Pen’s Dome Another Bust

By Richard A. Plisco
The Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1997 NHL entry draft with their first
pick, 17th overall, selected Robert Dome. Dome was such an unknown
quantity at that point that even ESPN archives had little or no actual
game footage of the young Slovakian forward. The one fact that most
critics cited as a reason for Pittsburgh’s choice was that Dome had
spent time playing in the IHL, which was primarily stocked with men, as
opposed to toiling further in the junior ranks. This exposure to
“grown-up” hockey was supposed to be a key factor in his development and
speed his entry into the NHL.

Reality set in quickly however for the Penguins’ scouting staff as Dome
arrived for training camp out of shape. This would become habitual
behavior for the Slovak youngster. Although he produced respectable
numbers in the junior ranks for Dukla, he did not display that scoring
touch in the IHL. In fact, he never managed more than 30 points. The
Penguins, hoping to find another Jagr, or at least someone that could
blend well with the big cast of European talent on the team, put him on
the ice immediately.

In his first 30 NHL games in 1997, Dome tallied just 5 goals. The team
sent him to their AHL affiliate in Syracuse for conditioning. With the
Crunch, he was able to pocket 21 goals in 36 contests, just enough to
keep the Pens interested in his development. The following season saw
Dome remain in the minors, never to crack an NHL lineup. He squeaked out
20 goals in 68 games, hardly exhibiting the sniper like talent that the
team claimed he possessed. In fact, that may have been the dilemma, that
the team had pegged Dome as a first or second line scorer when in
reality he was more likely a third line two-way forward.

Dome began the 99-00 campaigns in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. He
opened up a more physical game and utilized his 6-0 215lbs. Frame to
work opposing players off the puck, but alas, his overall lack of speed
limited him to just 38 points in 51 tilts. When he was called up to the
big squad due to injuries, he hardly impressed, with only 7 points in 22
appearances. Then it got ugly.

The team ordered Dome to the minors for the start of the 00-01 season.
He refused to report, demanded a trade, and threatened to play in
Europe. The Penguins, never a team to give into hostile agent
negotiations, still owned Dome’s rights. They knew full well that they
could technically just keep Dome from playing in the NHL and making any
real money until he submitted to their terms. Dome’s agent wanted a
guarantee that his client would stay on the big club for the duration of
the season and that a trip to the AHL would be an unacceptable insult.
The Penguins would not budge, citing that Dome had not done anything at
any level to earn a full time spot.

Dome eventually ended up going to Europe. Penguins fans remember
Patrick Lalime’s demand for a big contract after one good season, and
his resultant release. They recall Peter Nedved’s holdout for more cash
and how the team played hardball and let him miss an entire season, then
traded him for Kovalev. They ruminate over J.S. Aubin’s short-lived
holdout and how it may have cost him the team’s respect and indirectly
his starting job. Don’t expect to see a Penguin’s crest adorn the jersey
of Robert Dome anytime soon.