Sidney Crosby Needs to Re-Think Hockey – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Sidney Crosby Needs to Re-Think Hockey

If your the best hockey player on the planet the whole idea of re-imagining your game probably sounds like a poor idea at best.  If you are the best player on the planet who has been injured and only able to play a handful of games over the course of a year then maybe it’s time to re-invent yourself.

Three games back from his 10 1/2 month concussion hiatus Sidney Crosby found himself in front of his own net defending his goaltender Marc Andre Fleury from Nick Foligno of the Ottawa Senators who just happened to collide “accidentally” with Fleury his second time during the game.


As admirable as Crosby’s deeds were, in hockey there are two types of leaders.  There are the leaders that lead by example and the leaders that lead with words. Crosby has never shied away from leading by example but when it is time for him to return to the ice, he must learn to lead the team with words only.

In September of 1985 the Edmonton Oilers traded for Penguins draft pick and “enforcer” Marty McSorley to be  Wayne Gretzky’s “body guard”.  This situation worked out so well that it is reported that when Edmonton was trading Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, Gretzky demanded that McSorley be included in the package.

Sidney Crosby needs an “enforcer” and needs to accept an “enforcer”.  This player must be willing to jump in and go after anyone who slashes, crosschecks or tries to pick a fight.

On December 1st, in Crosby’s 6th game back this year, during the second period John Carlson of the Washington Capitals skated past Crosby who was looking elsewhere and shouldered him on purpose in between play.  This is something that should not be taken lightly by the other Penguins players.  As innocent as it looked, this was a player testing the waters.  If a player does that, he should be dealt with by force.

Finding an enforcer will be tough. This is a player that must come with a decent amount of hockey skill.  Penguins GM Ray Shero needs to start searching for a few bigger players who would accept this rule and Dan Bylsma must work them into his system.  While the Penguins current enforcer Steve MacIntyre does not fit that bill, there could be a guy currently on the Penguins squad right now who would be willing to temporarily accept the responsibility.

That would be Arron Asham.  Asham has shown that he is not afraid to mix it up and at the same time proved in the playoffs last year he has the ability to put the puck in the net.  Perhaps if asked, Asham would relish the role on Crosby’s line and the chance to have goal totals up in the 40’s like back in his WHL days.  The player could also come in the form of a defenseman. Deryk Engelland could also be given the role.  Marty McSorley played both offense and defense when playing along with Gretzky.

This role would not be only Asham’s or Engelland’s this is a role that many players on the team should accept.  This needs to be engraved in the players heads by the coaches and management.

A prime example would be Chris Kunitz who has been enjoying time on Evgeni Malkin’s line.  Just like he jumped in the scrum involving Crosby in front of the net in the video above, the other night Kunitz jumped into a tussle in front of the net when an opposing player was trying to take Malkin to the penalty box with him.

Crosby already deals with the “Cindy” Crosby’s and the rest of the name calling all over the internet that Gretzky never had to deal with.  That is not going to change no matter what Crosby does.  It is this simple…  If Sidney Crosby doesn’t change and accept a different role he will end up fulfilling all of the stupid rumors circulating about him never playing hockey again.

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  1. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    January 5, 2012 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Very interesting piece, Phil. I agree with a lot of what you say. Frankly, I was taken back by how fearlessly (carelessly?) Sid waded into scrums upon his return. There were several instances (the Foligno incident foremost) where I literally sat in front of the TV and screamed, “Sid get the #@!* (rhymes with puck) outta there!”

    Regarding the issue of an enforcer to ride shotgun on Sid’s line, it’s a great idea … in theory. You pointed out that Marty McSorley served (quite successfully) as Wayne Gretzky’s bodyguard. Our own Pierre Larouche had “Battleship” Kelly as his protector, while Mario Lemieux had—at various times—Warren Young, Terry Ruskowski, and Rick Tocchet to look after his well being.

    Problem is, it’s a different game now. The instigator rule—which, ironically, was intended to protect stars like Sid from unwanted muggings—drastically reduced the players’ ability to police themselves. As a result, there’s been a dramatic increase in the type of head shots and dirty hits the league is now trying to outlaw.

