When you think of the greatest players in Pittsburgh Penguins history the name Rick Kehoe has virtually vanished from memory. But there was a time when you could argue that Kehoe was the best Penguin of all time.
Kehoe played for the Pens from 1974 through 1984. The Pens teams of that time were noted as a high scoring team, with players like Pierre Larouche, Jean Pronovost and Syl Apps. The speedster Kehoe fit right in as he was a consistent 30 goal threat, topping out at 55 in 1980-81, setting team record since bettered by none other than Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
In his career Kehoe scored 371 goals and 767 points in 906 games in 14 seasons, including his first three seasons in Toronto. The two time all star game representative was once the Penguins leading scorer in franchise history.
Kehoe was a shoot-first type of player, blessed with a laser of a shot. He was also an incredibly clean player, picking up only 120 career penalty minutes. In the season where he scored 55 goals he only had 6 minutes in penalties, making him the obvious choice as the Lady Byng trophy winner.
Unfortunately for Kehoe, his Pittsburgh Penguins teams enjoyed very little team success. When they qualified for the playoffs, they were normally dismissed in the first round, and they certainly were never feared as a Stanley Cup contender. The team was weak defensively. Many of the players including Kehoe were not exactly known for their defensive expertise. It is too bad that poor team success can make the career of a good player like Kehoe almost completely forgotten.
Kehoe would be Mario Lemieux's first right winger upon 66's arrival in Pittsburgh in 1984-85, but the tandem was short lived. Late in the previous season Kehoe suffered a pinched nerve in his neck that caused chronic numbness in his right side. He would never fully recover, ultimately retiring in November of 1984, after trying to keep playing in just 6 games.
For much of the rest of that season Kehoe assisted the Penguins coaching staff. It surprised few that Kehoe got into coaching, as he really enjoyed running his instructional hockey schools during the off-seasons as a player. He would serve the Pens as a scout before becoming an official assistant coach in 1987. He held the job for 14 years, including the Penguins back to back Stanley Cup victories in 1991 and 1992. By 2001 Kehoe finally graduated to head coach of the Penguins, guiding the team through two lacklustre seasons.