Thus far in the 2015-16 season, Sidney Crosby is off to a pretty poor start.
As I write this, the superstar from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia only has a single goal in his first ten games, to go with a pretty pedestrian four assets. He's been held pointless for eight of those ten games, only registering big games against the lowly Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres.
Have we seen the end of Sidney Crosby's dominance? Probably not. He's sporting a shooting percentage of just 3.3% so far, much lower than his 14.3% career mark. His new star winger, Phil Kessel, only started to score after getting moved off Crosby's wing.
But there's a huge difference between being a good player and being the NHL's top one. There's no argument to be made that Sidney Crosby isn't an elite NHL player, because of course he is. Anyone with eyes and functioning grey matter can figure that out. But there is a very legitimate argument that says he might not be the best player in the league any longer.
Look at it this way; since his rookie season in 2005-06, Crosby has won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the Hart Trophy twice, and the Rocket Richard Trophy once. Which means he hasn't won the Art Ross eight times, the Hart eight times, and the Rocket Richard nine times. When Gretzky, Lemieux, and the other greats were on the top of their games, they each enjoyed more hardware than Crosby gets.
And remember, Crosby hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 2009.
Here are 15 NHL superstars that are arguably better than Sidney Crosby.
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15 Jamie Benn
You could maybe argue that Jamie Benn's rise to the top of the NHL's scoring list last year was a result of playing with Tyler Seguin or Jason Spezza, but I'm not sure about that. You don't win the scoring title by accident.
Besides, Seguin missed close to a month between February 13th and March 7th, 2015, and Benn barely missed a beat. He put up four goals and seven assists while Seguin was on the shelf, including a hat trick against one of the best teams out there, the St. Louis Blues.
Benn has also been on fire through the first ten games of this season, scoring nine goals and adding eight assists. He leads the league in goals and points as I type this. He's hardly a one season wonder.
14 Patrick Kane
Okay, I know. Whether he's found innocent or guilty of those alleged rape charges, one thing is clear. Patrick Kane is a world-class jerk off the ice.
On the ice is a very different story. Since his debut in the league in 2007, he's been nearly a point per game player, along with putting up dominant possession numbers. He's also played a huge role in three Stanley Cup winning teams, and helped his team to the Finals once more. His playoff performance might even be better than his regular season effort.
Patrick Kane has won three Stanley Cups since the last time Sidney Crosby won his only championship. That's the crux of the argument, right there.
13 Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Daniel and Henrik are so alike that we might as well count them as one person.
I constantly fantasize about how good the twins would be if they had a legitimate superstar winger to play with. Over the years, some of the best names to have spent time on the Sedins's right side include Alex Burrows, Radim Vrbata, Anson Carter, and Taylor Pyatt. These are not the types of players that elevate superstars. They're just along for the ride.
Despite the handicap of mediocre talent filling out their line, the Sedins have been remarkably consistent. They're terrific at cycling the puck and finding each other, and their chemistry is off the charts, possibly due to special twin superpowers. That's the best explanation I can come up with.
12 Henrik Lundqvist
As much fun as it is to watch superstars like Crosby, Oveckin, or Malkin score a pretty goal, there's an argument to be made that goaltending is more important.
Henrik Lundqvist is about as good as goalies get. Although he's never led the league in goals against or save percentage over a full season, he's consistently near the top for each category. He's been remarkably healthy too, only missing major time to an injury once in his 11 years in the NHL.
The only thing Lundqvist is missing is a championship. He's taken the Rangers on a number of deep runs over the last few years, but has yet to lead his team over the hump.
11 Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano doesn't get much attention playing up in Calgary, but the Flames blueliner has quietly blossomed into one of the best players at any position in the game.
It really started in 2013-14, when Gio replaced Jay Bouwmeester as Calgary's number one defenseman. Over that time, Giordano has put up 28 goals and 89 points in 135 games. Those are decent point totals for a forward; for a defenseman, they're outstanding.
Giordano is no slouch in his own zone either. Even while playing with some weak players on his side and getting a majority of his zone starts in his own end, he's been Calgary's best puck possession player according to Corsi. Calgary did good locking up Giordano for another six years.
10 Claude Giroux
One word comes to mind when describing Claude Giroux during his eight-year NHL career -- consistent.
Since his breakout season in 2010-11, Giroux has led the NHL in total scoring over those five seasons, putting up 376 points in 370 games. During the same time period, Sidney Crosby played in less than 260 games. There's certainly the argument to be made that such production combined with staying healthy is worth more than great point per game numbers from an injury prone player.
Giroux always puts up great possession numbers as well, and has managed to be great without much of a supporting cast. He's also decent in the face-off circle, and isn't a liability defensively.
9 Erik Karlsson
Even as a 19-year old defenseman in 2009-10, Karlsson put up nearly half a point a game and was a solid possession player.
He's gotten much better since then. The two-time Norris Trophy winner has put up nearly a point per game since 2011-12, even leading his team in scoring in 2013-14. Defensemen aren't supposed to do that. And according to Hockey Reference, at his age he's most similar to another defenseman you might have heard of -- Bobby Orr.
