Sidney Crosby’s “Off” Year

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Sidney Crosby hasn’t quite been himself this year (photo via wcvb.com)

By: Jim Meinecke

Imagine hearing you will be “the next one” since age 10. People telling you that you will be the next Wayne Gretzky. The next special player in the NHL. The next multiple cup winner. The next player to leave a legacy folks will talk about forever. Soon, that torch may pass from Sidney Crosby to Connor McDavid, but for the last ten years, Sidney Crosby shouldered that burden and those monikers. He is a player that at times can do no wrong, but many times, can do no right. Imagine each move on the ice watched via an ISO-cam. Analysts scrutinizing your every move. To Crosby’s credit, aside from injuries, his career has lived up to the hype.

If Sidney Crosby retired today, he would be a first ballot NHL hall-of-fame inductee. A brief look at his resume:

  • 1 Stanley Cup
  • 2 Art Ross Trophies (*Youngest player to win the award and youngest scoring champion in any major North American sport)
  • 2 Hart Trophies (*Second youngest player to win by five months behind Wayne Gretzky)
  • 3 Lester B. Pearson/Ted Lindsay Awards
  • 1 Rocket Richard Trophy
  • 2 Mark Messier Leadership Awards
  • 1 Sporting News NHL Player of the Year
  • 2 Olympic Gold Medals with the Golden Goal to clinch in 2010

That is a full career already, but Crosby is far from done. With that being said, Crosby is coming off a very disappointing postseason with only 9 points in 13 games and has gone through a rough stretch this season where he has only scored 19 points in his last 23 games. He has taken his fair share of criticism, and rightfully so, but I would like to dive a bit further into just how bad his season is thus far.

As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, the overwhelming majority of Penguins’ fans think Evgeni Malkin has been lights out this season. It is hard to argue otherwise because he has been huge for the team. Those same fans think Crosby is not himself and is having an otherwise “off” year. Let’s look at some numbers:

  • Crosby is leading Malkin by one point for the Penguins and only four goals off of Malkin for the team lead. They have the same amount of GWG at 2 a piece.
  • The chart below shows Crosby in the race for the scoring title. He is in fourth and only 6 points behind Jakub Vorachek for the league lead, with Voracek playing five more games. Also, he is tied for third in points per game at 1.13 (the same as Evgeni Malkin), and only .01 behind Tyler Seguin and Jakub Voracek for the league lead.
Even in an otherwise off season for Crosby, his numbers are impressive.

Even in an otherwise off season for Crosby, his numbers are impressive (Stats via ESPN.com)

That sort of puts things into perspective a little, doesn’t it? Sure, we can all agree Crosby is not himself, but he is still among the league’s best in nearly every statistical category. This can only speak to his true greatness. Additionally, why do fans view Malkin’s year as so much greater than Crosby’s? They only have a one game difference between them. Are fan’s eyes playing tricks on them? Do they hold Geno to a lower standard than Crosby? I think both of these are partially true, but I also think Crosby has just set an unreal bar and standard to keep.

To further put things into perspective for fans, I made the chart seen here:

A look back at the past 16 years of Art Ross Trophy winners

A look back at the past 16 years of Art Ross Trophy winners

Let’s make a few things clear with the above chart. The points per game average over the past 16 seasons is 1.38. Crosby’s current pace this year is far from that mark at only 1.13. His 88 projected points this season would not make the list anywhere (60 points in 2013 was the lockout shortened-season). The average point total for the past 16 seasons is 106.56, so his number is far below that as well. The column I would like you to focus on is the career points per game category. It shows Jaromir Jagr, one of the best to ever play the game, clock in at 1.17. Alexander Ovechkin is at 1.18. The Sedin twins, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, and Martin St. Louis are not even over one point per game, and the average for all of the winners in the past 16 seasons is 1.07. Sidney Crosby’s current pace of 1.13 is not far behind the career points per game of Jagr or Ovechkin, and is still much higher than most of the list. Once again, it is also higher than the average of these winners. Are you feeling a bit better about Crosby’s “off” year yet? If not, here are a couple of other stats for you:

  • Of the players listed above, there are a combined 62 seasons when they did not reach Crosby’s 88 projected points this season (this was taking out lockout seasons and injury-riddled seasons for these players).
  • Most people feel Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are great players in the NHL. Daniel Sedin has only topped 88 points once, and Henrik Sedin has only accomplished this twice. Pavel Datsyuk? He’s only scored more than 88 points twice as well.
There is still a lot of hockey left this season for Crosby (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

There is still a lot of hockey left this season for Crosby (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

A lot of the criticism Crosby receives has its merit. There is no doubt he is not playing as well as HE normally does, but hopefully this puts your mind at ease a bit more that he is still having a great NHL season even in an off year. That being said, there are still 32 games left season. It would not surprise me at all if Crosby gets on a roll similar to October/November (33 points in 23 games, 1.43 ppg) and still manages to crack 100 points this season. But worse case scenario, he probably has a ho hum season around 88 points that still puts him in the top five of most offensive categories. I am not saying not to criticize him or hold him accountable, but how about we take some time to appreciate what the Penguins have? After all, the next one does not come around very often.


Thanks for reading, and I always enjoy hearing from you guys!