It wasn't easy to tell from the start that Maxime Talbot would be unique hockey player.
His scouting report was underwhelming, his build didn't scream "athlete," and he was drafted so late that the title of Mr. Irrelevant would have seemingly given him more credit than he was due.
And yet, against the odds, Talbot made the NHL, and made an indelible mark upon it as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The question is, after his defection to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins' primary rival, how secure is Talbot's legacy in Pittsburgh?
To find the answer, we must examine Talbot's resume in Pittsburgh, one that is, to the untrained eye, nothing to get excited over. Over 388 career regular season games in six seasons with the Penguins, Talbot scored 108 points, including 52 goals, and carried a -27 rating. His most impressive season was a 26-point outburst over 63 games in 2007-08.
Those flashes of offensive talent, which often depended upon his unmistakable work rate, diminished toward the end of Talbot's Penguins career, as he remained injury-prone, possibly due to his particular style of play. Only once in his Penguins career did he play a complete 82-game season at the NHL level, last year. Still, he produced at below his career average.
Now that the setup is out of the way, here's the transition to the portion of the article in which I defend Talbot by mentioning his less tangible assets.
By mentioning his important role on the penalty kill, the NHL's top unit last year; by mentioning his versatility, as he played both center and wing on each of the bottom three lines at various points in his career; by mentioning his tendency to show up in big games, further illustrated by his .500 PPG average in the playoffs over 66 games, nearly double his career .278 in the regular season.
And by mentioning those two goals that act as a testament to his strength in the clutch, a reminder of just how important he was to the Penguins when the stakes were at their highest.
All of this is without even mentioning his affable personality, one that stood out as the Penguins' bachelor du jour, a larger-than-life personality on NHL 24/7, and the "superstar" of several local commercials.
So yes, in summary, Talbot was worth far more than the sum of his parts over his Penguins career.
The next question is: Will any of this matter after he spends five years in Philadelphia?
Don't forget, the biggest Flyer-related moment of Talbot's career thus far was when he shushed a very partisan Philadelphia crowd at the then-Wachovia Center after getting his hat handed to him by Daniel Carcillo.
How will Penguins fans react when he tries to shush the crowd at the Consol Energy Center? When he does a little something extra behind the play to try and put Sidney Crosby off of his game? Or how about when he goes flying into the crease to rattle the cage of his BFF Marc-Andre Fleury?
Well, they're not going to like it. And for a time, perhaps, Talbot will be loathed, booed.
But it won't be forever.
Rick Tocchet spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins and parts of 11 with the Flyers. He is not loathed in Pittsburgh. Going the other way in the trade that acquired Tocchet, Mark Recchi spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins and parts of 10 with the Flyers. He is not loathed in Pittsburgh.
Paul Coffey, Kevin Stevens, and Ken Wregget all spent time with the Flyers and are still remembered fondly by Penguins fans. Even current Penguin Arron Asham spent two seasons with the Flyers as a serious antagonizer and the fans have managed to overcome that.
For as much of a pain in the backside as he will be over the next few years, and despite playing at a level considerably lower than some of the Penguins alumni mentioned before, Talbot's place in Penguins lore is set in stone.
Unlike Jaromir Jagr, his relationship with the Penguins organization and fans alike was always a positive one. He leaves behind no ill will or unfortunate parting shots. He took the best deal available to him, one that the Penguins surely would not have matched.
For the time being, Talbot may not be on the best of terms with Penguins fans. But, if this truly signals the be-all and end-all of his career in black and gold, try looking back on Talbot's time in Pittsburgh a decade from now without cracking a smile.
If Pittsburgh fans could conceivably have welcomed back Jagr, the target of more long-term vitriol than any other former Penguin, they'll certainly be able to embrace Talbot. When the time is right, at least.