Putting the ‘C’ Back in Crosby

Sidney Crosby scored 102 points in his first NHL season at the age of eighteen. He became the teams captain two years later at age twenty and led his team to the Stanley Cup finals. One year later, he became the youngest Captain in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup at twenty-one. He was the recipient of the Mark Messier Leadership Award after the 2009 season as well. Crosby led his Penguins in all facets of the game and with the special group that Ray Shero has assembled, they won a Stanley Cup. But in 2010-11 when Crosby first sustained a concussion, his leadership took on a different look; no longer was he able to lead by example and after several years of battling injury, Crosby came back in 2013-14 ready for a full season. He did quite well and claimed the Art Ross Trophy and has been named a finalist for the Hart and Lindsay Award. But as captain, it’s time for him to put his team on his back and clinch a series in Madison Square Garden.

Leading By Example

  • It’s a well known fact that Crosby is often the first player on the ice for practice and stays after to work on his game.
  • Crosby always answers questions after tough losses, and many NHL captains can’t say that.
  • When a player is struggling, Crosby will always publicly defend them.

All of these are qualities of a captain and aren’t unique to Crosby. He’s a great captain and has shown that in the past.

Injured Or Not, Crosby Must Give His All

Game five of the New York Rangers series was the first time this post season where I questioned Crosby’s health. I’ve noted that I do not think he’s physically injured and that his mentality is what’s causing him to produce less goals than what Penguins fans are used to. But game five was different. He seemed distant. He had trouble possessing the puck and didn’t seem to have any interest on putting pucks on the net.

I still am not sold on Crosby being injured. It’s the playoffs and all the superstars are banged up. But regardless, Crosby can’t change the way he plays hockey. He didn’t win the Art Ross Trophy by passing up shots and forcing passes through the crease. He has to find himself, whether he’s healthy or not. We’ve seen glimpses, even full games, of Classic Crosby. Games two and three of the Rangers series, Crosby looked incredible.

And When Crosby looks Good, the Penguins look Good

Crosby is the captain and his team follows his lead. He can’t be coming to the bench and throwing sticks or yelling at his head coach. If his team sees him flustered, the results aren’t usually in their favor. Crosby must maintain his composure and do what he does best… LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

Evgeni Malkin was the only Penguin to show up to game five. He wears an A for the Penguins and shares some of the leadership responsibilities.

But Malkin isn’t the type of player who would handle the Captaincy well. I’ll call it, “Ovechkinism.”

Ovechkinism

Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals

Ovechkin (Tom Turk/THW)

Just because you’re the best player on your team doesn’t mean you deserve the ‘C’ on your jersey. Alexander Ovechkin is the prime example as to why that is. Ovi is a great offensive player, that is undeniable. But he does not possess the personality or the mentality to Captain a professional hockey team. The captain is an all-around player who plays 200 ft and must take responsibility for the team and buy into what his organization is trying to do.

This is not to say that Malkin isn’t loyal to Pittsburgh or his coaches, but he’s does not possess the leadership quality that makes players gravitate toward him. If he did, game five would’ve gone much differently. Malkin was flying the entire game, but no one followed his lead.

All this to say, Crosby has that gravitational quality that makes people around him better and although Malkin MUST produce offense and play consistent, his play won’t be enough to carry the Penguins.

Crosby, It’s Time To Lead

“I don’t think there’s much good to take from this to be honest with you… whatever mindset we had tonight, wasn’t enough” -Sidney Crosby after Game Five

Crosby know’s that his team missed an opportunity in Game Five, and his history tells me that he’ll have his team ready to close out this series. Whether he’s injured or rattled, he’s greatness personified and understands that his team, his organization and the city of Pittsburgh are relying on him to have his team ready to play. Win or lose, the Penguins need to show up to Madison Square Garden for Game six.

If they show up and put in the effort they have three of five games, they put themselves in a great situation to close the series. If they put in a game four Columbus effort, or a game five Rangers effort, they put themselves in a dangerous situation.

It All Starts With Crosby.

It seems obvious, but I saw in game five what happens when Crosby has an off game. The Penguins can’t afford two bad games from their Captain… and don’t expect that from him.

Be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #THW. 

