As we take a look at the past 1st round draft picks that mark the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ history, one would be remiss to forget about one of the most famous first rounders in Pittsburgh history. Although not drafted by the Penguins, Tom Barrasso will go down in history as one of the highest drafted goaltenders in history. He was selected fifth overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1983, and won both the Vezina and Calder trophies in his first year in the league.
Pens Labyrinth, in recognition of the 2012 Entry Draft being held in Pittsburgh, is taking a look at the various first round picks that have impacted the journey of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The following article was found in www.openingfaceoff.net, written by the Pens Labyrinth’s own Justin Halbersma.
Tom Barrasso has long been remembered as the name most recognized with Pittsburgh Penguins’ success. After all, it’s hard to argue with a goalie who backstopped the Pens to their back to back Stanley Cups, and their only President’s Trophy as regular season champions.
Tom Barrasso broke into the league in 1983-84 with the Buffalo Sabres. In his very first season, he won both the Calder and Vezina trophies as the NHL’s top rookie, and the NHL’s best goaltender. This was almost unheard for a goalie coming straight out of high school. The future seemed written for this talented rookie. Buffalo’s goaltending seemed set. The sky was the limit for this player.
Unfortunately, the next few seasons were filled with inconsistencies. Injuries felled him, and the Sabres played poorly. The shine of his rookie year was fading rapidly. Playing for a perennially poor team, Barrasso seemed destined to fade away into history as a player with golden talent, but one who would never realize it.
In 1988, in a move that didn’t seem designed to help his career, Tom Barrasso was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. On the surface, this seemed to be a shuffle from one poor team to another. Few could see this being the spark that was needed to revive Barrasso’s career.
By 1989, the Penguins had started to put the pieces together. With shrewd management, they began assembling a team of top talent, the cornerstone of which was Mario Lemieux. But personal tragedy would strike the Barrasso family in the summer of 1989, with his daughter being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The next few months were an intensely private time for the Barrasso clan, but understandably on all levels, the personal hell the Barrasso family was living in affected Tom’s on ice play. Finally he took a leave of absence in February of 1990.
The 1990-91 season started with Lemieux on the shelf with a career threatening back injury and infection. But with his daughter miraculously recovering, Barrasso took to the ice with a steely determination that propelled the Penguins to their first division title, and later on in May, their first ever Stanley Cup. Lemieux had returned from his injury, and lit up opposing goalies en route to the Cup. But it was Barrasso that provided the concrete foundation of the club, giving the Penguins the chance to win throughout the spring of 1991. In one stretch, the final three games of the Patrick Division finals, Barrasso made 97 saves on 100 shots against the Washington Capitals. It was the Mario and Tom show, and Barrasso was at his finest in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. He blanked the Minnesota North Stars in an 8-0 thrashing, stopping 39 shots and giving the Pens their first Cup in their history. One year later, Barrasso and the Pens hoisted the Stanley Cup again, this time sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1992 Finals.
Fans will always remember Tom Barrasso as a player who could bring the crowd to their feet with timely saves. As Penguins fans around the world will attest, watching the 1991 and 1992 playoffs, the chants of “Tommy, Tommy” resonated from the television and into history. Although injuries ultimately proved to be his career’s downfall, Tom will always have a special place in the hearts of Penguin fans. And the Penguins obviously have a special spot in Tom’s heart. Despite having been traded in 2000 to the Ottawa Senators, he signed a one day contract with the Penguins in 2003, the sole purpose being the opportunity to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
Now Barrasso remains in hockey, employed by the Carolina Hurricanes. He remains an intensely private individual, and understandably so. But true Penguin fans will always remember #35 in gold and black, wearing the fighting penguin as his crest, backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins out of mediocrity and into Pittsburgh legend.