Thank you, Evgeni Malkin. Thank you for reminding me and the city of Pittsburgh of how you were once a rookie and spoke no English at all and didn't understand what anyone was saying in this country. Thank you for reminding me on how far you have come and also reminding me on the one person who helped you the most: Sergei Gonchar.
Malkin gave us all a reminder last night at the NHL Award's Ceremony where he personally thanked Sergei Gonchar and wanted to give him the MVP trophy that he just won. Geno realized how much Gonchar has done for him, but does the city of Pittsburgh realize it?
Let's go back on memory lane and re-visit each of the five seasons Gonchar spent with The Penguins:
2005-2006: 58 pts. 12 goals. 46 assists. -13 rating.
Gonchar's first season with The Pens. By the numbers, he actually had a pretty decent season for being on a terrible Penguin's team. But everyone remembers him that season for his terrible start and not his strong finish.
2006-2007: 67 pts. 13 goals. 54 assists. -5 rating.
Gonchar's second season and the first season he is taking care of Malkin. Gonchar not only has a great season, but also helps run a top-five power play unit, and help Malkin become accustomed to the NHL and America. Malkin finished the season by winning the Rookie of The Year.
2007-2008: 65 pts. 12 goals. 53 assists. +13 rating.
In the middle of his contract, Gonchar had his finest season with The Pens. He helped led The Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals and continued to help Malkin in his growth as a player. Malkin led The Penguins that year with 106 Points.
2008-2009: 19 pts. 6 goals. 13 assists. +6 rating.
Gonchar started the year on IR with a dislocated shoulder and the power play suffered tremendously. The team realized how important he is on the point and how he is one of the best at quarterbacking it. Once he came back, The Pens and the power play were clicking at all cylinders and Gonchar helped lead the team to winning its third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Malkin continued to grow, by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
200-2010: 50 pts. 11 goals. 39 assists. -4 rating.
Gonchar's final season was not the greatest for him. He was showing signs of old-age. He still helped ran a pretty good power play, but everyone remembers Game 7 of The Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Montreal Canadians where his lackluster play helped end The Pens Season.
Everybody remembers the first season and the last season. But really take out those two bad moments, and Gonchar was a great defenseman while he was here. He ran a power play like no other. (If you haven't noticed, the power play hasn't been the same since he left.) He was on a top defensive pairing with Brooks Orpik. But most importantly, he helped the growth of a truly great hockey player in Evgeni Malkin. Malkin is now coming into his own and Gonchar had a huge say in that. Without Gonchar, who knows where Malkin would be at, even Geno realizes that.
So no matter how much you couldn't stand how he played, or how he started or ended his time with The Penguins, you have to have respected The Sarge. His effects are still showing in a positive way through MVP Evgeni Malkin.