even the biggest anti-Fleury fan can deny. In fact, he has awards for that too. Twice in Marc-Andre Fleury’s career with the Penguins he has been awarded the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Good Guy Award. An award that not even the team’s owner Mario Lemieux has ever won. Fleury was even voted team MVP twice (2011, 2015) during his tenure with the Penguins. The team MVP has only been awarded to a goalie, three times since its inception in the 1967-68 season, in which Les Binkley (the team’s goaltender) was the initial recipient.

But moreover, to prove the validity and value of Marc-Andre Fleury as a teammate, are heartfelt quotes from his teammates, on his character and importance to his team during this year’s locker clean out day. Four of my favorites from that day are:

“It’s pretty clear what he means to this town. He rode in the truck behind me in the parade yesterday. Listening to the fans and everything that they said to him and the support they gave him … it’s pretty clear what he means to this community. I know what he means to this team. I haven’t played with many better teammates than him. I just remember when he stepped in for Game 1 of the playoffs, the way that he played and what he did for us, the way he stepped up. I know what he’s gone through these last couple of seasons, sitting next to him in the room. He comes to the rink with a smile every day. He does his best to support his teammates. It’s never about him. He’s a pretty unique person and a unique teammate. Whatever happens for him, whoever gets him, is going to be very lucky.” —  Matt Cullen

“It’s sad. He’s the type of guy that I want in my life at all times. If I could follow that guy around all day, I’d be happy. He’s such a fun guy to be around and I love that guy so much. He’s such a great player that he’s going to be good if he’s here or no matter where he is.” — Brian Dumoulin

“So happy to play with him. He’s the best teammate, best guy. I never met a guy that doesn’t like him or want to play with him. He’s unbelievable, and we’ll see what happens but I love him.” — Justin Schultz

“There’s not much you can say about Flower that isn’t great. He’s awesome. He’s one of the best teammates you can ask for. He’s always having a good time. He’s always welcoming guys. He’s always playing little pranks. I think that helps build chemistry. Having a guy like that on your team is special. It makes everyone a little bit closer.” — Bryan Rust

The final quote by Bryan Rust brings us to something that, thanks to Penguins marketing and media, we as fans have had the privilege to witness throughout the years, and that is Fleury’s pranks. Some of which you will see if you follow me on twitter (@benchbossx2) for 29 Days of Fleury Love aka #29Forever. The pranks and the silliness and the laughter and most importantly Fleury’s big smile are all apart of building chemistry in the locker room, on a professional team, that can tend to have personnel turnover from year to year. I see this every year in my job as a university hockey coach and it’s always incredible to see those types of players that can be the glue between the veterans and rookies, between the top line players and the healthy scratches. The hierarchy within the room can get complicated and be detrimental to a team’s success. The selfless teammate that “Flower” is, has become a large part of why this Penguins organization has been successful for so many years. I’m not sure many people realize this, but no one has been with the Penguins longer Fleury (since 2003) other than Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle, Mike Lange, Paul Stiegerwald, and some of the Equipment Staff. Fleury has seen coaches and General Managers come and go. He has seen many teammates come and go as well. Yet, the lighthearted and often comical Marc-Andre Fleury remained as the pulse of the Penguins franchise. Yes, Sidney Crosby is the team’s Captain, leader and heart of the Penguins, but Fleury has been its soul for the better part of a decade. Fleury as a great teammate, cannot be replaced, nor can Fleury as the humanitarian and inspiration.

Fleury the Inspiration…

Marc-Andre Fleury’s selflessness does not end at the locker room doors. He has understood the commitment of a professional athlete who’s made his home in the city he has played for many years.

Most recently as we all know by now, Fleury and his wife designed, donated, and assembled a new playground to the Boys and Girls Club in the Stow Rocks area of Pittsburgh, as well as donating equipment and an indoor floor hockey rink for the club. The “29” on the playground’s floor will forever embody the spirit of Fleury no matter where his career takes him. However, this is not the first time the Penguins netminder has showed his love for the city and its communities.

As fans, we have seen Fleury give his time to different charity events, visiting children in the hospital, playing ball hockey with local youth players, visiting schools, participating as a coach in Crosby’s youth camps, and stopping along his way to wherever it is he’s going to sign autographs for fans.

