The Departed - Jordan Leopold - 08-05-10

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

"The Departed" series on Empty Netters is a set of "eulogies" for former Penguins who have passed away... to other teams. Essentially, we look back on their time as a Penguin, examine their contributions to the franchise and as real eulogies occasionally do, exaggerate a bit. Today's eulogy is dedicated to Jordan Leopold.

It would be a stretch to say Jordan Leopold's time with the Penguins was all that memorable. He only played 20 regular season games (just as many as Chris Bourque) and eight postseason contests. And while he played well for most of those games, he'll probably be best remembered for being on the wrong end of a devastating hit in the first round of the playoffs. But like we said, he did play well for the majority of his brief time in Pittsburgh and was a true asset for the team.

As the 2010 trade deadline approached, the Penguins had some holes on the blue line. Sergei Gonchar was wearing out. Alex Goligoski's game regressed as the season wore on. Jay McKee was simply not an adequate replacement for Rob Scuderi or Hal Gill. And Kris Letang's shot couldn't find the net without a GPS tracker. General manager Ray Shero had to address the position.

Two days after Sidney Crosby won the gold medal for Canada, Shero pulled the trigger on a deal which sent a second-round pick to the Panthers in exchange for Jordan Leopold. A former Hobey Baker Award winner at the University of Minnesota, Leopold's NHL career was a fairly nomadic one since his rookie season of 2002-03. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Flames and was a key contributor to the Calgary team which nearly won the Stanley Cup in 2004. In the 2006 offseason, he was traded to Avalanche. Injuries pretty much dominated his stay in the Colorado before he was once again traded back to the Flames at the 2009 trade deadline.

In the 2009 offseason, he was dealt to Florida as part of the Jay Bouwmeester trade. Leopold was solid but hardly spectacular during his time with the hopeless Panthers before he was once again traded, this time to the Penguins.

It didn't take long for the Penguins to find a way to use Leopold. McKee was benched in favor of Leopold who saw 18:12 of ice time. He didn't record a point, but he did log nearly two minutes of penalty kill time and helped the Penguins shut down the Sabres' power play on four opportunities.

Things pretty much went like that for the rest of March for Leopold. He would log plenty of minutes, play positionally-sound but hardly physical defense, block a handful of shots, get some occasional time on the power play and contribute a few points.

It wasn't until April 3 when Leopold would show off his shooting ability (and a little bit of luck). In overtime of a game against the Thrashers who were fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, Leopold simply worked a puck down the right wing into the offensive zone hoping to give his teammates some time to change lines. He spun off Atlanta defenseman Mark Popovic and whipped a puck on net at goaltender Johan Hedberg:

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Hedberg would admit he took his eye off the puck to check on anyone coming off the bench. But that didn't matter, Leopold helped delivered a key win for the Penguins who were still trying to claim the Atlantic Division

Three nights later, Leopold contributed two goals for the Penguins who couldn't keep up with the Capitals in a 6-3 home loss. In the final game of the season, a 6-5 run-and-gun affair with the Islanders on Long Island, Leopold scored the game-winner in that contest as well. In all, he found away to contribute a respectable eight points in 20 games.

In the postseason, Leopold was fairly ineffective in a surprisingly wild 5-4 loss at home to the Senators. Game 2 is pretty much where everything came to an end for Leopold. The Penguins trailed the Senators early, 1-0. With just under three minutes left in the first period, he pushed the puck up the right boards and was simply leveled by hulking Senators defenseman Andy Sutton:

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Sutton would avoid any sort of in-game or supplementary punishment from the league. A heated exchange between Sutton and a Post-Gazette reporter after the game would draw more attention than the hit itself. The Penguins would eventually win the game and the series without Leopold's services.

Leopold would return from a concussion in time for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Montreal but he simply wasn't the same player. He made more than a few mistakes and rarely stood out. The Penguins would end up being upset in seven games by the Canadiens.

Last month, after the Penguins opted not to re-sign Leopold and allowed him to sign with the Sabres.

(Photo: First-Jim McIsaac/Getty Images; Second-Justin K. Aller/Getty Images; Third-Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

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