Sidney Crosby is off to a great start in the 2020-21 season, as the 33-year-old has four goals and eight points in 10 games. In his 16th NHL season, Crosby has an opportunity to add another impressive chapter to his Hockey Hall of Fame career.
Crosby will have to accomplish a lot for his 16th season to be his best. From his memorable rookie campaign to an even better sophomore one and recently the 2018-19 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain has found a way to evolve throughout his career.
Since this is a top-five list, it is only fair to mention some of Crosby’s other impressive seasons.
2005-06: Rookie Season
In Crosby’s first NHL season, he finished the 2005-06 campaign with 39 goals and 102 points, tied for the fifth-highest all-time point total by a rookie. Although Crosby had an incredible rookie season, he failed to capture the Calder Trophy, losing out to another generational player in Alex Ovechkin. In 2005-06, Ovechkin scored 52 goals and 106 points, the third-highest total by a rookie in each category. The Penguins’ captain finished second in Calder voting behind the Russian forward.
Crosby’s rookie season is also the only one the Penguins missed the playoffs with him healthy, though that isn’t his fault. Crosby didn’t have much help that season, with the closest player to him in points being defenceman Sergei Gonchar with 58.
2008-09: First Stanley Cup
After losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final (SCF), Crosby and the Penguins redeemed themselves by beating the Red Wings in the 2009 SCF. Before the playoffs, Crosby had a great season as he scored 33 goals and finished third in total points with 103.
Crosby scored a career-high 15 playoff goals and 31 points on the way to his first Stanley Cup. Unlike his rookie season, Crosby had help from none other than Evgeni Malkin, who had a career-high 113 points on his way to winning the Art Ross Trophy. Malkin won the Conn Smythe after he posted 14 goals and 36 points in the postseason.
2010-11: Shortened Season
Crosby was on pace to putting together his best season in 2010-11, but his season was shortened after he suffered a concussion. At 23 years old, he was a man on a mission through 41 games. At the halfway point in 2010-11, the Penguins’ captain had 32 goals and 66 points, which gave him a .78 goals per game and a 1.61 points per game (P/GP). Crosby was on pace to score 64 goals and 132 points, which would’ve been career highs in both categories.
At the 2011 Winter Classic, the Penguins faced off against the Washington Capitals. Capitals’ centreman David Steckel caught Crosby with a hit to the head. Although he slowly got up from the hit, it would get worse days later. The Penguins played against the Tampa Bay Lightning a few days later, which would be the forward’s last game that season due to a hit from Victor Hedman.
Crosby’s 2010-11 season is one of the biggest what-ifs in recent memory. He was on pace to statistically the best season by any player since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. A highlight of Crosby’s 2010-11 campaign was his 25-game point streak, where he picked up 50 points.
2018-19: Two-Way Player
In Crosby’s 14th season, he continued to evolve as a player. Not only did he post his sixth 100 point season in 2018-19, but he also improved his two-way game. Crosby placed second in Hart Memorial Trophy voting and fourth in Selke Trophy voting.
Crosby being in the hunt for the Hart Trophy is normal, but the Penguin finishing in the top four in Selke voting shows he continues to evolve throughout his career. Crosby finished behind Mark Stone, Patrice Bergeon, and the 2019 Selke Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly, some of the best two-way forwards in the NHL.
Head coach Mike Sullivan trusted the forward in crucial moments. For example, Crosby played when the Penguins were holding onto a lead and killed penalties for the team.
“(Crosby) is the best 200-foot player in the game. I think without a doubt he should be in the conversation. He could’ve been in the conversation for a number of years now. I do think his defensive game gets overlooked because of how good he is offensively.”Sullivan said about Crosby’s two-way game.
5. 2015-16: Second Cup
Several years had passed since the Penguins won their third cup and Crosby’s first. The club only made it to the Conference Final once since 2009, when they lost to the Boston Bruins in four games in 2013. The Penguins had underwhelmed in the seasons before 2015-16, which was a roller coaster of a season in its self.
Crosby and the Penguins started the 2015-16 season off slow, looking nothing like the Stanley Cup winning team they’d become later in the season. The Penguins decided to fire coach Mike Johnston and replaced him with Sullivan in December 2016, which helped the team and the superstar immensely. Crosby finished the 2015-16 season with 36 goals and 85 points in 80 games, which is more impressive since he posted 27 goals and 58 points in 44 games after January 1st.
