Remember when, throughout the first couple of months of the season, many of us wondered if Sidney Crosby was well past his prime and no longer capable of carrying the Pittsburgh Penguins on his back anymore? Those were the days, but he once again reminded us to not doubt him.
Sid the Kid has helped Pittsburgh come back from an ugly start to the season which resulted in Mike Sullivan taking over as head coach for the other Mike, Mr. Johnston. As a result, the Penguins have a playoff spot on cruise control and should be a competitive playoff team come April.
I remember when I was 20 years old and about 8 months, thinking we saw the end of Crosby's all-around dominance, but then the near-21-year-old me realized that Crosby is still set to vie for the scoring title over the next several seasons, so that is bad news for 29 other NHL teams.
Even though a lot of people hate Sidney Crosby, it's way better for the NHL to see No. 87 at his best level. We all got upset when Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter retired (even though we all hate the Yankees), and when Kobe Bryant announced 2015-16 was his last ride.
Well, it'd be the same feeling for Crosby if he struggled throughout this season and never returned. Though Crosby may leave this season without hardware (A Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Hart Trophy, Art Ross, among others,) he proved once again he's still the best hockey player on the planet.
Here are 15 reasons why he's still head-above-shoulders among every other NHLer.
15 Gold Rush
There's no denying Crosby played on stacked Canadian squads in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics when he helped lead Canada to a pair of gold medals, but he was still the driving force behind it.
Without his 2010 golden goal, there's a great chance Canada still goes through the embarrassment of coughing away the win on home ice against their arch-rivals, the United States.
Here's what partially separates Crosby from Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin: They've all played on stacked Olympic squads. Crosby has two gold medals. Kane has won silver. Ovechkin has zero medals on the grandest international hockey stage of them all.
14 Better Than You Think
As of this writing, Sidney Crosby has played in 698 career regular season games against Ovechkin's 830. As a result, Crosby has 333 goals and 929 points against Ovechkin's 518 and 959.
Wait, did I read that correctly? Crosby only has 30 less points despite playing in 132 less games. even though he's always a point-per-game player? Well, he's had multiple concussions, a broken jaw, and a high ankle sprain, and so far has reached the 80-plus game mark just three times.
13 Goaltending Letdowns
With all due respect to Marc-Andre Fleury's Stanley Cup-winning save in Game 7 of the 2009 Final, he's been a huge underachiever in the postseason, going a mere 53-44 with a 2.65 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Sidney Crosby's Penguins generated more than enough offense to go far in the 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 playoffs. But Fleury's inconsistency held them back from going the distance.
Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin only has the league's best goalie (right now) Braden Holtby, while Patrick Kane has clutch performer Corey Crawford. Anze Kopitar has Jonathan Quick, who also elevates his game in crunch time. If Crosby had one of those goalies, he'd be able to go to more championship series' easily.
12 Competitive Divisions
The Atlantic Division, from 2006-2013, was never easy for the Penguins and the Metropolitan division has been among the league's most difficult through its first three seasons.
The New York Rangers have made the playoffs every year since the lockout, except 2010, while featuring Henrik Lundqvist. The New Jersey Devils made it five years in a row, from 2006-2010, and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. This team featured Martin Brodeur, the winningest goaltender of all-time.
Also, the New York Islanders gave plenty of troubles to the Penguins once they became a dangerous squad in 2013. Sidney Crosby's had to face some of the league's all-time greatest netminders and defensive players, but still kept performing.
11 Overcoming Adversity
Sadly, not a lot of NHL players have been able to return from bad injuries, namely concussions. Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, and Chris Pronger are among some of the best-ever who had to hang up their skates early.
Mind you, those guys were in their mid-to-late 30s and if Sidney Crosby sustained one then, it could be a different story. But still, the fact he only seemed to get better following a concussion is remarkable.
He's had a couple of severe ones and he had to overcome that ugly ankle injury he suffered in 2008. Still, his injuries haven't slowed him down one bit. He's as tough as they come.
10 The 2009 Stanley Cup
The Penguins were in massive trouble. Head coach Michel Therrien got his walking papers as the Pens seemed to have a problems overcoming the 2008 Stanley Cup Final appearance hangover.
Washington, led by Alex Ovechkin, looked like the Eastern Conference's most dangerous team, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead when the squads met in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals.
All Sidney Crosby did was rally his Pens back, sweep the Carolina Hurricanes (who were hot after taking out the New Jersey Devils and top-seeded Boston Bruins), before overcoming a 2-0 series deficit to beat Detroit. Crosby proved his clutch gene, scoring 31 points in 24 games en route to the Cup.
Similar to point No. 11, Sidney Crosby just takes care of his conditioning like few other athletes. Perhaps those Gatorade commercials really do work and aren't all for the money.
How Crosby manages to deal with the abuse of guys despite being only 5-foot-11, 200 pounds is simply remarkable. Few players could protect themselves without an enforcer (Hello Wayne Gretzky and Marty McSorley), but somehow Crosby deals with it, gets up and scores.
That's a champion, folks.
8 All-Around Abilities
Alex Ovechkin is a pure goal scorer, but until he got an all-time great defensive-minded head coach in Barry Trotz, he could not play any defense and was often a puck hog, barely passing it to his teammates.
