In the 2003 NHL entry draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins selected a goaltender named Marc-André Fleury with the first overall pick. Since he joined the team, Fleury, who won a Stanley Cup in 2009, has started every playoff game for his team. That streak ends tonight, after Pittsburgh coach Dan Bialsma announced they would be starting backup Thomas Voukoun against the Islanders in a pivotal game five of their seven game first-round series, which is currently tied at two games apiece. Why in heaven’s name would he do this?
If you’d like the long, reasonable Pittsburgh fan perspective, you can read this.
If you want the short, brutal and staggeringly true version, it’s that over the past two seasons in the playoffs, Fleury has stunk worse than a porta potty at a garlic festival. He’s given up 40 goals in his last ten playoffs games, and that’s putting it nicely.
So now, as the Penguins, who many saw as a shoo-in to win the Cup this year face their moment of truth in the first round, we ask- who could the Penguins have selected INSTEAD of Marc-Andres Fleury? He went first overall, so the answer is ANYBODY in the 2003 entry draft, a group considered one of the best in recent memory:
If you’re a Pittsburgh fan, you may not want to look at this, but here are five incredible hockey players who could have been wearing black and yellow for the Penguins tonight as Fleury rides the pine:
Eric Staal was selected #2 overall in 2003, won a cup for the Hurricanes in 2006, and is one of the most respected players in the game. His brother Jordan, formerly a Penguin, joined him in Carolina for the 2013 campaign.
Even in seasons when the Buffalo Sabres have been terrible, Thomas Vanek, who was picked fifth overall in 2003, has been an offensive powerhouse, scoring at least 25 goals in every complete season he’s played with his team.
Drafted third in 2003 by the basement dwelling Florida Panthers, Horton eventually got his chance at the post season after being traded to the Boston Bruins, and scored not only a handful of clutch gamewinning goals, but after a brutal late hit knocked him out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver, he inspired his team to win their first Stanley Cup in over 30 years.
Drafted 27 spots after Marc-André Fleury by the Anaheim Ducks in 2003, Perry not only won a Stanley Cup in 2007, but was a 50 goal-scorer in 2011, taking home the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Drafted ninth in 2003 by the Calgary Flames, this hard-hitting three time all star defenseman now patrols the blue line for the Toronto Maple Leafs. And in case you think he can’t shut down other teams’ big guns, he’s seen in this picture causing Corey Perry no small amount of pain.
Was selecting Fleury number one overall a mistake? Citing their 2009 Stanely Cup win, many Penguins fans would say no. But to look at what they could have had, it’s hard not to wonder…
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