A superstar is a high-profile and extremely successful performer or athlete and it’s safe to say that the NHL has a handful of them littered around the league. While all of them are individually recognized for their pure skill and uncanny ability to dominate the game, some of them have flown under the radar – at least when it comes to their superstar status.
While Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have filled their mantles over the years, Connor McDavid is just starting his collection of NHL hardware. But while the top dogs in the league are raking in the awards, there are some players that carry the superstar status that just aren’t getting the same kind of individual recognition when it comes to the conversation within the hockey world.
The Edmonton Oilers are McDavid’s team. The Capitals belong to Ovechkin and while Nikita Kucherov is making a name for himself in Tampa Bay, the Lightning are still run by Steven Stamkos. But what about the Pittsburgh Penguins? For most, the Penguins are Crosby’s team. But what about the other superstar that dons the Penguins’ black, white and gold? What about Evgeni Malkin?
Malkin Among the Best
Forget Crosby for a second. I know – it’s hard to do. But take a minute and look at Malkin’s career numbers. In 784 regular season games over his career, Malkin has 370 goals and 930 points.
Since the start of 2006-07, when Malkin entered the league, he has the third highest point total behind Crosby (1,014) and Ovechkin (1,016). He ranks sixth in assists and third in goals. That’s all while playing just 784 games – 85th most since his debut.
On top of that, he ranks second in power play goals (133) behind Ovechkin, third in power play points (359), fifth in game-winning goals (12) and fourth in overtime goals (12).
Add that his 165 career playoff points in 158 games and he’s been more than impressive over his career. Only Crosby has more goals, assists and points than Malkin in the postseason since 2006-07 and while Crosby has averaged 1.16 points per game during the playoffs over that span, Malkin has averaged a close 1.04.
But that’s just what he’s done offensively. Add six fights since 2008 and for those only interested in the advanced stats, he’s a career 52.9 Corsi For Percentage (CF%) and 53.2 Fenwick For Percentage (FF%).
That said, for a player who averaged under a point per game only once in 12 seasons (which happened in 2010-11 when he played just 43 games) Malkin has taken a back seat to Crosby for the majority of his career.
So while he’s considered an NHL superstar, how long will he rest in the shadow of his teammate?
Filling Up the Mantle
There’s no arguing that Malkin plays with arguably the best player in the world right now in Crosby. Five times he’s hit the 100-point plateau, including 120 points in his second season in the league (2006-07).
He’s led the team to three Stanley Cups and has won a number of awards on route to those Cups: two Hart trophies, two Richard trophies, two Art Ross trophies, three Lester B. Pearson awards and two Conn Smythe trophies. On top of that, he’s a seven-time all-star and he was named to the NHL’s Top 100 players of all-time. So what about Malkin?
Well, he’s hit the 100-point plateau three times – including a 113-point season in 2008-09. While he’s only scored 50 goals once in his career, he’s undoubtedly one of the most dynamic offensive players.
Still, while he’s a three-time Cup winner like Crosby, his mantle only sits six individual awards compared to Crosby’s 11. Malkin won the 2006-07 Calder Trophy, the 2011-12 Lester B. Pearson award, the 2011-12 Hart Trophy, two Art Ross trophies and the 2008-09 Conn Smythe Trophy. On top of that he’s a three-time all-star, but still he went unrecognized when the NHL named its top 100 players.
As Josh Wegman wrote for theScore.com, “anyone who believes that being from Russia doesn’t affect Malkin’s position in the hierarchy of the game’s stars is ignorant.”
Crosby – being from Canada – has garnered more exposure in a North American league. He’s the captain of the Penguins and speaks for the players in the room.
Crosby was one of five current players named to the NHL’s list of top 100 players a couple seasons ago. Also among them were Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews. While Kane is American, four of the five are North American born. Now, go back and look at their accomplishments compared to those of Malkin and think long and hard about how often he’s referenced when talking about the best players in the league versus those on the list.
It’s simple. The Penguins belong to Sidney Crosby, but Evgeni Malkin is their second superstar – well-deserving of the recognition that comes with his career accomplishments.
Have thoughts about the column? Let me know on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or @Tape2TapeTHW.
Tape2Tape is a column looking at some of the biggest stories from around the world of hockey. Discussing different topics, it focuses on delivering some opinion to hockey’s biggest fans. Whether you agree or disagree, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.