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.
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.