 

Brady Smith

Brady Smith

Smith is currently a student at West Virginia University. He's a hockey enthusiast and currently covers the Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV
Brady Smith

3 Comments

  1. pearlJamFan says:

    @MSLEE… BOO-HOO someone thinks Crosby is a better leader OMG that’s unfair bc Ovi is sooooo awesome.. Give me a break already.. 87 is the better leader I think it’s obvious, and the fact that his numbers are better speak volumes, he’s also the better all around player, and his teams have finished higher most years that 87 is in the lineup. While Ovi has him as being the better goal scorer that’s about it. You act like just bc 87 finished 2nd to 71 in playoff points in 2009 that somehow plays into 87 leadership. Did you not watch the Pens during the 09 playoffs? Bc both 87 and 71 played well in rd1 against Philly, 87 was about as dominant as one can be in rd2 against Washington, Malkin was a pure stud and a beast in the ECF against Car, and BOTH of them had their moments in the SCF. Actually in the SCF it was Talbot who had the far superior round. 87 and 71 did their part in 09 and the character guys did their part as well hence why they won the cup. Historically the Conn Smythe goes to the person who leads the playoff in points on the winning team, or maybe the goaltender.
    I would love to know why what he did against Philly or what he did against Bos is looked down on? It’s hysterical how players can run him, take head shots, or do whatever they want and the minute he tries to stir things up it’s wrong and uh-oh 87 is frustrated.. Big deal he hit Vorachek glove, or big deal he mouthed off to Chara and bumped Rask.. Leading up to Philly the guy played in 63 games out of 164 so if you think he was at his best you’re wrong; he also found a way to put up 8 points in 6 games. Against Bos the entire Pens team was smothered and Rask played one of the best series in the history of the Playoffs, so singling him out for not performing shows a very low hockey IQ. If they were coached by someone who isn’t continually outcoached come the playoffs bc he’s one dimensional, lacks in game adjustments, and up until 2014 refused to match lines that series might have been different. Plus unless you have a selective memory both 87 and 71 were the two best players on the ice during games 3 and 4. If it weren’t for Rask and some horrible puck luck the Pens could have easily tied that series as they outplayed Bos everywhere except where it counts and that’s on the scoreboard.
    Lets be honest for a minute getting your panties twisted bc a blogger thinks 87 is a better leader than 8 is is dumb.. NOBODY TRULY knows how either of the 2 are except teammates, coaches, trainers, and front office people. There isn’t a writer or reporter on the planet who is allowed inside a dressing room at the crucial times and that’s when you see who the leaders are. Especially a kid who goes to WVU and watches games on tv and blogs about a certain team. I don’t even think that gets a press pass; but these days who knows. As someone who is friends with a person who everyone sees on tv during every Pens game on ROOT I will tell you that there are many negative preconceived notions about 87 leadership qualities that are false.. When someone tries to compare the two and their leadership qualities from watching tv or from watching practices it’s a moot point bc 90% of it is made up or bs. Both 87 and 8 have had times where they looked like babies and they have had times where they looked like quality leaders.

  2. This article is laughable at best, and pretty just an excuse to pay long, loving lip service to narrative about Crosby. It’s an uncomfortable as watching a porno, and somewhere on the same lines of reality.

    I would be interested in hearing you explain Crosby’s vaunted leadership in light of the Philly series and the Bruins series. Or how why, as such a leader, in their Cup win it was Malkin who was the difference maker and Conn Smythe winner. Or why, when you slam Ovechkin as a poor leader for not playing 200 feet when Crosby (while no doubt better defensively than Ovechkin) has also been documented as having defensive lapses and liabilities. In this payoffs, even!

    I am curious to hear about why Ovechkin and/or Malkin has a bad personality that makes him unfit to be a leader, and how Crosby has a better one. I would love to hear why you first praise Crosby for leading by example and then say why Malkin doing the same thing means he wouldn’t be as an good a leader. I would love to know why people who can’t seem to stop themselves form falling over themselves to praise Crosby when he so much as passes his bowels have to try and slam Ovechkin at the same time. Is it impossible to acknowledge that players can be different but also very good? Is it impossible to acknowledge there are different kinds of leaders, and that hey, there may not even be one best kind? Or can you just not help yourself in your stupid attempt to apostulate that Crosby is the Jesus of hockey?

    • Brady Smith Brady Smith says:

      Thanks for the comments. We can agree to disagree on a lot, which is the beauty of sports. But most of what you are curious about I answered briefly in the article. I give credit to Ovechkin for being a great offensive player. I point out that the difference between 8, 71, and 87 is the gravitational leadership quality that can only be measured by the eye. As someone who watches nearly every Pens game and an awful lot of Caps, I feel justified in making that statement. You are correct, however, in saying that Malkin was a very large part of the cup season for Pittsburgh, but not as a captain. He plays better not having to worry about everyone else. Crosby has a bad series against Boston, very bad. I’d place a lot of the blame on him. The Flyers series, he was hardly healthy. But as captain, I’d still place blame at his feet. If pens lose tonight, he’ll be largely responsible, it comes with the captaincy. I’ve never heard ovechkin take responsibility, which is probably a large reason why the coaching carousel continues in Washington. All three mentioned are great hockey players, all in their own way, but Crosby is the best leader. As for him being the Jesus of hockey, I think we can all agree that Gretzky will forever hold that title.

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