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Monday, March 7, 2016

Biggest Pens Villain - Bettman Bracket Opening Round

The Bettman Bracket

Gary Bettman - Bye

The NHL commissioner is an easy guy to dislike between three lockouts during his tenure and an increasing disregard for any type of obstruction penalties under his watch. He's universally hated by all 30 fanbases in the league, and the man would probably be booed by hockey fans while giving free puppies to orphaned children on Christmas.

Trevor Gillies vs Mark Madden

Trevor Gillies is one of the biggest, least talented goons to ever play in the NHL. In a league where even most bottom 6 plugs had some success scoring at the junior level, Gillies managed a whopping 7 goals in 156 OHL games played, including 6 of those as an overage player in 1998-99. He was equally pathetic as a professional, but his size and fighting ability kept him employed. He drew the ire of Pens fans in 2011, when Gillies elbowed Eric Tangradi in the face, pummeled him when he laid on the ice, then taunted the clearly injured player from the tunnel to the Islanders locker room. Somehow, Gillies received only 9 games for his actions when a MUCH harsher punishment was warranted.

Mark Madden is a guy who willingly takes on the villain role and runs with it, often times taking things too far with crass and insensitive comments. The self-proclaimed "Super Genius" had previously been fired by ESPN for on-air remarks hoping Ted Kennedy was assassinated after the former Senator was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he continues to make tasteless and misogynistic comments on his radio program for the Penguins' flagship radio station, 105.9 The X.

Rick Tocchet vs Scott Hartnell

Rick Tocchet won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins as a trade deadline acquisition in 1992, and he scored 179 points in 150 games with Pittsburgh. While Tocchet the player is still remembered fondly, Tocchet the coach has caused numerous issues since arriving in Pittsburgh. Tocchet was the first coaching hire Jim Rutherford's staff made after taking over, but given that he was an assistant coach he made it very difficult for the Pens in their search for a head coach. Several candidates turned Pittsburgh down without the autonomy to name their full staff, and they eventually had to settle for Mike Johnston. Tocchet has been blamed for running the Pens' power play into the ground, and rumor had it that his close relationship with owner Mario Lemieux saved his job when Johnston was fired.

Scott Hartnell is the type of player you like having on your team, but he's an annoying player to see in an opposing team's lineup, and given his time with the Philadelphia Flyers int's no surprise he became a player Pens fans love to hate. Though he's only been suspended once for 2 games and fined on one other occasion, Hartnell instigates far more than he blatantly cheap shots, and given that he's managed 640 points in 1,094 career games his pestering becomes more obnoxious when he finds his way onto the scoresheet. He's no longer a Flyer, but with the Blue Jackets attempting to establish themselves as one of the dirtier teams the Pens will face there's been no lack of love lost.

Tim Peel vs Stan Fischler

If the problems of the NHL's reffing problems are ever personified, chances are that the person being complained about is Tim Peel. Yahoo's Puck Daddy has chronicled Peel's mistakes at times over the years, and his blunders typically stand head and shoulders above those of his colleagues. And when David Warsofsky suffered a concussion from an on-ice collision with a sliding referee, could it have been anyone other than Peel who took him out?

Stan Fischler is the type of media member you complain about your media market having in spades, but in all reality few approach what Fischler brings to the table. Fischler has stated that the Penguins should trade an over the hill Sidney Crosby and that barring a Crosby trade, the Penguins should trade Evgeni Malkin straight up for Eric Staal. Both those comments came in just November this season alone. These aren't isolated incidents as Fischler is well known for his less than intelligent hot takes.

Garry Valk vs Stephane Quintal

Garry Valk was a Pittsburgh Penguins for two seasons from 1996-98, but it wasn't until the following season with Toronto that Valk earned his place on this list. Pittsburgh had snuck into the playoffs, but after upsetting the top seeded New Jersey Devils in the first round they had to be feeling good about their chances, especially since all 3 of the division winners were defeated in the opening round as well. Down 3 games to 2 and facing elimination in overtime, Valk was the unlikely hero for the Maple Leafs when he put home a loose puck while falling to the ice to eliminate the Penguins in 6 games.

Stephane Quintal had a long, 16 year career in the NHL, but it's been his role as the Director of Player Safety that brings him into the crosshairs of Pens fans. Whether it was failing to suspend Marc Staal for repeated shots against Crosby or only giving Brandon Dubinsky 1 game for cross checking Crosby in the neck then again as he laid prone on the ice, Quintal has continued the tradition of the Director of Player Safety caring less about safety and more about turning a blind eye towards some of the dangerous on-ice conduct.

Tuukka Rask vs Ray Shero

Coming out of the 2013 lockout the Penguins had established themselves as the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, and the Pens had loaded up at the trade deadline in an attempt to win another Stanley Cup. Although Fleury struggled at the start of the opening series against the Islanders, the Penguins quickly finished them off and rolled through the Senators with Tomas Vokoun in net. Only the Boston Bruins stood between them and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, but Tuukka Rask had a huge series, allowing only two Pittsburgh goals in 4 games to dominate the Pens, finishing with a 0.985 SV% and 0.44 GAA.

There was a time when Ray Shero could do no wrong in the eyes of Penguins fans, and the motto "In Shero We Trust" could be heard for any move he made, even the more questionable ones. But things quickly began to turn on Shero in Pittsburgh as he increasingly went all-in trying to push the Penguins over the top. Trading 2 second round picks for Douglas Murray was bad, but signing Rob Scuderi to a 4 year contract might have been what did it for the majority of the fan base. The calls for his job became louder, and Shero was fired at the end of the 2013-14 season after the Pens blew a 3-1 lead to the New York Rangers.

John Vanbiesbrouck vs Steve Downie

The Pittsburgh Penguins were looking to make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 1996 when they met the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals. They had taken a 3-2 series lead but couldn't close out the series on the road in Florida, so the teams returned to Pittsburgh for the decisive Game 7. John Vanbiesbrouck had an incredible series in stopping the high-powered Pittsburgh attack, but it was his Game 7 performance that sunk the Pens and allowed the Panthers to advance to play for the Stanley Cup. Vanbiesbrouck stopped 39 of 40 Penguins shots to stymie the league's best offense and give Pittsburgh a playoff defeat to rival the 1993 loss to the Islanders.

Steve Downie wore out his welcome during his single year in Pittsburgh when he could not keep himself out of the penalty box. That alone wouldn't be enough to make this list, but Downie has a long track history of being a dirty player and irritant. One moment in particular stands out while Downie was playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He and Sidney Crosby were skating down the boards when Downie stuck his knee behind the Penguins' captain and bent him back over in what looked like an attempt to blow out his knee. Crosby was ultimately okay, and Downie received nothing more than a $1,000 fine from a Department of Player Safety with a long track record of being incapable of properly punishing players.

Marc Staal - Bye

It's bad enough to see opponents target your star players, but it's even worse when their infractions go uncalled and help propel the other team to a playoff upset. The Penguins had built a 3-1 lead against the Rangers in the 2014 playoffs, but it was the repeated shots at Sidney Crosby's head and neck by Staal that stood out the most in the series. With competent referees and/or Department of Player Safety the attacks would have quickly stopped as they Penguins would have been given several power play chances, and/or Staal would have found himself suspended. It helped knock Crosby off his game, as he scored only 3 points in the 7 game series, and it gave Staal a reputation among Penguins fans that he'll never be able to shake.

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