Last season, Sidney Crosby was washed up. He was too old to compete at the high level we’ve all come to expect of him and there was a good chance we’d never see him atop the NHL scoring ranks again.
For his critics, I’m sure that was fun while it lasted.
In all fairness, Crosby looked as if something was amiss through the first two months of 2015-16. While I never doubted that Crosby would remain effective, I too questioned just how dominant he’d be after a lousy finish to the 2014-15 season and a lethargic start last year. It became clear that the Mike Johnston-led Penguins had issues beyond what we could see on the ice and after Mike Sullivan took over, Crosby was quick to quiet anyone who had doubts.
And he’s continuing to do exactly that right now.
Big Game Sid
So far, Crosby is leading the World Cup of Hockey in scoring with seven points (3 goals, 4 assists). He helped Team Canada send Team Russia packing in the semi-finals with a three-point performance that included a gem of a goal, which highlighted everything about Crosby that separates him from the herd.
He’s been referred to as a skilled grinder. His board work is tremendous and his tenacity is nearly unmatched. Crosby’s ability to protect the puck with a defender on his hip is rivaled only by former Penguin great Jaromir Jagr. As I said, the above goal truly highlights a lot of what makes him the best player on earth.
And it isn’t even close… yet.
You may also remember Crosby’s tally in the 2010 Olympics – which took place in Vancouver – when he scored in overtime to seal a gold medal for Canada over the United States. Time and time again, Crosby steps up when he’s needed most yet somehow, he’s still consistently criticized for disappearing in big situations.
There’s simply no validity to that claim, though.
Crosby is averaging 1.11 points-per-game in the postseason throughout his career, which consists of 124 playoff games. He ranks 12th all-time in that regard, above names like Pavel Bure, Joe Sakic, Jean Beliveau and Bobby Hull. That average also trumps all active players with his superstar counterpart Evgeni Malkin the only player anywhere near his realm. Impressive company to say the least.
Having recently won his second Stanley Cup – complete with a Conn Smythe Trophy to accompany it – we’re beyond the idea that he can’t step up in big situations. We can move past the conversation about his leadership abilities – or lack thereof – and simply enjoy the fact that we’re getting to witness one of the greatest players of all time right here, right now.
Not So Fast, Connor
Did you get a chance to watch Connor McDavid and Team North America? Were you able to see him while healthy with the Edmonton Oilers last year? This kid is special and will almost certainly steal the throne from Crosby at some point in the foreseeable future. He’s one of the few ‘next ones’ to truly live up to the hype.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Predictions for the upcoming NHL season are running rampant, with plenty of folks around the league picking McDavid to win the scoring title. Some have gone as far as saying he’ll be better than Crosby already and to those I ask, have you watched number 87 over the past 10 months?
Crosby finished last season with 31 goals and 70 total points from December to April, a span of 57 games. He followed up that performance with six goals and 19 points in 24 postseason games. Then came the World Cup and as mentioned previously, he leads that best-of-best tournament in scoring as well.
This is arguably the best version of Crosby we’ve seen in his 11-year career. A career that is already nearly impossible to match from a production standpoint, no matter who you are.
A healthy Crosby entering season number 12 with a confident Penguins team could be something special. Will he eventually wear down, having played so much hockey in the last calendar year? Will the team around him tucker out after a long playoff run just a few short months ago and negatively impact his production? These are all possibilities. However, if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on a big year from the best player on earth.