Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, the best hockey blog in the land, is currently running a pretty cool series called “Mount Puckmore,” which features media from all 30 teams choosing the four defining faces of their franchise. If you haven’t already, I suggest checking it out.
The Pens’ Mount Puckmore, as selected by the Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh, consisted of Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso. All obvious – and very good – choices. An argument could be made for Craig Patrick over Barrasso if you wanted to go outside the realm of players.
Anyway, the whole Mount Rushmore thing got me thinking of doing the exact opposite – compiling a Mount Bustmore. This list would consist of the four biggest disappointments in Pens’ history. When you think of busts, you remember these bums the most. Sadly, there were far too many options. These are my selections.
On July 11, 2001, the Pens traded Jagr to the Caps for three guys nobody but the most hard-core fan had ever heard of. Beech was supposedly the best of the bunch. A big center, the Caps made him the 7th overall pick in the 1999 draft after Beech put up huge numbers (103 points in 40 games!) in juniors. He never came close to that success in the NHL. In fact, he pretty much sucked. Beech played just 95 games for the Pens over three seasons and managed 10 goals and 17 assists. He played a full season in 01-02 but was so bad he skated for Wilkes-Barre the majority of the next two campaigns. He was mercifully traded to Nashville in 2005 for the equivalent of a bag of pucks. Amazingly, he returned and played 5 games for the Pens in 07-08. That was the last time Beech played in the NHL.
Kraft was a 1st-round pick that never came close to being the player the Pens needed him to be. Chosen 23rd overall, Kraft showed glimpses of greatness, but they were all too brief and fleeting. He played 207 games over parts of four seasons, scoring only 41 goals and 82 points…total. He actually showed promise in the 03-04 campaign when he put up 40 points in 66 games, but the player’s strike the next season ended his NHL career.
Another 1st-round disaster, Koltsov never materialized into a serviceable NHL player. He had speed…and that’s it. The Belarus native was chosen 18th overall in 1999 and played just 144 games over parts of three seasons. He played all 82 games in 03-04 and managed just 9 goals and 20 assists – not what you expect from a guy projected to be a top-six forward. He went out with a whimper, scoring 3 goals in 60 games in 05-06, which proved to be the last time he skated in the NHL.
Hillier is one of those rare 1st-round draft picks that never makes it to the NHL. In fact, the goalie was one of only two first rounders in 1996 to never play a game in the big leagues. Drafted 23rd overall in the hopes of someday replacing Barrasso, Hillier played in only 47 AHL games, going 10-24-8. He went 1-6-2 with a 4.15 GAA for Wilkes-Barre in 99-00 before being banished to the ECHL. His career ended in 03-04 after playing 13 games with the Corpus Christi Rayz of the CHL.