By Allan Erickson
June 11, 2017, we witnessed the Pittsburgh Penguins become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the 1997-1998 Detroit Red Wings. While most eyes are on the Lebron vs. Kevin Durant battle in the NBA, today, I pay tribute to the sport whose playoffs deliver epic battles each and every year. The NHL playoffs took well over two months, and continued to produce instant classics. 14 games went to overtime, 3 games went to multiple overtimes, and the 16th seed out of 16 teams, made a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. For that, we say bravo to the greatness of the NHL’s postseason. Now that it’s over, it’s time we start to acknowledge the greatness of number 87 in black and gold.
Like many hockey fans, I watch intently, no matter where my team is, I’m watching any and every hockey game that’s nationally televised. It’s safe to say the Penguins have become the New York Yankees, Duke Blue Devils, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots of the hockey world. You love them, or you hate them. There is no in between with this franchise. Some of that comes from winning, some of it comes from the man wearing the “C” for the Pens. My opinion? I absolutely hate the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it’s mostly because of Crosby. However, I am a sports writer, and while I hate Lebron James, I am not allowed to deny his greatness. Much like Lebron has earned his way on to my Mount Rushmore of basketball greats, with his 3rd Stanley Cup win, and another Conn Smythe trophy, Sid the Kid has earned his way into my top-4 hockey players of all-time.
This is all strictly my opinion, but after back-to-back titles, Crosby joins Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, and the GOAT, Wayne Gretzky on my top-4 hockey players of all-time. While it’s difficult for me to leave off the likes of Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, and Raymond Borque, I must be honest and acknowledge the greatness we see from #87 each and every night he takes the rink. It’s alright if you don’t have Crosby on your Rushmore, just yet, but believe me, when he’s all finished, you will. Here’s why-
In 782 career games, Crosby has 1,027 points. The only other player to accumulate 1,000 points in less games, Gretzky, he also did it twice! He will never surpass Gretzky as the GOAT, much the way I feel about Lebron and Jordan, but the challenges Crosby has dealt with is incredible. Compare the game now to the game when Gretzky played- you’ll see how impressive Crosby’s stat line is. Gretzky played in a time with no salary cap for team’s. During Gretzky’s 20-years of dominating the NHL, teams averaged a whopping 3.50 goals per game. During Crosby’s time in the NHL, teams are averaging 2.83 goals per game. Much has changed to cause this drastic drop, the 2-line pass being outlawed, goalies continuing to evolve, and defenseman spending less time in the penalty box due to less fighting, all contribute to the 19% falloff in scoring. In a time where scoring comes at a premium, Crosby is averaging .48 goals per game, and 1.36 points per game throughout his illustrious career.
There are times in sports where a once-in-a-generation player comes along. While some love the player, most end up hating the player. Lebron, Jordan, Gretzky, Brady, Bryce Harper, many of these players are admired by fans of their teams, and hated by the rest. I admit that I hate the Penguins, and hate Sidney Crosby, honestly, with a burning passion. But one of the best things I get to do while contributing to this blog site, is keep it honest. I provide my outlook on topics of my choice, and it’s my truthful opinion. I believe Crosby is a flopper, a pretty-boy player who gets the likes of Chris Kunitz and Letang to fight battles for him, because he’s softer than Charmin Ultra toilet tissue. With all of the things I hate about Crosby, his greatness cannot be denied. It’s time we, as a hockey loving community, stand up, and applaud the greatness we have witnessed for the past 10 years, and could continue to watch for another 5-8 seasons. Sidney Crosby- welcome to hockey’s most elite platform, the Mount Rushmore of all-timers. Hats off to number 87, wearing the black and gold.