Chris Kunitz retired. He wasn’t in the same class as Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. But Kunitz was a big part of the Penguins winning Stanley Cups in 2009, '16 and '17.
Kunitz had 76 points in 126 playoff games for the Penguins. He got a lot of those points by going right through somebody. Kunitz had ruthless aggression. His forecheck registered on the Richter scale. He paid any price. He did whatever it took.
That produced the occasional huge moment: Like when Kunitz scored in the second OT of Game 7 against Ottawa in the 2017 Eastern Conference final. That’s an indelible moment in Penguins history, and it belongs to Kunitz. (Ottawa may never recover.)
Kunitz helped make the Penguins, not vice-versa. He won a Cup with Anaheim. He won Olympic gold with Canada.
Kunitz was a great fit on Crosby’s wing. With all due respect to Jake Guentzel, Kunitz remains Crosby’s best linemate ever. He had speed through the neutral zone and the physicality and skill to excel down low. That latter trait took a lot of pressure off Crosby in that regard and spared the captain some wear and tear.
Kunitz was undrafted. He got waived by Anaheim and Atlanta. But Kunitz wouldn’t take no for an answer. He carved a big-time career out of a marginal chance.
Kunitz stands ninth all-time in goals for the Penguins, 14th all-time in points. He’s one of just five Penguins players to win three Stanley Cups.
Like most hockey players, Kunitz is a class act.
But his real bottom line is: Kunitz is a winner.
You win with guys like Kunitz. The Penguins did. Anaheim did. Canada did. That adds up. That isn’t coincidence.