Crosby continued his second-half excellence in the playoffs as he led the Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup. The captain finished the Stanley Cup playoffs with six goals and 19 points, earning himself his first Conn Smythe as the SCF MVP. Crosby also finished second in Hart Trophy voting and seventh in Selke Trophy voting.
4. 2013-14: Second Hart
The 2013-14 season was Crosby’s first 80+ game season since 2009-10. Due to major injuries and a lockout-shortened season, Crosby was unable to play close to a full season for three years. Although the Penguins lost in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs to the New York Rangers, the captain had a great individual season.
Crosby scored 36 goals and 104 points, showing he was still the best player in the NHL. He won the Art Ross as his 104 points were 17 points ahead of second place. Crosby won his second Hart Memorial Trophy, seven years after his first. He also won the Ted Lindsay award for the third time in his career, given to the most outstanding player and voted on by members of the NHL Players Association. Additionally, he captained Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, winning his second Olympic gold medal.
3. 2016-17: Back to Back
Crosby didn’t take his foot off the gas pedal after his impressive 2015-16 season. He led Canada to a World Cup of Hockey championship that fall before the 2016-17 season. Crosby finished 2016 at the top of the hockey world with his 61 goals and 128 points in 103 games, including the regular season, playoffs, and World Cup of Hockey.
Furthermore, Crosby had a great regular season and playoffs in 2016-17. He scored 44 goals, the second-highest goal total in a single season for the forward, and posted 89 points, which tied him for the second-most in the NHL with Patrick Kane that season. Additionally, Crosby’s 44 goals won him his second Rocket Richard Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL leading goal scorer.
Crosby led the Penguins to their fifth Stanley Cup that postseason, winning his second Conn Smythe. Crosby became the third player to win the Conn Smythe in consecutive years, joining Penguins’ legend Mario Lemieux (1991 and 1992) and Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie Bernie Parent (1974 and 1975). The captain posted eight goals and 27 points, including seven points in the SCF against the Nashville Predators.
2. 2009-10: 50 Goal Scorer
Coming off his first Stanley Cup, Crosby decided to take his game to the next level. This time he improved his goal-scoring ability as the captain hit the 50 goal mark for the first and only time in his career. He tied Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos for the most goals in the NHL with 51. The two shared the Rocket Richard Trophy, Crosby’s first of his career.
Additionally, he finished with 109 points, the second-highest total in his career. Crosby tied Ovechkin for the second-most points in the league and finished third in Hart Trophy voting behind the Russian and the winner of the award, Henrik Sedin.
Crosby continued his amazing play into the playoffs. Although the Penguins lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, losing to the Montreal Canadiens, Crosby posted an impressive stat line. He scored six goals and 19 points in 13 games, which gave him a 1.46 point per game, the second-highest of his postseason career. At 22 years old, the centreman also won the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Similar to 2014, he won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada, scoring the memorable golden goal.
1. 2006-07: Career Year
Crosby’s best season is still his sophomore season. Of course, the generational talent had an impressive second season instead of a sophomore slump. At 19 years old, Sid the Kid became the youngest player to win the Hart Trophy since Wayne Gretzky.
Crosby scored 36 goals and set a career-high in points with 120, which earned him his first Art Ross Trophy. He led the Penguins to their first playoff appearance since the 2000-01 season, as the closest player to him in points was Malkin, who was in his rookie season, with 85 points. Additionally, Crosby was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award) for the first time in his career.
The 2006-07 season was the first real taste the NHL world got of Crosby’s greatness. Individually, this is his best season because he won the most prestigious awards and was undoubtedly the best player in the league. Although the playoff success is not similar to future seasons, the 2006-07 season was the season Crosby posted 120 points, making him one of the four players who have reached the mark since the 2005-06 lockout season.
Crosby’s Legendary Career
Through 16 years in the NHL, Crosby has collected three Stanley Cups, two Hart Memorial Trophies, two Rocket Richard Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, and two Conn Smythe Trophies. Additionally, he’s been named to eight All-Star teams throughout his career.
Along with the hardware, Crosby has posted 1271 points in 994 games, which is the 38th most all time. Also, Crosby has a 1.28 P/GP, the ninth-best all-time. Had the forward not missed parts of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, he possibly could be higher on both lists.
Nonetheless, Crosby is 33 and has a few more seasons left in him. He could add to his already impressive legacy within the next few years.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.