Trade makes NHL fans hate Pens

PITTSBURGH – It’s fun being on the other side, isn’t it?

It’s fun when your team is the one raiding the also-rans and relieving them of good players who are approaching free agency.

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero spent last week doing that, liberating Jarome Iginla from Calgary, Brenden Morrow from Dallas and Douglas Murray from San Jose. Shero didn’t subtract anyone from his major league roster, instead trading prospects and draft picks.

If that sounds like the opposite of what’s been happening across the river with the Pirates for the last 20 years, that’s because it is. You can’t make a fair comparison between the NHL and MLB, because they operate under two completely different economic systems.

The NHL has a salary cap and a smaller pay scale. Sidney Crosby is hockey’s best player and he makes $8.7 million. Alex Rodriguez is over the hill, injured and under suspicion for using illegal substances. The New York Yankees will pay him $29 million this season.

The Penguins’ flurry of deals inspired some comparisons to the Yankees, but that’s not fair. Although the Penguins will shell out more money for the players they acquired, they pick up just a small portion of this season’s salary and there’s no obligation beyond this season. These were not blank check deals.

Other teams have prospects and draft picks to trade. In fact, the Boston Bruins made a better offer for Iginla, but his veto power on trades made Calgary take the Penguins’ deal. He wanted to join Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Like the prom queen said, “Don’t hate me because I’m popular.”

Shero accurately projected that a lot of people will be rooting against the Penguins. Sometimes local fans don’t understand how much the Penguins are resented outside of Pittsburgh, where Crosby is viewed as an incessant whiner. The Penguins’ frequent appearances on network TV have led some to gripe that NBC stands for “Nothing But Crosby.”

But that kind of reaction is a backhanded compliment. People don’t hate teams unless they’re good. In that sense, the Penguins truly are the NHL’s Yankees. A lot of people have a vested interest in wanting them to be humbled.

With last week’s additions, anything less than a trip to the Stanley Cup Final will be considered a flop for this team. The Penguins are the team everyone has in the crosshairs, the team others want to see fail.

There’s still time

The annual “Guess How Many Games The Pirates Will Win” contest is still open at the “Mainly Mehno” blog at the website.

There are still some very good numbers left, so check the blog and give it your best shot. It costs nothing to enter and you could wind up with the prize, a box of leftover promotional stuff.

John Mehno can be reached at