There’s been a lot of talk about the wealth of young talent in the NHL this season, as the likes of Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner light up the scoresheet with regularity. But lest we get too excited about the youngsters, best to remember that the top player in the game has been around for over a decade. Yep, Sid the Kid is now Sid the Man.
It’s not like Sidney Crosby has spent the last several years in a cave, but he’s been overshadowed by the likes of Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. But leading his Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup last spring seemed to restore Crosby to his former glory. And he’s off to an explosive start this season, with 21 goals in 26 games; he’s on pace to score 61.
Expectations have been high for Crosby since he was a teenager. He led the Penguins to the Cup finals in 2008 and 2009, winning in the latter to mark the team’s first championship since the early ’90s with Lemieux and Jagr. He racked up plenty of awards and accolades along the way, including scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics. His fiery style isn’t without its detractors; some say he’s whiny, and he definitely has a way of getting under the skin of opponents.
It’s easy to forget that Crosby was on a similar tear in 2010-11 with 66 points in 41 games when he sustained a serious concussion in the Winter Classic and was forced to take the rest of the season off. He only played 22 games the following season and then 36 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season before he took a slapshot to the mouth and broke his jaw; he missed over a month before returning in the playoffs. The following season, he led the league in scoring with 104 points, proving he was back after a few years of uncertainty.
Last season, the Penguins were in disarray at midseason. Coach Mike Johnston was fired in early December and some (including this NY Post columnist) were calling Crosby a coach-killer and malcontent. Mike Sullivan took over and the Pens turned their season around, defeating the Rangers, regular season champs Washington, Tampa Bay and the San Jose Sharks to win the Cup. Crosby was named playoff MVP, although Phil Kessel might have had a better postseason. Still, Crosby was vindicated after years of disappointment following the 2009 Cup win. Nothing answers back at your critics like winning.
Now Sid is back at it, seemingly scoring at will and leading a Penguins team that has the second-best record in the league. And while he’s no longer the Kid, he’s only 28. There could be a lot of years left for Crosby to continue making his mark.