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Penguins Update: Is Sid Still Super? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Is Sid Still Super?

Sidney Crosby’s on-ice achievements are truly awe-inspiring. Two Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies, three Ted Lindsay/Lester Pearson Awards, and a Stanley Cup. Enough lesser trophies, all-star selections and awards to fill a small museum. Along with his stats—a staggering 821 points in 596 NHL games—they speak of a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. A player who earned the right to be called the best in the game.

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Is Sid still the best? Sadly, there are indications that he isn’t. Such as a pair of career-worst eight-game goalless droughts that pockmarked his play from late October through mid-December. And the pedestrian total of eight goals he’s amassed over his past 33 games.

Maybe he’s playing hurt. Given the Penguins’ well-documented secrecy concerning injuries—not to mention Sid’s stoic nature—it’s a distinct possibility. Perhaps his balky wrist is still ailing. Or his hip. Or both.

I do know this. As much as it pains me to write it, Crosby isn’t the All-World player he once was. Nor does he seem capable of carrying the Penguins to extended regular-season success, let alone Stanley Cup glory.

Here are some observations:

Captain ClutchThere was a time when big goals rolled off Crosby’s stick like so many beads of perspiration. Remember the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, when he tallied eight goals (including a Game 2 hat trick) to lead the Pens past Alex Ovechkin and the arch-rival Caps? Who can forget Sid’s scintillating gold-medal goal in the 2010 Olympics?

When was the last time he scored a truly important goal?

The Claude Giroux FactorStarting with the ill-fated 2012 playoffs, the Philly forward has skated rings around Crosby. In head-to-head competition, Giroux has racked up 10 goals and 30 points in 17 games. Sid’s 6 goals and 17 points pale in comparison.

InjuriesAs the New Year dawned in 2011, Crosby was perched atop the hockey world. Fresh off a 25-game point streak, which included an eye-popping 27 goals and 51 points, he was the runaway league leader in scoring. Then came the Winter Classic and the brutal blindside collision with Washington’s David Steckel, followed two nights later by a second ugly hit to the head from Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman.

The result? A career-threatening concussion and neck injury that forced Sid to miss all but eight of the next 109 regular season games.

Just when it seemed he’d returned to top form, the injury bug bit again on March 30, 2013. A Brooks Orpik slap shot slammed into his jaw, forcing Sid to miss the remainder of the regular season. With the exception of a red-hot start this past October, he hasn’t been the same player since.

Blue-Collar SuperstarPart of what made Crosby so special was his supreme skill level, combined with an unrivaled work ethic.

“He works tirelessly,” said former Pens coach Dan Bylsma. “He really enjoys the competition, putting it out there, laying it on the line.”

“He plays the game right for an elite player,” added friend and former linemate Colby Armstrong.

Contrast that with the night of March 6, 2014, when Sid was accused of dogging it during a dreadful minus-5 showing against San Jose. Indeed, the passion and fire that elevated him to the very pinnacle of his sport seem to be missing.

Driven to SucceedEarly in his career Crosby worked tirelessly on his game. Criticized for a weakness on faceoffs, he improved to the point where he won a whopping 56 percent of his draws in 2009-10. Convinced that he needed to score more, Sid switched to a new composite stick that same season and struck for 51 goals to earn a share of the Maurice Richard Trophy.

“This is the measure of Crosby,” wrote Michael Farber in Sports Illustrated. “He takes a flaw and burnishes it until it gleams.”

Can the same be said today?

Glare of the SpotlightPerhaps more than any hockey player since Wayne Gretzky, Crosby has spent his life in the public eye. The scrutiny he faces, not only in Pittsburgh but in his native Canada, is both immense and intense. His every move is dissected and analyzed.

To his credit, Sid has handled the exceedingly high expectations with uncommon poise and grace. Still, a life spent under the microscope must be trying and exhausting at times for a young man in his twenties.

Size MattersA friend pointed out that most players who enjoy a high level of success deep into their careers are bigger guys. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and hockey’s version of Superman—Gordie Howe.

It made me think of Kirk Muller. He was the second overall pick in the 1984 Entry Draft, behind Mario. Kirk was about the same size as Sid—6’0” 205 pounds. Feisty, aggressive, a natural-born leader. While nobody touted him as the “next Gretzky,” Muller averaged 77 points during his first nine seasons, including a pair of 94-point campaigns.

