Crosby, The Best Is Yet To Come?

By Jameson Bradley

As the leaves change color and the temperature drops, hockey fans know the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner.

As the season approaches, more questions have been raised than there are answers to satisfy us. Could Brad Marchand have gotten more money elsewhere? Is Milan Lucic the answer for Edmonton? Will P.K. Subban finally bring Nashville the respect they want? Will Shea Weber change the team dynamic in Montreal? Will John Gaudreau stay with the Flames?

The list goes on and on, and for most of those questions, we will have to wait until at least the beginning of the season to find the answer.  One question that has been looming on the minds of every sports analyst and hockey fan in the world is that of Sidney Crosby. Starting out with arguably one of the worst seasons in his career, and his team out of playoff position come Christmas, Crosby (single-handedly some would say) snapped out of his slump and propelled his team into the playoffs. By the time April came around, most picked Pittsburgh to come out of the Eastern Conference and contend for the Stanley Cup. Not only did they do this, but Crosby helped them do it in style capping off one of the greatest seasons in his career by receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy and lifting the Stanley Cup for the second time.

So have we seen everything Crosby is capable of? Crosby signed a massive $104.4 million 12-year contract back in 2012 with the Penguins, bringing his AAV to $8.7 million. Four years later, and just recently turning 29 in August, most said that Crosby was on the downhill of his career. Not necessarily the same downhill as other players per say, but critics say that Crosby isn’t capable of what his was in earlier years. Mostly because his early years drew so much attention.

Crosby entered the league as the first overall draft pick of 2005. Said to be “The Chosen One” and quickly nicknamed “Sid the Kid” he rocketed onto the scene finishing the season with 102 pts(39G, 63A), great by any standards. The next season he would finish with 120 pts(36G, 84A) and become the youngest in NHL history to be awarded the Art Ross Trophy and become the first teenager to lead the NHL in scoring since Wayne Gretzky.

In 2008 after competing in the first ever NHL Winter Classic, Crosby suffered a high ankle sprain after crashing into the boards.  He would only go on to play 53 games and end with 72 pts. (24G, 48A) in the regular season. Crosby would heal in time for playoffs and the Penguins forced their way into the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in six games.  Most will remember with the Penguins down by one, Crosby hit the post with seconds to spare in Game 6. Crosby shook off the blues of losing in the finals to finish the 08-09 season with 103 pts. (33G, 70A) and win the Stanley Cup. The next season he continued his high points game finishing with 109 pts (51G, 58A).

With the start of the 10-11 Season, Crosby looked to continue his NHL dominance with a 25 game point streak.  But Murphy’s law struck, and in January against the Capitals and the Lightning, he suffered two different hits to the head. Crosby wouldn’t be able to finish the rest of the regular season due to concussion-like symptoms. Every hockey fan’s nightmare right? Those “concussion-like symptoms” would limit Crosby to just 22 games the next season. Things looked bright when the lockout ended in 2013, but Crosby took a slap-shot from a fellow Penguins defensemen and suffered a broken jaw.  He would only play 36 games that season.

Fast forward to now.  You can see why Crosby has received such criticism defying all odds in the first few seasons of his career only to succumb to injury. An injury that most players have a hard time coming back from.  But despite all, Crosby pushed forward even in the shadow of one of the worst starts to his career only to end it lifting the Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby followed his amazing Cup run by taking Canada to the World Cup Finals against Team Europe. Crosby lit a fire under Team Canada and created an unlikely pairing with Boston Bruins pest, Brad Marchand. Crosby would finish the tournament with 10 pts. (3G, 7A, good for best in the tournament). Canada only scored 24 goals in all the games, which means almost every other goal had something to do with Crosby. Did I mention he also won MVP for the World Cup? Because it’s a big deal considering he has already won Hart Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy which makes him one of three players to win all three. The other two being Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky.

So after an incredible year for Sidney Crosby, and in turn hockey fans around the world, the questions looms.  Have we seen the best of Sidney Crosby?  Handfuls of 100 point seasons would say we have. Crosby’s biggest enemies like to say that he falls too easily, cheats on face-offs, draws too many penalties, and doesn’t play a fair game. It’s funny because I hear the same criticism about Messi, Lebron, Brady, and Trout  I like to think it’s because professional athletes, no matter how much you pay them, still hate to lose which means they are quick to play the blame game.  Crosby has the odds stacked against him this season.  He has shown those who said he wouldn’t come back from injury.  Those who said he wouldn’t win a Cup.  Those who said he wouldn’t win another.  Those who said he can’t play in national tournaments.

So I ask one more time, have we seen the best of Sidney Crosby? No. After winning two Stanley Cups and several notable trophies I think this season will be the greatest of his career.  This 29-year-old has a lot left in the tank, and still has some more records to shatter in the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins look to defend their city this season, and also look to take hockey outside in the NHL Stadium Series against the Philadelphia Flyers, celebrating 50 years of rivalry. The stage is set. And I promise you that Sid the Kid is ready.

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