Pens rushing toward glory

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

Should it happen that the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup, and that's at least a 50-50 bet, then Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will be accomplishing something that has never happened in an expanded hockey world.

For Crosby, this is only season No. 3 in the NHL, all of it post-lockout, all of it intended to save the Pittsburgh franchise. For Malkin, this is only his sophomore year. Whenever this team was supposed to find itself in contention, all this has happened faster than ever before.

Wayne Gretzky was in his fifth NHL season and sixth pro season when the Edmonton Oilers won their first Cup in 1984.

Mario Lemieux was in Year 7 in Pittsburgh when the Penguins won their first of two Cups.

On the flip side, Steve Yzerman took until his 14th season in Detroit to carry the Cup. Even the great Michael Jordan -- in a sport where a single player can make more of a difference than in hockey -- needed seven seasons before his first NBA championship.

Pittsburgh may not win the Cup, but with Malkin at 21, Crosby at 20, Jordan Staal at 19, this is not a one-time shot. This team, handled properly economically, will contend for years.

THIS AND THAT

Just about the last thing on Henry Samueli's list of things to do is care about Brian Burke's contract status in Anaheim. First on his list is finding a way not to go to jail for apparent stock manipulation ... The most recent NHL owner to find his way behind bars: Former Sabres owner John Rigas ... The Maple Leafs offered fired Vancouver GM Dave Nonis a deal that would name him associate GM, working with Cliff Fletcher or whoever is signed as GM. But why would Nonis take it when he is being paid for the year not to work and other teams may want him as GM, not as associate to an unknown boss? ... It is courtesy in sport to allow people under contract to interview for jobs that would mean a promotion for them. And if that's the case, why is it the Red Wings won't grant approval for the Leafs to talk with assistant GM Jim Nill? ... Little known fact: Ken Holland, maybe the best GM in hockey, was hired as a scout by Neil Smith, who doesn't get enough consideration for GM jobs anymore ... If I'm running the 2010 Olympic hockey team, my centres are Crosby, Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Richards. And if Joe Thornton wants to play, it'll have to be as a winger ... There's nothing wrong with instant replay on goals in hockey, but there's a lot wrong when too many goals are allowed or disallowed that suspend your belief in the system.

HEAR AND THERE

This is the second straight season in which the team that eliminated the Raptors was quickly dispatched in the next round of the playoffs. Which doesn't say much for the Raptors ... I agree with David Stern: There is too much piped in noise at all NBA games -- and at just about every indoor sporting event these days ... Every time you want to find an unemployment line for J.P. Ricciardi -- and that list is indeed growing -- there is a Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen trade, and he buys himself a little more time ... Memo to the Boston Celtics: No team has ever won an NBA championship without winning a playoff game on the road.

SCENE AND HEARD

Mats Sundin now ranks fifth among active NHL players for most regular-season games played (1,305) without winning the Stanley Cup. But if leader Luke Richardson (1,415), second-place Trevor Linden (1,382) and Teppo Numminen (1,315) all retire, Sundin will move to second behind Jeremy Roenick (1,321). The all-time leader is Phil Housley at 1,495 ... Sad to see the classy Annika Sorenstam announce her retirement, but nice to see her having the sense of humour to explain her actions in a David Letterman Top 10 List. One reason she's retiring: "I want to spend more time with Brett Favre's family." ... Jacques Martin has had his contract extended as GM of the Florida Panthers until 2012. Why?

AND ANOTHER THING

For years, Charles Barkley has talked about running for office. Now we know for certain he's capable. He stiffed a casino for $400,000, which should qualify him for a successful life in politics ... After all these years, I still can't warm to baseball interleague play... And hey, whatever became of Ron Karkovice?


Videos

Photos