    Sadly, the rule also pretty much eliminated classic, fighting power forwards such as Kelly, Tocchet, and Gary Roberts from the game. There are only a handful of guys (Milan Lucic, Jerome Iginla, and ex-Pen Ryan Malone come to mind) like that in the league now. And that’s precisely the type of player Sid needs on his wing—a combative type who can play.

    I’m still steamed at Ray Shero for letting Mike Rupp walk away this summer. While he’s obviously not in a class with Lucic, he could score some (22 goals in two seasons) and stand up for his mates. With the money Shero spent (wasted) on Steve MacIntyre and Richard Park, he could’ve signed Rupp, who wanted to stay in Pittsburgh.

    Okay, that’s water under the bridge. Phil mentioned Asham and Engelland as possible protectors. Both are tough as nails and aren’t afraid of anyone. However, Engelland’s developed into a really solid NHL defenseman. You don’t want him fighting all the time—especially since it would leave the Pens a d-man short. Asham more closely fits the bill. But don’t kid yourself. Although “Ash” has some underrated skills, he’s never been more than a 10-15 goal guy, tops. He wouldn’t suddenly morph into James Neal.

    Speaking of Neal, the guy I do think would fit the bill would be Chris Neil from Ottawa. He’s a bigger, scarier version of Asham, and I think he’d keep people off of Sid and contribute on the score sheet. Given the lack of love between Sens GM Bryan Murray and the Pens, I don’t know if a deal would be possible. Perhaps Tampa Bay would be willing to part with Steve Downie. Two years ago he scored 22 goals (with 208 penalty minutes). An under-the-radar guy is the Islanders’ Micheal Haley. Although he’s a bit undersized, this kid can really throw ‘em, and he’ll fight anyone, anytime. It’s no coincidence that the Isles have started winning since he was called up. However, his skill level is suspect.

    I don’t know what the answer is. But I agree Shero needs to find someone who can provide some consistent protection for Sid.

  2. January 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s a good idea. I think fans look at Crosby’s grace on his skates and what my mother referred to as his “cutesy little face” and think he’s soft. I love that he’s a whole lot tougher than many would think and battles as hard as any grinder. But it pissed me off that almost nobody defended him during those 8 games back, especially since he’s willing to defend his teammates. I wanted to scream, “Who do you think got you all that nice new arena to play in?!”

    Asham has won me over because he is willing to fight for his teammates and shows a lot of heart. I think he’d be perfect, especially since he wouldn’t be a one-dimensional goon. I’d like to see Malkin get more help from his teammates, too. (Speaking of which, I remember Crosby getting into a fight on Malkin’s behalf a couple seasons ago, but someone else should’ve been at least as eager to defend him.) MacIntyre and the way he’s been used have disappointed me.

    I think if the Internet had been around when Gretzky was playing, he (and Lemieux, and others) would have been called all kinds of names.

    Thanks for this. If only the Penguins organization would listen to some of our brilliant ideas, right?

    • Jag.off's Gravatar Jag.off
      January 5, 2012 at 12:40 am | Permalink

      I agree. I was upset about the no help Crosby got when he came back but I was wondering if it was the players fault or because he said he didn’t want any help. I think shero should take a look at some of the players who won’t jump in and stick up for others and put them on the trading block. Maybe another team building thing is in order.

  3. Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
    January 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I agree, but an enforcer doesn’t keep an errant elbow from catching sid in the head, sidelining for another couple months. Let’s get him healthy and back in the lineup first, then maybe ask a few players to step up. Sid has a lot of heart and has had a target on his back since he was a kid. It would be a big adjustment for him, but a necessary one at this point. Wouldn’t hurt to have the old Matt Cooke back.

  4. Brian66's Gravatar Brian66
    January 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The Pens have too many soft players. It’s time a few players like the over paid one dimensional Martin step up and start being part of the team. He might want to go with the tin man in search of some heart.


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