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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

From Journeyman to Superman by @pandapsu

From Journeyman to Superman 

Picture an NHL player who was undrafted and then finally makes it to the NHL. He shows flashes of greatness, but hits a rough patch and shuffles between four different teams in a two-year period. Most of us would probably guess this story would result in the player’s career coming to a quiet end, perhaps meddling in the minor leagues for its majority. This would be the most likely and logical conclusion, but certain players come along that are special and able to buck the trend. In this particular case, the player described above is none other than the beloved Pascal Dupuis.

Dupuis grew up in a hockey family. His father, Claude Dupuis, was a draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques, but his career was relegated to the minor leagues, and it was a brief one at that. Pascal played four years of junior hockey, but was never drafted by an NHL club. The Minnesota Wild gave him a chance in 2000, however, and he played with them through 2007. The flash of greatness mentioned above occurred in the 2002-03 season, where Dupuis hit the 20-goal mark, 48 points, and was a +17. The years that followed were disappointing, though, with one season obliterated by an NHL lockout and the other three simply mediocre for Dupuis. The 02’-03’ season was the best he would do, at least that is what a number of teams believed. 

In the 2006-07 season, the Wild gave up on Dupuis, and he was sent to the New York Rangers in exchange for Adam Hall. It was supposed to be good for both teams as it was a “swap of players who weren't fitting in” the Associated Press said on February 9, 2007. Dupuis’s stay in New York lasted exactly eighteen days before he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for perennial minor-leaguer, Alex Bourret. Dupuis finished the rest of the '06-'07 season with Atlanta, and played most of the '07-'08 season with them as well. But on February 26, 2008, Dupuis’s luck would change. 

Ray Shero was still relatively new in his general manager role with the Penguins in the spring of 2008. Some of the young talent in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Marc Andre-Fleury began to pan out in a big way, and the Penguins seemed poised to make a deep playoff run after being eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in the first round a year earlier. Shero decided to go all-in on the last day of the trade deadline. He acquired Hal Gill earlier in the day, and then at the last possible moment scored a prized acquisition and winger for Sidney Crosby in Marian Hossa. The “other player” the Penguins received from the Thrashers was Pascal Dupuis. Hossa’s time with the Penguins lasted only 32 games, including the postseason, and many wondered whether Shero gave up too much for a rental player and a journeyman. 

At the end of the 2008 season, Dupuis saw spotty duty on the top line with Crosby, but with little production. In the spring of 2009, the Penguins decided to part ways with Michel Therrien, and hired their Wilkes-Barre coach, Dan Bylsma, to take command of the team. Bylsma’s system stressed speed and time in the offensive zone, both of which played into Dupuis’s wheelhouse. By the end of the 2010-11 season, Dupuis had found a home playing alongside the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby. His game continued to improve, and he became a player with a scoring touch, racking up 17, 25, and 20 goals over the past three seasons. The 20-goal season came in just 48 games this past year, and was coupled with a league best +31 rating. His versatility shines, being a top-six forward, crucial and defensive-minded penalty-killer, and valued contributor on the team's second power-play unit. 

It is rare to see a player like Pascal Dupuis fly under the radar for much of his career and then suddenly produce with such consistency. Some may say this is due entirely to his high-caliber linemates or because of an offensive-minded system that suits, but let’s not take anything away from him. He has an incredibly hard work ethic and has earned everything that is coming to him. He is roommates and great friends with Sidney Crosby. He has turned into a crowd favorite with fans sporting shirts like “Super Duper” and “Thanks Daaann” ( all over Pittsburgh. So it only makes sense that all of Penguins’ nation rejoiced this offseason when he signed a four-year deal worth $3.75 million annually. Not bad for a journeyman who was just a “throw-in” with Marian Hossa some five years earlier.

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