Pittsburgh has long been the home of Marc-Andre Fleury and his family. If it is inevitable that his long tenure with the Penguins organization ends, there should be no doubt that he loves this city and its fans. When asked what he’d miss most about Pittsburgh, he summed it up in one word, “Everything!”.

For this fan, Fleury hasn’t been just a franchise goalie to watch. I remember witnessing the departure of Tom Barrasso a few years prior to Fleury’s arrival. As much as a I enjoyed watching him play and see the success of the team while he was with them, it was easy to see him go. The media scrutinized him and at the time I felt like I understood why. That is far from the feeling myself and many Penguins fans have about Fleury.

If this is to be the last time as a fan I get to witness Fleury donning the Penguins logo…

If this was the last season we witness him defending the Penguins net with Statue of Liberty glove saves…

If this is the last time we get to see Fleury move the furniture out of a teammates hotel room or do cartwheels in the Penguins runway or just see his smile behind a Penguins mask after robbing a rival player on a breakaway…

Then I will certainly be saddened.

I have watched Fleury since he came into the league and joined the Penguins as an 18-year-old kid fresh out of the QMJHL. I watch Penguins bounce him back to juniors several times, while stating “he just isn’t ready for the NHL, we need to let him develop”. Meanwhile, they just knew that it wouldn’t help his development to get shelled every night behind a floundering team. But they couldn’t publicly say that, of course. I watched as Fleury finally joined the team permanently and thinking, “Wow! He’s so athletic! He’s so good!” I remember being so excited that this kid is the Penguins franchise goaltender. Then I watched him grow as a goalie. He wasn’t just athletic anymore. He wasn’t just relying on his natural ability anymore. Fleury began to think the game and be selective with his saves. I watched as he got out of the truck in the 2009 Stanley Cup Parade and run by me high fiving fans. I’ve watched him spin, rub the posts, attempt to score a goal, attempt to get into a fight, be an intricate part of winning two more championships and capture the hearts of a city.

As a fan, I’ve been more than fortunate to watch Fleury’s career bloom with my hometown team. As a writer, who knows, maybe I’ll be just as fortunate, if by some chance “Flower” reads this. If he does, I hope what he takes from it is that, he will never be forgotten here in Pittsburgh.

Thank you, Marc-Andre Fleury, from the bottom of my heart, for all the wonderful memories you have given me and the Penguins fanbase. #29Forever

Offseason Player Grades: Matt Murray 

Statistics (Regular Season)

49 GP, 32-10-4, 2.41 GAA, .923 SV%, 4 SO

Statistics (Playoffs)

11 GP, 7-3, 1.70 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 SO

Grade: A+

There’s not much you can complain about when it comes to Matt Murray. He has broken records and overcome adversity. He responds to negatives with huge positives. He shut the door on Nashville in the final 2 games to help win back to back cups.

Murray, time and time again, shows us how calm he is in the net. Just look at the Stanley Cup Finals alone. He stole games 1 and 2 for us at home. Then he gets a bit rattled in games 3 and 4. But then he responds by shutting Nashville out in games 5 and 6. He is an amazing goaltender that has shown many flashes of greatness in his young career.

Preview

Murray will be carrying the load for the Penguins again next year. He is already a legendary figure in Pittsburgh hockey. He will continue to grow his legacy as a Penguin and his own greatness. I don’t see Murray declining anytime soon as he is on the up and up. Pittsburgh was very lucky to have two amazing starting goaltenders for two straight Stanley Cup runs. Matt Murray was one of them and therefore a huge reason the Pens repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Conclusion

Matt Murray is the Pens goaltender going forward as he should be. He has constantly shown his resilience and ability to be one of the greatest goalies to play the game. He plays calm cool and collected and for that reason fans should be excited. AS long and Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and Murray are here, then expect a chance at winning the cup each year.

Vegas Expansion Team Predictions 

We are coming down to the wire when it comes to the Vegas Golden Knights selecting their team. All of the protection lists have been submitted. Now with these submissions I selected the team I would make if I was Vegas. 