At virtually the same stage of his career as Sid, Muller’s production took a precipitous decline. He averaged less than 30 points a season during his last 10 years.

No one expects a comparable drop-off for Crosby. But nobody stays at the top of the heap forever—not even a player as wondrously skilled as Sid. Is he poised to enter his prime? Or has he already played his best hockey?

Only time will tell.

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18 Comments

  1. Mary Kenny's Gravatar Mary Kenny
    September 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Who says he’s underachieved, You don’t know nothing about *Sidney Crosby*. In his first two season, hit 100pts and it took him his 2nd NHL season to bring the Penguin to the playoffs regardless that the Pens were dead last 2004. They’re on their way to a 10th post season appearances. He doesn’t have to score as many points to be successful. Be the all around player and he’s the all around player. Crosby is for more decipline player and a leader now. His commitment to the two way game that stood out, particularly in the final playoff. His commitment to shutting down his opponents and allowing other to contribute offense was the most prominent of his contributions. There’s more to just winning games than scoring goals. He’s two way stalwart, defensive demon. it might just be something were all going to have to get used to hearing in the future and his opponents will have to learn to deal with it. When you able to combine both Cups and Gold medals it say a lot about the leadership you have the player the performance when you start adding em up, It justifies who you are. When you win the second one, it just validates that the first one wasn’t a fluke. Lets gets one thing straight, Sidney Crosby didn’t need to win the Cup again or the Conn Smythe trophy to validate his career. Look at what he already accomplished before taking the ice for game 6 vs Shark. He was lock for the hockey hall of fame before Gary Bateman handed him the Stanley Cup. Being Winners. It validates him. SO THIS ARGUMENT ABOUT HIM IS OVER.

  2. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    February 5, 2015 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Sidney Crosby is certainly an exceptional hockey player and every other team would love to have him on their roster.However during the past 5 years the league itself has become much more balanced and there are fewer weaker teams now in the Eastern conference.Tampa Bay,New York Islanders,Rangers,Montreal are examples.Gone are the days when Crosby could get 2 to 3 points a game against weaker teams.
    Secondly, the current team in general is small,old,over paid,and does not have the depth it once had.Jordan Stall was six foot,four inches, weighed 220 pounds plus and played 25 minutes a game against the best in the league.Every night ! Crosby is now forced to play in those difficult situations as Sutter can not do it.This is taking a toll on him physically.
    He simply can not carry the team on his shoulders at the age of 28 anymore.
    Nobody will ever question his efforts on the ice.He gives 100% on most nights.Even his most hated detractors admit that he is not lazy,like some other “stars” in the league.Crosby is still in the top 5% of the players in the league…..Not to bad at all !
    Our team has a lot more serious problems than just Crosby ! Our goalie saved at least 20 % of our games this year. Not a good sign going into the play offs. We need a major trade to shake up all three lines !

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 5, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      You made a lot of really good points; the parity in the Eastern Conference, a lack of balance and depth among the Pens’ forwards. And, in particular, the absence of Jordan Staal. While I think Brandon Sutter has some underrated skills, he’s not nearly the horse Staal was. Nor is he as difficult to play against.

      Sid certainly still is a special player. However, I do agree that he no longer seems capable of carrying the team by himself.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        February 8, 2015 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Rick,
        We just our butts kicked by the Canucks and Preds this week and we “Won” in Edmonton and Calgary and everybody is happy. We are supposed to be an elite team, a cup favorite,( at least in our own minds). We beat the last place team in the League and Calgary,while it has improved,is not exactly a cup favorite either.
        Nothing to cheer about here folks.We have some serious problems.

        In the next few weeks we play Chicago,Washington ( twice), St. Louis,Bluejackets,and Florida.Ottawa is the only ” soft” team we face in that period.If we do not win at least 5 of our next 7games, then we will not be going to far in the play offs. Any one of the following Eastern Conference teams ,Detroit,Tampa Bay, Montreal, Islanders,Rangers,Boston and Washington can beat our team in a physical seven game series,as it stands today.

        As has been the case in the past years in the playoffs,if you get in Sid and Geno’s face, take away their time to get set up, they will make poor passes and turn the puck over. Similarly, if you dump the puck in the Penguins end and fore check ferociously, Letang and D company will turn the puck over too.
        Our power play,which for the past several years has always been our strength in the regular season,come play off time evaporates.
        Why ? Playoff hockey! Play physical for 60 minutes. Take very few penalties. PK like your life depends on it, and let your 3rd and 4 th lines win the game for you. Simple formula really !
        What do we do…..
        We blame the Goalie !! As if it was his fault.

