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New Wild GM left lasting impact on Sidney Crosby

Bill Guerin was a critical trade deadline acquisition for Penguins ahead of 2009 championship run

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

Bill Guerin wasn't drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he represents one of the best third-round investments in team history.

In March of 2009, the midst of his second season as captain of the New York Islanders, Guerin was dealt at the trade deadline to the Penguins for a conditional fifth-round pick later that summer. 

If Pittsburgh reached the playoffs, the pick became a fourth rounder. If the Penguins advanced past the first round, and Guerin played in 50 percent of those first-round games, it elevated to a third rounder.

Guerin and the Penguins accomplished a whole lot more than that.

The then-38-year-old wily veteran played a crucial role in Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup, playing in all 24 playoff games and scoring seven goals and 15 points along the way.

Included in that was the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Washington Capitals. 

Off the ice, Guerin made a lasting impact on a young Pittsburgh forward who would go on to have a pretty impactful career of his own: current Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Just 21years old at the time, Crosby was in his fourth NHL season and had already established himself as the best player in the game. 

That season, Crosby scored 33 goals and 103 points during the regular season. The year prior, his first as the team's captain, Crosby led the Penguins all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where Pittsburgh lost to the Detroit Red Wings. 

But the Pens were still missing something.

Cue Guerin, who had won a Cup with the New Jersey Devils more than a decade earlier and was one of the most respected winners in the game. It's one of the main reasons why that Penguins -- with a ton of young talent already on board -- team brought the veteran in. 

With the pressure of the Cup Final loss the year before still lingering, Guerin entered the Pens dressing room during its stretch run that year and made an immediate impact.

"He was very supportive and there for me to help with the learning curve," Crosby told Wild.com via e-mail. "He kept things light as well and think I needed that sometimes." 

As the story goes, it didn't take long for Guerin to start needling the young captain.

In an ESPN story penned by Scott Burnside in 2017, Crosby said it took about 10 seconds after their first meeting for Guerin to get on Crosby about the small pads he wears in his compression undershirts. 

And that's just one example.

"We were always there and we would support each other but we would also go after each other," Guerin said. "We'd calm each other down at the right time, but we had our healthy conflicts as well. And we still do, but it's more light-hearted now."

The Penguins' championship in 2009 was the first of three the franchise would win over the next nine years. Crosby wore the 'C' on his chest for all three, while Guerin, who would play one more season before retiring, would be a part of the next two in the front office.

During that time, Crosby and Guerin have formed a friendship that continues to this day.

"It was a really great experience for me, at an older age, to be able to play with a guy like him," Guerin said. "Sid pushed me, and at 38 or 39 years old, I felt like I got better because of him. It was a great experience and we became really good friends."

As it turned out, the trade to bring Guerin to Pittsburgh set in motion a series of events that brought him to Minnesota as the fourth general manager in Wild history earlier this week.

Guerin and his family enjoyed their time in Pittsburgh so much they took a residence there even after his playing days. He ended up joining the Penguins as a player development coach in 2011 and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2014, where he served until getting the job in Minnesota.

Crosby said he believes Guerin has what it takes to be special in his new role with the Wild.

"He knows the game really well and all that goes into winning whether it's the qualities in players or skills and physical attributes it takes," Crosby said. "I think Billy is great with people, and whether it's players or his staff, they are going to have someone who is fun to be around and also treats people with a lot of respect."


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