Forwards

Bobby Ryan, OTT 

James Neal, NASH 

Dale Weise, PHI 

Brad Richardson, ARI 

Riley Sheahan, DET 

Trevor Lewis, LA 

Devante Smith-Pelly, NJ 

William Karlson, CBJ 

Dimitrij Jaskin, STL

Kerby Rychel, TOR 

Jonathan Marchessault, FLA

William Carrier, BUF 

Jacob De La Rose, MTL 

Reid Boucher, VAN 

Mikail Grigorenko, COL 

Defense

Toby Enstrom, WIN

Sami Vatanen, ANA

Brendan Dillon, SJS 

Matt Dumba, MIN

Klas Dahlbeck, CAR

Trevor Van Reimsdyk, CHI

Calvin De Haan, NOT

Jamie Oleksiak, DAL 

Griffin Reinhart, EDM 

Joe Morrow, BOS 

Jake Dotchkin, TB

Bret Kulak, CAL 

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT

Antti Raanta, NYR 

Philipp Grubauer, WAS

Review

I assembled this team with some big names but prospects that can become something great.

Every team is built through the draft and I expect Vegas to be no different. The big names I picked up will fill the seats up during their inaugural season and get attendance and allow Vegas to compete.

Most of these expensive contracts will expire in a year or two so the Golden Knights won’t have cap issues in the near future. And they’ll have about $20 million in cap space post expansion draft. Adding stars like Bobby Ryan, James Neal, and Marc-Andre Fleury brings great advertisments around the city and a great product on the ice.

Even though this is what I would pick to allow for a competitive team. I would think Vegas is gonna make a lot of trades with teams to either keep a player or trade away one. I don’t expect my team to come close to the real team. But I do expect Vegas to have a handful of good talent on their roster next year. It’ll be a crazy next few weeks with lots of movement around the league. So everyone enjoy the fun off-season that will be commencing. 

Offseason Player Grades: Sidney Crosby

Statistics (Regular Season)

75 GP, 44 G, 45 A, 89 PTS, +17 +/-, 24 PIM

Statistics (Postseason)

24 GP, 8 G, 19 A, 27 PTS, +4 +/-, 10 PIM

Player Grade (A+)

He proved again why he’s the MVP of the NHL. He had torrid paces throughout the season that left people shaking their heads wondering how he does what he does. He got his 1,000th career NHL point. He helped power a second consecutive Stanley Cup to the city of Pittsburgh. He won his second straight Conn Smythe. Crosby, yet again, exceeded expectations in captaining his team to victory.

Review

Sidney Crosby was right back at it again in 2016-17′. After a slow start the previous season, Crosby was able to turn on the jets and finish the season in an outstanding matter. This season was a little different.

From the outset, you could tell Crosby was going to dominate. Starting with his brilliance in the World Cup of Hockey where him and Brad Marchand teamed up to help lift Canada to the gold medal. He didn’t stop there. He finished second in scoring and won the Conn Smythe as the playoff’s MVP. Most importantly, he won his third career Stanley Cup.

Despite missing the first six games of the season, he continued the dominance by going on a torrid scoring pace to begin the year. He had 26 goals in 31 games at the onset. He did go on a spell where he was struggling to find the back of the net. He finished with 44 goals, which led the league.

He notched his 1,000th career point on a goal assisted by longtime linemate Chris Kunitz in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He went a long stretch of the playoffs without a goal but won the MVP and the Cup. It’s safe to say that Crosby’s season was pretty successful.

Preview

As Crosby heads into next season, the Penguins should be very encouraged with where he and they are headed.

The leader of this team practically dictates how the collective unit will do. Crosby exemplifies that. His captain qualities as well as being the league’s best player really make the Penguins a top team in the league.

He’ll likely be right back where he was this year: He’ll, of course, be centering the top line but whether he will be back with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary remains to be seen. While they played together over the final two games of the season, the Sid and the Kids line was split for some time in the playoffs, too. It seems Guentzel will definitely be on the line as he fell one goal short of tying Dino Ciccarelli‘s record for goal’s scored by a rookie in the playoffs.

Conclusion

Crosby put to rest any doubt that whether Connor McDavid had passed him as the league’s best player. He had one of the more dominant season’s he’s ever had. He dealt with a concussion, missing the first six games of the season. That didn’t stop him from scoring 44 goals and trailing McDavid pretty closely for the majority of the season.