Scarily enough, Karlsson might just be warming up. He's only 25, and still has five years left on a seven year contract extension he signed after his breakout 2012 season.
8 Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews might not put up the points some of the other players on this list do -- he's "only" been a 0.89 point per game player in his career -- but he makes up for it with terrific leadership skills and other intangibles.
He has a knack of showing up for the big games. Every Canadian hockey fan remembers his performance in the gold medal game in Sochi in 2014. He also played well during the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against Boston, registering a goal and an assist in the clinching game six. His five points that series led the way for the Blackhawks.
7 John Tavares
Since debuting as a 19-year old in 2009-10, John Tavares has quietly been one of the best centers in the NHL. Maybe he'll start getting more attention now that the Islanders play in Brooklyn, instead of all the way down there on Long Island.
Tavaras has also suffered from a lack of a supporting cast around him. This absence of depth has translated into just two trips into the playoffs during his career, both ending in swift first round exists. Tavaras has also never won a major award, another reason why fans tend to forget about his existence.
Tavaras has put up 412 points in 442 career games and is just 25, meaning he probably hasn't even hit his peak yet. And with an Islanders team that finally looks to be pretty decent, he could really start making headlines.
6 Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin is like a better version of Patrick Kane, putting up tons of points with a little bit of trouble off the ice.
My favorite Seguin story is just how filthy he left his Swiss apartment after playing in the country during the lockout. He bought new dishes instead of using the dishwasher, and apparently tried to wash his clothes in the dryer.
Seguin makes up for his lack of domestic skills on the ice. He was on pace to win the Art Ross Trophy last season before being sidelined with an injury in February. He still finished 7th in points even though he only played in 71 games.
The Dallas center is off to another hot start this season, amassing 14 points in the team's first 10 games. The scary part is he's only 24, which means his best years are likely ahead of him. What the Toronto Maple Leafs would give for that draft pick back.
5 Steven Stamkos
Many hockey fans (myself included) often forget just how good Steven Stamkos really is.
As a 19-year old in 2009-10, he put up 95 points, which was good enough for 5th in the league in scoring. He tied Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard trophy that year with 51 goals. He then followed it up with 91 points, 97 points (including 60 goals) and 57 points in a lockout-shortened 2013 season.
Stamkos has struggled a bit over the last two seasons, but he still managed to put up nearly a point a game and lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. We'd all like to struggle so well.
4 P.K. Subban
For whatever reason, P.K. Subban remains one of the most hated players in the league. I'm forced to conclude it's all sour grapes from opposing fans who would love to see P.K. in their colors.
Subban does it all. He puts up points and is a terrific power play captain while playing nearly 30 minutes a night against the other team's top players. His physical play is almost legendary, and he blocks shots like a defenseman with half of his skill.
Amazingly, even after putting up 60 points and leading the Canadiens to the second best record in the Eastern Conference last season, Norris Trophy voters said P.K. was only the third-best defenseman in the league.
3 Evgeni Malkin
Forget the whole league; there's an argument to be made that Sidney Crosby isn't even the best player on his own team.
For a guy who's comfortably put up more than a point per game during his NHL career, and has won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the Hart Trophy once, and the Calder Trophy once, Evgeni Malkin still hasn't been able to step out of Crosby's shadow in Pittsburgh.
Probably the biggest thing keeping Malkin back lately is his inability to stay healthy, missing more than 50 total games in the last three seasons. When he's been healthy though, he's still scored, putting up 175 points in 160 games. He's also not great at face-offs, something I think the Penguins can live with.
2 Carey Price
Over the last three complete seasons, the Montreal Canadiens have finished 2nd, 4th, and 2nd overall in the Eastern Conference, despite finishing in the bottom third of puck possession stats two of those three seasons.
How did they do it? Was it luck, sorcery, or because they played the Toronto Maple Leafs eight times a season? The last one probably had something to do with it, but there was a much bigger reason for the team's success. They had the league's best goaltender between the pipes, Carey Price.
Last year Price put up one of the great goaltending seasons of all time. He posted a .933 save percentage and a 1.96 GAA, both of which led the league. Giving up less than two goals per game over a full season is the goalie equivalent of Gretzky scoring records. It doesn't happen very often.
1 Alex Ovechkin
There's no argument, at least from my perspective. Alexander Ovechkin is a better hockey player than Sidney Crosby.
Where do I begin? I could start with his five Rocket Richard Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy, three Hart Trophies, or his seven First Team All-Star selections. Or maybe I should mention how he's the only active player to average a 51 goal pace for his entire career. He's also managed to stay remarkably healthy while playing a physical game.
Ovechkin constantly gets criticized because he isn't defensive enough. He's the best goal scorer on the planet, and everybody picks on him because he isn't backchecking. Newsflash: Ovechkin shouldn't be backchecking. Why waste his talents in your own end?
All Ovechkin really needs is a Stanley Cup to really cement his place on the top of this list. If there's anyone that can lead Washington there, it's Ovi.
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