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On Target

Just one team has won multiple Stanley Cups since 2003. That team wasn’t the Hall of Fame-laden Detroit Red Wings, two-time President Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks or the squad led by three-time MVP Alex Ovechkin.

In fact, two of the above teams have never won the Stanley Cup. Not with Markus Naslund and Pavel Bure. Not with Adam Oates and Peter Bondra. And not with any of the great teams each have built since.

Only the Chicago Blackhawks can claim multiple titles in the past decade.

Why? Because winning a Stanley Cup is hard.

A talented roster can be assembled, and chemistry can be developed, but there is no guarantee of a Cup. All a general manager can do is place the pieces. And that’s exactly what Ray Shero is doing.

Kris Letang was re-signed just as he is entering the prime of his career, and veteran Rob Scuderi—whose stay-at-home presence has been missed since he left for L.A. via free agency five years ago—was brought back to fortify the blue line.

In addition to re-signing complimentary pieces like Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Craig Adams, Shero made his biggest moves when he opted to extend a coach that reached 200 wins faster than anyone, as well as a player who is one of three current skaters to win multiple scoring titles. Those are regular season accomplishments, of course – and the Penguins have certainly not struggled during the first 82 games of the year.

Don’t forget that Malkin also won the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading the playoffs in points. And remember too that it was Dan Bylsma who coached Pittsburgh past the superior Red Wings team in 2009.

But, what about lately? The triumphs of 2009 carry little weight in 2013. The Penguins have not won a game beyond the second round of the playoffs in four years.

A little perspective might help.

Start with Bylsma.

Consider that only a single active coach has won more than one Stanley Cup. Also remember that Bylsma has coached less than five full seasPenguinsons of NHL hockey. In that time, he has won a Stanley Cup and a Jack Adams award.

There have been disappointments, but the second youngest coach in the league is still learning. His accomplishments to date have been earned despite the absence of experience – a valuable commodity in the coaching game.

Coaching icon Scotty Bowman needed six seasons to win his first Cup. He fell short even with a top regular season record and superstars like Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante, Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur and Jacques Lemaire.

Al Arbour waited even longer. The Islanders great won his first championship in his tenth season. He spent years coaching Brian Trottier, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith before hoisting the Cup.

Perhaps Bowman and Arbour needed so much time because winning the Stanley Cup is hard.

Bylsma may never be in the same class as those Hall of Famers, but it’s hardly time to let another team snatch the 42-year-old before he reaches his coaching prime. The Cup-winning bench master has plenty of talented Penguins teams ahead of him, thanks in part to Evgeni Malkin’s desire to stay in Pittsburgh.

The 2009 playoff MVP has posted seven goals and 24 points in his last 21 playoff games. He was arguably the Penguins best performer this postseason and took a hometown discount to stay in Pittsburgh because, as he stated, “We’ve won a Cup before, and I believe we will win again.”

Once more a panoramic view of the NHL may help.

Steve Yzerman needed 14 seasons to win hockey’s ultimate prize. Six times The Captain led his team to division championships followed by playoff disappointments. It wasn’t until he turned 32 that Detroit won a Stanley Cup – their first of three with Yzerman at the helm.

Colorado won eight consecutive division titles and bolstered an all-star-like team in 2003-04 when Teemu Selanne joined the club. They won just six playoff games, however, losing to the San Jose squad Selanne had vacated for a chance to win the Cup. The Finnish Flash topped the league in goal scoring three times in the 90’s, yet didn’t win his first championship until 2007.

Five times Jaromir Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy. He played with Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis on some of the best Penguins teams ever in the mid-90’s. Brendan Shanahan and Henrik Lundqvist were teammates in the mid-2000’s. But, not once during his prime did Jagr reach the Stanley Cup Final. His appearance this year marked the longest gap between championship showings in North American professional sports history.

PenguinsAdd Ray Bourque, Brett Hull and Denis Savard to the list of players who didn’t win a Stanley Cup until after their 32nd birthdays. 

Other greats like Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr never won a championship after their 28th birthdays.

Excuse the repeated examples of the game’s greatest players falling short, but if you haven’t noticed yet, winning a Stanley Cup is really hard. That’s why it’s foolish to discard valuable—and proven—assets like Bylsma and Malkin after a few disappointing years. Ask the Flyers and Paul Holmgren how their dismantling worked out. Better yet, ask Stanley Cup champions Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

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