Crosby wasn’t going to be denied in his quest to be the first team to repeat in the salary cap era. People want to play with Crosby because he wins. That was proven this season when the whole team reassembled to go on a quest that they won’t soon forget.

Derrick Pouliot Should Get A Chance

Reading this title may have given many of you a few aneurisms. By now, the Penguins have given defenseman Derrick Pouliot ample chance to prove himself at the NHL level, right? To be quite honest, I don’t think he’s been given ample chances.

Sure, he’s been up and down from the AHL to the NHL and back again multiple times. It seems that anytime Pouliot makes one mistake, it’s magnified and he’s immeadiately benched or sent down. With a young, steadily developing “prospect”, if you will, the worst thing to do is mess with any potential confidence he has.

The Pittsburgh Pirates faced a similar situation early in their season.

Top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, was given the opportunity to be in the Opening Day rotation. His struggles with his control issues were a well-known fact going into the year. Despite a few rough starts, Glasnow began to find himself a bit. He then tailed off and was sent back to the minor leagues. The Penguins need to attempt a similar approach.

Pouliot has served his time in the AHL and has looked good doing it. Although his NHL transition seems to be rough at times, how is he going to get any better continuously being sent up and down?

Thus brings me to my argument: Derrick Pouliot should be in the lineup on Opening Night next year.

Pouliot isn’t going to get better at the NHL level without playing there. Mike Sullivan needs to guarantee Pouliot a spot in the top six to open the year so Pouliot can readily focus on what he needs to do to be a quality and serviceable player. Sullivan has yet to make any player around him worse so Sullivan’s guidance can only help Pouliot.

His struggles to play defense at times can be overcome by the offensive capabilities that Pouliot brings to the table. That’s something that can’t be overlooked.

He scored on his first NHL shot against the Florida Panthers in 2014. He can really skate with the puck and has puck moving abilities that the Penguins sorely could use.

The Penguins used the eighth overall pick on him in 2012. They expect a lot out of him and they can get it if they actually decide to play him.

The Penguins are likely going to need one defenseman when the season begins. It’s safe to assume that Trevor Daley‘s best days might be behind him and that the Penguins will allow him to walk on July 1st. With guys like Nick Bonino, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz needing contracts, the Penguins will have an in-house defensive option or two if they’d like to let Daley go elsewhere.

That would leave the likely pairings to be as follows heading into the season:

Dumoulin-Letang

Cole-Schultz

Maatta-Pouliot

The obvious chemistry of the top four defensemen can’t be understated. The Maatta-Pouliot pairing may look scary, but it’s got the potential to be very effective.

The only way to really grow Pouliot’s game is to let him work out his kinks at the NHL level under Sullivan and defensive coach Sergei Gonchar‘s guidance. He’s shown flashes of being an offensive juggernaut and could really be a great boost to the second power play if in fact Daley signs with another team.

Unless the Penguins go out and sign somebody, your other in-house options include Chad Ruhwedel, Cameron Gaunce, or Frankie Corrado. They’re all perennial seventh defenseman that you can find on the free agency wire. Pouliot is a former first round draft choice with the potential to be just that. He should be guaranteed a spot on the Opening Night roster next year. I don’t think there is much of a question about that.

The question is, how much of a chance will Sullivan give him and how does he respond?

Losing Fleury Is What’s Best For Pittsburgh

Not too often do you hear that a team would do itself a favor by letting go of a quality player for absolutely nothing. The Penguins case is actually a little different heading into the Vegas expansion draft next week.

By now, its widely known that Marc-Andre Fleury waived his no-movement clause that is in his contract for the purpose of the draft. Vegas is very likely to take Fleury and his wife has reportedly been looking at some homes in Vegas as well as school districts for their kids.

A few weeks ago, it seemed as Fleury had boosted his trade value by his carrying of the team through the playoffs’ first two rounds. Calgary and Buffalo had been reported suitors but those rumors have since died down and it seems Vegas will not flip Fleury after taking him in the draft.Fleury has been an integral part of this team’s success since he was drafted in 2003. It’s never an ideal situation when an expansion draft like this arises. While it looks as though the Penguins will lose Fleury for nothing, not all is bad.

Had the Penguins agreed on a trade partner for The Flower, even though it could still happen, they would have likely lost a key top four defenseman from the previous season.

