Hockey Headlines: Is it Crosby’s Fault?

A collection of the latest news from around the world of hockey:

Yesterday, an article predictably surfaced essentially blaming Sidney Crosby for the state of his team, as the Penguins face their most familiar position: being ousted from the playoffs amidst disappearing acts from their two best players. I want to see more from Crosby and Malkin, there’s no question. But the focus of the piece was that the Pens shortcomings are due more to what’s going on inside the room than what’s happening on the scoreboard. In other words, Crosby is a lousy leader, and isn’t able to bring his teammates to the next level. [The Sporting News]

It’s frustrating to see the Penguins fall short every season despite immense talent. But to blame everything on leadership may be taking the easy way out. In 2010, they had a Stanley Cup hangover coupled with an unstoppable goalie in the opposing net. He eventually came back down to earth, but not quickly enough to help the Pens cause. In 2011 neither Crosby and Malkin were playing, yet they still got to a seventh game. In 2012, well I still don’t know what happened there. That was just embarrassing for all.

In 2013, the Penguins pretty much traded for any good player they could find, disrupting the chemistry, Crosby was recovering from injury, and the Boston Bruins were clearly better. They should have put up more of a fight in that series, no doubt, but sometimes you come up against a superior team. In 2014 and 2015, they simply didn’t have the necessary depth to go deep into the playoffs. This year, they have been one of the best stories in the league since the All-Star break. They have suffered many injuries (as usual), and yet find themselves within two wins of a Stanley Cup final appearance.

If they lose, Crosby will, and should, shoulder some of the blame. Save for a couple of game winners, he hasn’t exactly been impactful in these playoffs. At least not enough for a player of his caliber and salary. A guy like Jonathan Toews gets lauded for his leadership because his team wins a lot. But is it possible that he’s had better teams to work with than Crosby has over the years? Toews had played in three Cup finals, Crosby two. To suggest Pittsburgh’s perceived lack of playoff success is all pinned on Crosby’s leadership is more of a narrative than anything else, and a convenient one as the Pens stare down elimination. [Puck Daddy]

I do agree with one thing; Kris Letang needs to be reeled in. He’s gotten better, but still has those lapses. Would a different kind of leader be able to tame him? Is the notion true that there’s free reign in the Penguins dressing room? I will say this much. When the team was rolling, overcoming everything, we heard about how tight knit the team was, and how strong the leadership was. If the Pens lose tonight, that article will look exactly right. If they somehow pull off two straight wins, then the writer will look silly.

Bill Guerin wasn’t around in 2008 when the Pens came within two wins of a Stanley Cup against a clearly superior team. If he and Gonchar are truly the reasons they managed to win the Cup in 2009, then I guess the Pens will fall short again. Even though they’ve lost a key defenceman. Even though the Tampa Bay Lightning are a fantastic team. Even though Pittsburgh overcame more than anyone else on this run to the Eastern Conference Final (including taking out the best team in the league), and may be running out of gas. If they do the miraculous and win, however, maybe Crosby will deserve the “C” again for one more round. [ESPN]

In other news…

All eyes are on the ineffective Vladimir Tarasenko as the Blues face elimination. [Yahoo Sports]

Troy Brouwer has proven to be an important pick-up for St. Louis. [The Hockey News]

Jaromir Jagr will not play in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. [Todays Slapshot]

The Minnesota Wild continue to make changes to their coaching staff. [Sportsnet]

And finally, Evgeni Malkin’s only guarantee was that he isn’t Daniel Alfredsson. [Post Gazette], [CBC]