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The DraX-Files: The Pittsburgh Penguins- A History of Pain

The DraX-Files: Jack Handy has Deep Thoughts. I just tell you like it is…

The Pittsburgh Penguins have known their share of pain when it comes to serious medical issues and even death.

On May 15, 1970, Michel Brière, coming off of a stellar rookie campaign for the Penguins, in which he scored 12 goals and 32 assists, was killed in a car crash outside of Malartic, Quebec, Canada.

After leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Championship in 1991, Penguins’ Head Coach “Badger” Bob Johnson suffered a brain aneurysm in August of 1991 and was hospitalized. He was diagnosed with brain cancer and died on November 26, 1991.

During the 1992-93 season, Mario Lemieux was on fire, threatening every single season scoring record set by Wayne Gretzky. Then on January 12, 1993, Lemieux made the shocking announcement that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Despite missing two months of the season receiving energy depleting radiation treatments, Lemieux still came back to win the NHL Scoring Title by 12 points over Pat LaFontaine.

On August 11, 2003, Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 US Olympic Men’s Hockey Team to the “Miracle on Ice”, and the Penguins’ Director of Player Personnel, was tragically killed in an auto accident near Forrest Lake, Minnesota.

During the 2013 preseason, goalie Tomas Vokoun was sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery to dissolve another blood clot in his pelvis.

Later in the 2013-14 season, defensemen Kris Letang complained of dizziness and nausea. Doctors determined that Letang had suffered a stroke and discovered a small hole in the wall of his heart. Letang returned later that year and rejoined his teammates for the rest of the season.

A few weeks ago, Olli Maatta, a 20 year old defensemen from Finland, was diagnosed with a tumor on his thyroid. On November 4, 2014, Maatta underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor. Amazingly, Maatta returned to action just two weeks later. He was expected to miss up to six weeks originally.

Now, yet again, the Penguins face another player with sad medical news, as forward Pascal Dupuis announced that he has a blot clot on his lung. Dupuis will be put on blood thinners and will be out of the line-up for at least six months. Dupuis was limited to 39 games last season after tearing his ACL during a game at Ottawa.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a placard on their locker room wall that reads, “Whatever it takes, we walk together.”

If there was ever an organization that lives by those words, it is indeed the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Despite missing winger Beau Bennett, Olli Maatta, and now Pascal Dupuis to various injuries and ailments, the Penguins are destroying everything that gets in it’s path, as evident by their 13-3-1 record so far. The Penguins are leading the NHL in goals per game with 3.60, are first in the Power Play, converting at a ridiculous 33.8% clip, and trail Montreal by just two points for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, despite playing in three fewer games.

Sidney Crosby is tied atop the scoring race with 26 points on the season. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been unconscious, going 11-3 with a 1.98 GAA and a league leading four shutouts.

The Penguins are a team that makes life miserable for opposing teams on just about every shift they take. They are a rare blend of speed, skill, and grit.

New head coach Mike Johnston definitely has this team looking like Cup favorites, and barring any setbacks through injuries, it is going to be a fun playoff run this year in Pittsburgh.

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On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers released disgruntled RB LaGarrette Blount after he walked off the field early in the Steelers victory over Tennessee on Monday night. If it were up to me, I would’ve handed Blount a phone book and told him to find his own way home from Nashville. It’s one thing to be upset about a lack of playing time. Every player wants his chance to contribute. But walking out on your team is a cowardly act. I’m sure there will be a team that picks up Blount soon, but really, is that the kind of guy you want in your locker? A guy who quits? Good luck with that.

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With catcher Russell Martin signing a 5-year/$82 million dollar contract with Toronto, the Pittsburgh Pirates have more than enough resources to sign pitcher Francisco Liriano, and bolster the line-up and bullpen. If there is ever going to be year where Pirates owner Bob Nutting puts up or shuts up, this will be the opportunity. It’s time to stop with the pity party. Nutting is the 10th richest owner in MLB. The fans have broken attendance records the past two seasons at PNC Park.

Open the checkbook and do the right thing. Your team has a window wide open to win a championship. Your move, Mr. Nutting.

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Did any Pitt football fan anywhere in the world feel good when the Panthers held 14-0 and 21-7 leads over North Carolina?

When Carolina took the ball with a few minutes left and Pitt was up 35-34, you just knew how this story would end. Of course, the inevitable happened, and UNC prevailed 40-35. Pitt now has to defeat Syracuse and Miami to become bowl eligible.

I know Pitt has the youngest team in the FBS. They have 81 freshmen and sophomores combined on the roster. So I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Regardless, defensive coordinator Matt House needs to join LaGarrette Blount on his way out of Pittsburgh. It would behoove the Pitt Administration if they included AD Steve Pederson on the chopping block, too.

This program needs an infusion of life injected into it. I’m all for head coach Paul Chryst getting a shot to right the ship, but he needs to make better decisions too, and getting rid of House is priority #1.

You’ll be lucky to see 20,000 people at Pitt’s home finale this Saturday vs Syracuse.

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Pitt basketball is talented, but young. At one point against Samford, they had five sophomores on the court.

Last year’s leading scorer, guard Cam Wright, is working his way back from injury.

Forward Sheldon Jeter, a local kid who transferred to Pitt last year, is looking like a nice addition to the squad. G’s Cam Johnson, Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk, James Robinson, and F’s Jamel Artis, Ryan Luther, Michael Young all have talent. Center Joseph Uchebo, a 6’10 junior from Nigeria, will help defensively down low in the paint. Derrick Randall will provide relief for Uchebo.

It certainly hurt when F Durand Johnson was suspended for the entire season for reasons Pitt coach Jamie Dixon did not disclose. But I’ve heard that Johnson had incidents similar to that of Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount, if you know what I mean. It’s got to be crushing news to Johnson who was expected to be a major contributor to this team’s success. Johnson had worked hard to return from an ACL injury suffered last year. But he has only himself to blame.

When Wright returns from injury and works his way back into game-shape, along with the team jelling and finding it’s way, this should be a fun Pitt team to watch when ACC play opens in January.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/The-Pete.jpg” alt=”NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Pittsburgh” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-7956″ ]

 

 

 

 

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!

As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides the best opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania.

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