by John Toperzer
What if? The Penguins picked Darrin Shannon fourth overall in the 1988 NHL draft. Monday night, during the ROOT Sports Pens-Ducks broadcast, analyst Paul Steigerwald said that Pittsburgh would have drafted Teemu Selanne had Eddie Johnston still been in charge of the draft. Johnston is known for many things, including his refusal to take offers prior to the selection of Mario Lemieux. The Quebec Nordiques offered the three Stastny brothers for Lemieux, Dallas was willing to trade its entire draft.
Shannon and Doug Bodger were eventually dealt to Buffalo in exchange for goalie Tom Barrasso, so things didn’t work out too badly for the Pens.
A look at the 1988 first-round draft class shows how tempting it is think about what could’ve been.
After Shannon went fourth, Martin Gelinas (7th), Jeremy Roenick (8th), Rod Brind’Amour (9th) and Selanne (10th) all followed.
Prior to Monday, Selanne averaged more points per game against the Penguins than any other active player
Teemu Selanne – 1.62 points/game
Alexander Ovechkin – 1.29
Jason Spezza – 1.27
Joe Thornton – 1.22
Wayne Gretzky is the all-time leader at 2.17, according to ROOT Sports.
The Penguins were fortunate James Neal wasn’t flagged for a penalty or three Monday night. He took out defenseman Bryan Allen’s legs in the first period and cross-checked a Duck into his own man in front of the Anaheim net. Neal definitely has a chippy edge to his play.
With 1:15 remaining in the first period, Chris Kunitz fired a shot goalie Viktor Fasth gloved. Former Penguin Ben Lovejoy sealed Neal off behind the net and Neal didn’t like it. He took his mouth piece out, smiled, and shouted something at Lovejoy. I’d love to know what he said — or maybe not.
How crazy is it that Pittsburgh fails to register a shot the first 18 minutes of Monday’s game, only to go on to victory? Meanwhile, the Pens dominate other contests early but lose.
I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed with Brian Gibbon’s first NHL goal. Why did he go to the net? All he did was stand in the slot and wait for Evgeni Malkin to finish his Stars On Ice routine before taking Gino’s pass and burying it. The nerve of this 25-year-old rookie! Where were Gibbons’ style points? How come he didn’t flip the puck to himself and backhand it past Fasth while diving on one leg? Where’s the glory in scoring a simple goal? He’s not going to make the NHL Network’s Top 10 with that shot. Get with the program, Gibbons.
You gotta love Gibbons’ post-game reaction. “I didn’t know the goal went in right away,” Gibbons said. “I saw Gino get excited, so that’s when I knew it went in. I’m just taking it all in right now. I don’t usually show a lot of emotion but on the inside I’m pretty happy.” Classic!
Pens Coach Dan Bylsma had this to say about Gibbons: “I thought, starting on his third shift he showed what he can bring, being tough to handle. Got an extra shift in the third period, went to the net. Still can’t figure out the celebration on that goal. It’s not what you see from most guys for an NHL goal, but he went to the net and put her in there for us.”
Nothing’s wrong with a player having a slow heart beat, to borrow a saying from Pirates manager, Clint Hurdle.