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Penguins Are NHL's Top Team of Salary Cap Era

The Athletic's 2021 'Salary Cap Era' NHL Franchise Rankings has Pittsburgh listed first

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The NHL's salary cap was instituted for the 2005-06 season, Sidney Crosby's first in the league.

And ever since then, the Penguins have been the top team of the era, according to an objective point system put together by The Athletic.

"Management has done a great job trying to keep the Stanley Cup window open for most of Crosby's career," The Athletic wrote. "Most of the teams challenging Pittsburgh at the top of these standings have embarked on some sort of rebuild or refresh."

Even with Tampa Bay capturing their second consecutive Stanley Cup earlier this week - becoming the second team in the last 23 years to accomplish the feat after Pittsburgh did so in 2016 and '17 - the Penguins still rank first on the list by quite a margin.

The Athletic's point system is structured as follows: winning the Stanley Cup is worth 11 points; losing in the Stanley Cup Final is worth five points; losing in the Conference Final is worth three points; and making the playoffs was worth one point.

Teams couldn't earn points in multiple categories, so if a club won the Stanley Cup in a given year, it didn't get the additional point for making the playoffs. It's also weighed in favor of significant playoff success.

The Penguins earned 51 points, well ahead of second-place Chicago (41 points); third-place Tampa Bay (40 points); fourth-place Boston (30 points) and fifth-place Los Angeles (29 points).

Pittsburgh has made the playoffs for 15 consecutive seasons, the longest active postseason streak among all major North-American professional sports leagues. Since the 1967 NHL Expansion, the Penguins' 15-season playoff streak is the eighth-longest run of any franchise.

They have reached the Conference Final five times, gone to four Stanley Cup Finals, and of course, most importantly, captured three Stanley Cup championships in the salary-cap era. After winning it all in 2009, Pittsburgh became the first team since the 1997 and '98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as champions.

This ranking is an incredible reminder of just how fortunate we have been here in Pittsburgh. As head coach Mike Sullivan has said many times, it's hard to win in this league - which makes the Penguins' continued success over the past 17 seasons absolutely remarkable.

It's a testament to ownership, with Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux enabling management to spend to that salary cap and put a competitive team on the ice year after year. 

It's a testament to management for finding ways to build deep rosters and keep the championship window open despite a myriad of challenges, like constantly drafting outside of the first round.

It's a testament to Sullivan and the coaches for guiding their clubs through the grind of the regular season and then playoffs, getting the most out of the guys and helping them find success through all of the adversity, like the injuries that seem to befall the team each year.

And of course, it's a testament to the players - most notably the core leadership group of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang - who leave it all out on the ice in the pursuit of their ultimate goal.

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