It's safe to say everything about Marian Hossa's brief tenure with the Penguins was surprising.
-It was surprising how he came here.
-It was surprising how he preformed initially in the regular season (it was more disappointing really).
-It was surprising how well he performed in the postseason after years of underperforming in the playoffs.
-It was surprising how he left.
The Penguins acquired Hossa in a last minute deal at the trade deadline that caught many off guard. Other teams such as the Canadiens and Senators were thought to be the front runners in a potential deal for Hossa. The Penguins dealt a good portion of their future and one of their most popular players to the Thrashers to get Hossa as well as Pascal Dupuis. Fan favorite Colby Armstrong, shootout demon Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a first-round draft pick were the price for the player that was going to finally answer that need of a scoring winger on Crosby's line and help lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.
But was this the right guy? Hossa was a player who always had spectacular regular season numbers, but was usally a dog come postseason time. Plus Hossa was going to be a free agent at the end of the season. He would surely be the best player in a limited market come July 1.
Hossa's attempts to silence his critics didn't exactly get off to a smooth start. He played a mere 10:13 in a 5-1 loss in Boston Feb. 28. He was injured when he collided knees with Boston's Glen Murray. He wouldn't suit up against until March 16 when he contributed a relatively meaningless goal and assist in a 7-1 rout of the rival Flyers.
The rest of Hossa's regular season was fairly unimpressive. He surely didn't look like the player who was going to be a key piece to the Penguins' Stanley Cup puzzle. He only 10 points in 12 games with the Penguins. His teammate in Atlanta, Dupuis, had 12 in 16 games with the Penguins. Granted, he only played four games with Crosby, who was dealing with injuries of his own, but Hossa didn't look like an elite talent.
The playoffs started and Hossa looked a little better. He racked up a goal and four assists in a four-game sweep of Ottawa. But this Senators team was hardly a worthy foe. The Penguins could've had an AHL player rack up those totals against the pitiful Senators.
The second round against the defensive Reangers started and that's when we saw what Marian Hossa could do. The first game of that series was a thriller that the Penguins won 5-4. Hossa scored a key goal that tied the game and helped the Penguins eliminate a 3-0 deficit. He was shut out in a tight defensive 2-0 win in Game 2, recorded a goal and assist in a 5-3 win in Game 3, and was shut out again along with the rest of the club as the Rangers won Game 4, 3-0.
In Game 5, Hossa all but silenced his critics, including us:
He won the game and won the series with that goal.
From that point on, no other player on the Penguins produced more points than Hossa. He had 17 points in the 11 games against the Flyers and Red Wings. Crosby had 13 while Evgeni Malkin had 8. Hossa was the only Penguin to average over a point per game in the final getting seven points in the six games against the Red Wings.
When it mattered most, Hossa finally showed up.
His postseason exploits surely punched a ticket for him to leave town via free agency. With the crop of unrestricted free agent fairly thin compared to years past, a player of his talent would've struck while the iron was hot and taken the biggest, fattest check shown his way. Surely his talk of wanting to play for a winner was all lip service right? If Columbus or Phoenix had put enough money on the table, he would've signed on the dotted line right? That seemed to be case, especially when he suspended talks with Penguins management about a new deal prior to the opening of free agency.
But that wasn't quite the case. Hossa stunned the Penguins, their fans and pretty much the entire hockey world when he joined the team he saw win the Stanley Cup. Hossa signed with the Red Wings for only one year at "only" $7.4 million. Considering the Oilers were allegedly throwing a multi-year offer worth $10 million per season at Hossa, this was nothing short of stunning.
Hossa's motivation was true. He really did want to win the Cup. He just felt his best chance to do that happened to be with the team which already had it.
Noble motivations to be sure, but surprising nonetheless.
Personally, we felt the reason Hossa finally preformed in the playoffs was because he was on a team that didn't demand him to be that team's star player. With the Penguins, he was almost a role player after the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury or even Sergei Gonchar. In Ottawa and Atlanta, he was one of the top two players on each team and folded under that pressure. In Pittsburgh, that pressure was alleviated and it allowed him to perform.
The situation is similar in Detroit with Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg already there. Hossa won't be counted on to carry the Red Wings.
Either way, Hossa was brought here to produce in the postseason, and that's exactly what he did. He showed what an elite winger could do riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby and he showed what he could do when the games mattered the most.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-Sidney Crosby is having some trouble with his neighbors.
-According to Penguins assistant general manager Chuck Fletcher, the team has had discussion about bringing back Kris Beech and Jeff Taffe.
-The smashings will continue. Connor James re-signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The team also signed defenseman Joey Mormina.
-The Penguins signed AHL forward Adam Heinrich and defenseman T.J. Kemp.
-The Islanders signed defenseman Brendan Witt to a two-year contract extension worth $6 million. Nice signing if you ask us. Witt is about as rugged of a blue liner you will find. He will make opposing forwards pay the price if they want to go to the net.
-Forward Patrick Thoresen rejected a contract offer from the Flyers and will play in Europe next season.
-The Canadiens signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a two-year deal worth $1.55 million.
-Former Maple Leaf Joe Nieuwendyk joined Toronto in an administrative role.
-The Lightning took another step towards its impending Southeast Division title when it signed its 324th forward of the offeason in Brandon Bochenski, formerly of the Predators.
-The Canucks matched an offer sheet the Blues signed with forward Steve Bernier. The Blues appeared to be getting back at the Canucks who signed St. Louis forward David Backes to a similar offer sheet last week.
-The Ducks are going to depend on 2005 first-round draft pick Bobby Ryan next season. He was the second pick in that draft after Sidney Crosby.
-There aren't too many players still in the NHL that appeared in "NHL '94."