As great as Patrick Kane is, you're going to win with Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd, an elite goalie Corey Crawford, and the best defensive tandem in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Steven Stamkos only scores. But Sidney Crosby is the best all-around NHLer. He plays solid defense, but can also score 50-goals or put up 60-plus assists. You're usually one or the other, but he's well-rounded in every phase.
7 Four Different Coaches
We saw how Alex Ovechkin struggled big-time with Dale Hunter and Adam Oates as his head coaches. But with Sidney Crosby, who has had four different NHL head coaches, he kept producing.
With Michel Therrien, before his dismissal in 2008-09, Crosby had already won a scoring title. With Dan Bylsma, he took home plenty of more hardware and won a Stanley Cup championship.
Under Mike Johnston, he still was the near-scoring champion last season. With Mike Sullivan, he'd be fighting with Patrick Kane for the scoring title if he had the same coach all season.
New coach, same result. That's just impressive.
6 Could Have Done More With More
"More with less," does not apply to Sidney Crosby here. Aside from fellow superstar Penguin center Evgeni Malkin, Crosby has never had a Norris Trophy-caliber defenceman (Kris Letang isn't that great), a clutch goalie, and the same linemates his whole career.
Must I say it again? Patrick Kane has had Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Andrew Ladd, Andrew Shaw, as well as Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp before they left. Having two of the league's top-10 defencemen by far helps you win.
Alex Ovechkin has had Nicklas Backstrom to center him, and has gone through hot-and-cold streaks with different linemates in his career. Steven Stamkos performs, but not the way Crosby does.
If you put Crosby on Chicago instead of Kane, there would still be a minimum of three Cups there, most likely even more.
5 Playoff Performer
For years, Alex Ovechkin had to endure abuse as a player who under-performed in the playoffs, though he has absolutely gotten better when it matters most.
It's hard to think of a more clutch forward than Patrick Kane and I'd give him that nod over Sidney Crosby. Still, it's easy to fault players like Joe Thornton and Roberto Luongo who always underachieve in the playoffs.
In 100 career playoff games, Crosby has 43 goals, 118 points a plus/minus rating of +13, and six game-winning goals.
Oh, and Mr. Kane, despite all of his clutch goals, has 48 goals AND ACTUALLY 114 points in 116 playoff games, less points with more playoff games, with a +7 rating. But who's keeping track?
4 Stats Don't Lie
Five 100-point seasons, seven 30-plus goal seasons, a plus-rating in all but his rookie year in 2005-06 (when the Penguins were a laughing stock), and six seasons of 50-plus assists. Need we say more?
For what it's worth, Patrick Kane has had two 30-goal seasons, three seasons with 50-plus assists, and will need to continue his hot streak to get his first 100-point season, with 88 in 2009-10 being his career high.
Alex Ovechkin has four-100 point seasons and has finished with a minus rating three times, but we all know he's a goal-scoring machine.
Still, Sidney Crosby's stats back up his greatness.
Similar to the previous point, Sidney Crosby has been able to do whatever it takes to remain consistent. He still hasn't had a "bad" season. His "lowest" points total remains 37 points in the 2011-12 season, when he played just 22 games and had a +15 rating.
From 2005-06 to 2010-11, he had 39-26-24-33-51-32. Yeah, and 32 goals in 41 games in 2010-11. What else do you want to know? As we showed earlier, Alex Ovechkin failed to reach his stardom with Adam Oates and Patrick Kane really didn't pick it up until the last couple of seasons.
Crosby has and still does nothing but score a bunch of points. What else do you want from him?
2 Insert "X" Linemate Here
Sidney Crosby, unlike most other NHL stars, has gone through so many linemate turnovers that it's nearly impossible to count; but we'll go ahead and show you a few and you can come up with your own beliefs:
Bill Guerin, who was in the "twilight" of his career, scored 21 goals and 45 points in 2009-10, his final NHL season. Chris Kunitz, maybe Crosby's favorite linemate ever, scored 20-plus goals in four straight seasons from 2010-11 to 2013-14, including two 60-point seasons.
Pascal Dupuis, a once-forgotten commodity with the Atlanta Thrashers, came to the Penguins in 2008. From 2009-10 to 2012-13, he posted goal totals of 18, 17, 25 and 20. Crosby rejuvenated his career.
Patric Hornqvist, who had to play two-way hockey in Nashville, scored 51 points in 64 games with the Penguins (and Crosby) in 2014-15.
Sheesh, who hasn't played well with Crosby?
1 Face of the Franchise
It's been made quite clear how much Sidney Crosby means to the franchise. After the lockout, poor attendance and ownership issues in Pittsburgh jeopardized the city's chances of keeping their beloved Penguins.
Crosby, in his first two seasons, hit 100 points and it took him his second NHL season to bring the Penguins to the playoffs, and they're on their way to a 10th-straight postseason appearance.
You can say the same about Alex Ovechkin in Washington, but Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos had plenty of talent around them to elevate the team. If you look at it closely, Crosby's Penguins have not been a difficult team to knockout in the playoffs, as it's him who carries them there.
The Pens are nothing without Crosby. You can't say that about almost any other NHL player to their respective team.
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