Due to expansion draft rules, you can only protect seven forwards, three defenseman, and a goalie. Fleury’s no-movement clause had to be waived or the Penguins would’ve taken the chance of losing Matt Murray, something they don’t want to happen.

With Kris Letang also having a no-movement clause in his contract, the Penguins would be forced to protect two of Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Ian Cole. The four of those players are a bit more valuable than losing Fleury for some draft pick off of another squad.

The rules of the expansion draft state that if there is a trade by Vegas with another team, that player the Golden Knights acquired would be the “draft” choice for Vegas. Thus, that team wouldn’t lose anyone else.

It looks like Flower will just be drafted by Vegas so it won’t matter. But if the Golden Knights do send a draft pick to Pittsburgh, that would be considered Vegas’ draft choice.

Fleury heading to Vegas would also take $5.75 million off the books, something the Penguins will need greatly if they want to have a shot at a championship again next year. They can use that money towards the resigning of key players

So while the emotional connection to Marc-Andre Fleury will likely be moved to a new team, the Penguins will be better off assuming Fleury is traded for or selected for nothing by Vegas.

COLUMN: The Non-Move That Won The Pens A Cup

Let me start by saying that Sidney Crosby is deserving of the Conn Smythe. I do believe it should’ve gone to Evgeni Malkin but Crosby was just about as equally deserving.

But let’s make no mistake about it, had it been possible to give the Conn Smythe to a split tandem of Pittsburgh goaltenders, there’s no doubt in my mind they were the club’s most valuable players.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins don’t beat Washington. They probably squeak by Columbus with an average backup goalie because they were simply the better team. The game seven shutout of Washington in the second round was about as disheartening to a fan base as the inevitable Fleury trade will be for this one. He carried that momentum two games into the Ottawa series, then things went south.

A bad nine minutes in game three, where he allowed four goals on nine shots, will soon turn into the final outing that Fleury had as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Let me remind you, Fleury is considered the back up.

So, when the starter got his chance, he wasn’t going to look back.

Matt Murray was very good over the final four and a half games of the Eastern Conference Finals. He faced barrages from the Senators and battled tooth and nail with embattled Senators goalie Craig Anderson for a victory in seven games.

Murray took on the Cinderella story from Nashville. He opposed Pekka Rinne, a leader for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Finals, and thoroughly played better. The Penguins made Rinne look silly on several occasions. Although it seemed that mid-series that the Predators had figured Murray out, Mike Sullivan‘s confidence didn’t waiver. He stuck it out with Murray who repaid the coach with, not one, but TWO shutouts in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Murray is still considered a rookie. He is the only player in NHL history to win two Cups as a rookie. While this comes on sort of a technicality, it doesn’t downplay the magnitude of him spearheading two Stanley Cup championships. Who’s to say the Penguins would or wouldn’t be in this situation today had Murray not hurt his groin in the pregame of the game one of the Blue Jackets series?

But that wasn’t the case. Fleury stepped in and did an admirable job. One that Tristan Jarry simply wouldn’t have been able to do.

Credit Jim Rutherford for that one.

As trade deadline day approached, an unsettling feeling grew within the stomach of Marc-Andre Fleury. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2003 and has played his entire career to this point with Pittsburgh. The rumors ran rampant that he’d be moved to another team as his trade value seemed to be plummeting ever so quickly after his truthfully horrible regular season.

Rutherford surprised everyone and stuck to his guns saying that it’s never a bad thing to have two goalies of the caliber that Murray and Fleury are. Rutherford wants to keep both goalies. It’s practically impossible at this point.

The impending Vegas Golden Knights franchise will be drafting in a few weeks to assemble their team for the upcoming year and Fleury is undoubtedly on their radar. After his playoff performance, he’ll be on a few other teams’ radar.

As I mentioned before, the Penguins don’t beat Washington without Fleury. It doesn’t happen. He was spot on against Alex Ovechkin and outdueled Braden Holtby with no reason to look over his shoulder.

Rutherford not moving Fleury is a credit to Rutherford’s intelligence as a general manager. It’s a huge reason why the Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup champions and why they have a legitmate shot to win yet again in 2018.

We are not affiliated with the Pittsburgh Penguins in any way. We just hope to bring you coverage you will enjoy.