The 2015-16 season has not been very kind to Sidney Crosby. For a player that has been accustomed to storming through the league on a regular basis, this season has been disappointing to say the least. Crosby has only two goals in 17 games this season, and only nine points in total. As fans wonder how much longer this slump can continue for one of the league’s best, I thought we should play a little fact or fiction.
“Sidney Crosby’s production is down because he needs to take more shots!”
This one is fact, at least partially. Looking at a pretty small sample size this season, Crosby has registered 45 shots in 17 games. Compared to the rest of his career:
2.65 shots per game this season is significantly off of his career pace. He has averaged over three shots per game in every season thus far, so there is still plenty of time to turn this around. Just comparing his shots in the Johnston era to the rest of his career, it is clear that Crosby is not registering as many shots and/or generating as much offense as a result. The solution? I am not sure there is a solution. Good or bad, it is clear Mike Johnston’s system is not setup to generate as much offense. There is more of a focus in the defensive end and playing 200 feet. While his shots are down and shooting more couldn’t hurt, his shooting percentage is more to blame, which will be explained below.
“Crosby would score more goals if he would just go to the high traffic areas like he did earlier in his career!”
This one is as black and white as it comes. Do you think you know the answer because this one is fiction. Below are heat charts generated from SportingCharts.com:
From left to right – Crosby’s first season under Mike Johnston, Crosby’s current season, and Crosby’s career (since 2009-10). The heat charts make it abundantly clear that Crosby is still going to the front of the net. In fact, his “hottest” area has remained remarkably consistent. If anything, you will notice that those reds and oranges were even deeper last season. This season does not have much to go on as of yet, but you can see the only areas with greens and yellows are in the exact same spot. The biggest difference? Crosby’s shooting percentage is almost laughably low. His career chart is at 12.73%. Last season he dipped slightly to 11.67%. This season? 4.44%! It’s hard to imagine that dismal percentage continues, but he certainly helps himself by shooting more. To put it in a bit of perspective though, if Crosby was even at his shooting percentage of 11.67% from last season, which is still slightly lower than his career, he would have five or six goals this season instead of two. Which then begs the question, if that were the case, would we even be having these conversations about Crosby?
“Crosby just doesn’t seem to be the same player under Mike Johnston!”
This one is fact. I made a table of Crosby’s career statistics that details games played, goals, assists, points, goals per game, assists per game, points per game, shots, shots per game, and shooting percentage (playoff games and totals are included for each season when applicable). The results are below:
Crosby is drastically lower in every category. He’s scoring less. He’s setting teammates up less. He’s shooting less. It is the first stretch in his career where is averaging less than three shots per game, and more importantly, the first stretch where he is averaging less than a point per game. So the next thing someone will say is that maybe Crosby is just an outlier case, which is I why I did the same exact thing for Evgeni Malkin:
While Malkin did have a subpar 2010-11 season even prior to his knee injury (averaged .86 ppg that season), in general, his numbers are at career lows as well. He, like Crosby, is down in every statistical category. So, what are the chances that two superstar, once-in-a-generation type players start slumping at the same points just by chance? It is clear that neither player has responded well to the current system.
The past few cases were not meant to completely discount what Mike Johnston has done. A lot of his defensive focus is necessary, particularly in the playoffs. It is clear, however, that the offense is struggling as a result. The Penguins are currently 27th in goals per game and last in power play percentage. As I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks back, those statistics are what is going to get Johnston fired. It is also not meant to completely let Crosby, and to a lesser extent Malkin, off of the hook. They need to be better. The excuses can and will always be there, but superstars are expected to produce under any circumstances, with any linemates, and rightfully so. With no quick fix in sight and no chance management shops Crosby or Malkin (not even saying they should), I don’t see how this current coaching staff makes it through November. Right or wrong, you can’t fire the players, but you can fire the coach.
Thanks for reading! Any questions or comments, find me on Twitter.