These could be the next 10 Penguins in the hall of fame
From the moment he broke into the Penguins lineup as a 20-year-old call-up from the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League in 1988, Mark Recchi was surrounded by greatness.
He knew it, too.
"Right from the get-go, you get to play with players like Mario (Lemieux), (Bryan) Trottier, Joey Mullen, Paul Coffey and the number of guys that are in the Hall of Fame now," Recchi said. "It's just a special honor. I was very fortunate to play with guys like that."
Add Larry Murphy and Ron Francis, coaches Bob Johnson and Scotty Bowman and general manager Craig Patrick, and the Penguins' championship teams of the early 1990s will have 10 representatives in the Hockey Hall of Fame once Recchi officially joins them Monday.
That number will swell to 11 if Jaromir Jagr ever retires.
In about a decade, a new wave of Penguins Hall of Famers, spawned from the three Stanley Cup teams of this century, will push that number even higher.
Here is a look at 10 men with a chance to become the next Hockey Hall of Famer with Penguins ties.
1. Jaromir Jagr
It's a shame the Hall of Fame stopped waiving the three-year waiting period for exceptional cases in 1999. Jagr would be a perfect player for whom to break the rules. As the second-leading scorer in NHL history, his induction will be the biggest no-brainer since 66 and 99.
2. Sidney Crosby
A shoo-in if he retired tomorrow. The greatest player of his generation with 1,000 points, three Stanley Cup rings and two Olympic gold medals, among countless other honors.
3. Evgeni Malkin
His career numbers (328 goals, 832 points) haven't hit the automatic Hall of Fame threshold yet, but that hardly matters. He's a shoo-in too. Perhaps the greatest Russian player of all time, Malkin has won the Calder, Hart, Art Ross and Conn Smythe trophies.
4. Jim Rutherford
Assessing the candidacies of general managers for the Hall of Fame is often a bottom-line proposition where only one question is asked: How many championships did he win? For Rutherford, the answer is three. The only modern-era GMs with more are Sam Pollock (seven), Glen Sather (five) and Bill Torrey (four). He's practically a lock.
5. Jarome Iginla
His brief tenure with the Penguins might not have been covered in glory, but Iginla scored 625 goals with an uncommon mix of skill and grit. He's getting in.
6. Marc-Andre Fleury
It's generally hard for goalies to get in, but Fleury has a great case. He's 15th on the all-time wins list, has the 32nd-best career save percentage of any qualifying goalie and has his named engraved on the Stanley Cup three times.
7. Marian Hossa
His time with the Penguins was brief, but his list of career accomplishments is long. He's a three-time champ with 525 career goals and an impeccable reputation as a two-way standout.
8. Sergei Gonchar
He was never in the top three in Norris Trophy voting, so his candidacy is no sure thing, but Gonchar's career numbers stack up with the greatest defensemen in NHL history. His 220 goals and 811 points are both top 20 all time. He'll be eligible for the first time next year.
9. Mike Sullivan
It might seem premature to list Sullivan here, but consider this: Of the 16 retired coaches to win the Stanley Cup more than once, 14 are in the Hall of Fame. The only two that aren't coached before World War II.
10. Tom Barrasso
His career numbers don't stack up to modern goalies, but he played in a completely different era. In addition to his two Stanley Cup rings, Barrasso won the Vezina Trophy once, finished second in voting three times and third once.
The next 10
The next 10: Phil Kessel has 300 goals and he just turned 30. ... Kris Letang is one of the 10 highest-scoring defensemen of the last decade. ... It's too early to mention Matt Murray, but he is the only goalie in history to win a championship in each of his first two seasons in the league. ... Alexei Kovalev was a 1,000-point scorer. ... Bill Guerin scored 400 goals and won two championships. ... Rick Tocchet is one of five players in history with 400 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes. ... Gary Roberts is one of the other four. ... John LeClair was a five-time all-star and 400-goal scorer. ... Sergei Zubov is in the top 20 in all-time defenseman scoring. ... Randy Carlyle is a Norris Trophy winner who was one of the highest-scoring defensemen of the 1980s.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.