Courtesy of Point Park University

Analysis: An honor that must remain rare ☕

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Ron Francis. -- GETTY

Good thing the Penguins have those five Stanley Cup banners and three others recognizing the franchise's 15 NHL scoring championships.

Without those -- along with one for their seven Hart Trophy recipients and another for their five Conn Smythe winners -- it might be kind of lonely up there in the rafters at PPG Paints Arena.

Certainly, there isn't much space taken up by retired numbers, because the Penguins have only had two of those -- Nos. 21 (Michel Briere) and 66 (Mario Lemieux) -- since entering the NHL in 1967.

That's quite a contrast to some franchises, which seem to seriously consider taking a player's number out of circulation if he has a three-point game and dresses himself without assistance afterward.

It says a lot about the Penguins' stringent criteria that a number of Hockey Hall of Fame members who played here -- guys like Paul Coffey (77), Joe Mullen (7), Larry Murphy (55) and Mark Recchi (8) -- rarely even get mentioned as being worthy of consideration.

Alphabetically, here's a look at six leading contenders for that honor (three are active and wouldn't have their number retired while they're still wearing it to work, especially the two still with the Penguins), which, at least for this franchise, is far more rare than induction to the Hall of Fame:

SIDNEY CROSBY (87)

The case for: Have you been paying even a little attention since the fall of 2005?

The case against: Crosby has never once taken the controls of a team flight when it was in distress and executed a smooth emergency landing. Not that we know of, anyway. That might be the only thing missing from his resume.

The verdict: Schedule the ceremony.

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