        One last point. We are supposed to be a puck possession team,but against real good teams with talented center men,we can not win over 35 to 40 % of the critical face offs. Sid’s % is down and Geno’s has never been that great either.We traded GOC,one of our best face off men.???
        I respect the amazing talent of Sidney Crosby, but unless we can “beef up” our team via the trade deadline,( several players, not just one,) we will have a serious problem come playoffs. Our goalie,no matter how good he is ,can not steal all 16 wins for us in the competitive league we have today.
        I pray that my assessment is wrong ! GO PENS !

  3. February 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    He’s a crybaby…He wants this guy on his line doesn’t want that on his line….News flash he isn’t the coach…We need someone with balls to tell him that we are doing what’s best for the team wether you like it or not..

  4. February 2, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    His wrist is injured. He is having a lot of issues with it which makes his shooting off.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 3, 2015 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Not that I wish an injury on Sid, but in a way I hope you’re right. It would explain the dramatic drop-off in his production and overall play since October.

  5. Sharon's Gravatar Sharon
    February 2, 2015 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Think something is wrong with him that has not been diagnosed yet.

  6. February 2, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Time to give 71 a chance to lead this team. He was amazing when sid was out with a concussion. Move sid to the second line maybe it will light a fire under his ass. At this point its worth a shot

  7. Bryan's Gravatar Bryan
    February 2, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Overrated

  8. February 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick. I’m not ready to jump off the Crosby train just yet, though his play is very lackluster. The train that I have started looking to de-board is the coach Johnston train. All I’ve heard about the past year is Bylsma’s inability to make changes. I’ve watched 3 games in a row without a 5 on 5 goal and I’ve watched the Penguins not make one change. Especially the Crosby, Perron, Kunitz line. Shift after shift nothing.

    Now I’m hearing about disgruntled players. The rumor was from Madden who in my opinion is the biggest hockey hack around, but people have sure ran with it.
    It’s starting to look like the play we saw at the end of Therrien’s run.

    Paul Steigerwald said that the upcoming road trip will help the team bond. He’s never been right about anything before, I hope he’s right this time.

    On a side note, Gretzky was the same height as Crosby but a few pounds less. Another guy that come to mind is the Recchingball #12 all time scorer.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 4, 2015 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      Good points about Gretzky and Mark Recchi…smaller guys who produced late in their respective careers.

      It’s just that Sid looks so lackluster these days (28 points in his last 33 games). Especially compared to the way he started the season. It’s got me wishing he has some type of injury that would explain the drop-off. Cockeyed logic, I know.

      I don’t know what’s going on with the team. They looked pitiful against the Caps, although they’d played a very heated game the night before and appeared to be physically and emotionally drained.

      But the Nashville game? One of the worst “efforts” (if you can call it that) I’ve witnessed since the bad old days.

  9. Michelle's Gravatar Michelle
    February 2, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Seems sad but possibly true. ~Avid Pens Fan

  10. Sandi's Gravatar Sandi
    February 2, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Still admire the guy, but no clue why he is underachieving lately.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 3, 2015 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

      I do, too, Sandi. Crosby’s been such a terrific player for us for such a long time. But honestly, he’s been a shell of his former self lately. The passion and drive that made him so special just seem to be missing. It’s almost like he’s burned-out.

      The odd thing is Sid played so well in October…better than I’ve seen him play at any time since his concussion. Then, suddenly, his production began to wane.

      Perhaps his wrist is injured, as Harry suggests. It would explain a lot.

  11. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    February 2, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    First I like you article lots of good points. Maybe it’s injury, I don’t know for sure but the passion isn’t there, he doesn’t play like he did, he needs to be greedy and shoot more. I don’t care what anyone says he plays with crappy linemates..Kunitz is overrated, Perron is starting to look good with him, but the Whole team hasn’t been able to find the back of the net and injuries are hurting.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 4, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Thanks pen’s 4ever.

      I’ve always loved Kunitz. But he looks a little lost right now…like he’s having a tough time figuring where he fits. Since Perron and Holmqvist more or less play the same style, he’s been kind of squeezed out from his usual spot in front of the net.

      I do like Perron…a lot. He’s got a heckuva shot.

  12. February 2, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Nope he is trying to do to much and he needs to put the puck on net more.


            

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