THE SIDNEY CROSBY MYTH
Sidney Crosby’s subpar play through three Olympic games and Mike Babcock not finding the right combination of wingers for Crosby has brought back the media storyline that “Crosby is hard to play with and it’s difficult for elite wingers to mesh with him.”
This media tale of Crosby being hard to play with goes back to when Marian Hossa was with the Penguins in 2008.
Hossa scored just 3 goals in his first 14 games (regular season, playoffs) as a Penguin and his game didn’t take off with Crosby until a few games into the playoffs. Those are facts, however, what gets lost is that the two BARELY PLAYED WITH EACH OTHER BEFORE THE 2008 PLAYOFFS.
Hossa suffered a knee injury in his first game (2/28/08) as a Penguin that sidelined him for two weeks.
He returned on March 16th and in Hossa’s first seven games in a Penguins uniform, Crosby was not in the lineup. The reasons being Crosby was still sidelined from a high ankle sprain he suffered on January 18th against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Crosby returned to the lineup on March 27th vs the New York Islanders and Hossa would not finish the game due to an upper body injury he suffered in the second period.
Crosby and Hossa would play just four full games together before the playoffs. Keep in mind that Crosby was still working his way back from a high ankle sprain that saw him miss 29 games.
Crosby and Hossa would go on to combine for 53 points in the 2008 playoffs. The two combined for 13 points in a four game sweep of the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round.
There’s been no evidence throughout Crosby’s career that he’s difficult to play with and the sampling is too small to make any judgments that it takes a transition period for elite players to get comfortable with Crosby. Hossa is the only true elite winger he’s ever played with in more than a handful of games.
James Neal can be regarded as an elite goal scoring winger in today’s game, and he has showed immediate chemistry with Crosby over the past two years when Evgeni Malkin isn’t in the lineup and Neal gets some time on Crosby’s right wing. The list goes on in regards to players of different skill sets being able to play with Crosby right way from Bill Guerin, Pascal Dupuis, AHL guys like Brian Gibbons to obviously Chris Kunitz.
Heck, during the 2005-2006 season, Andy Hilbert had 6 goals and 15 points in his final 13 games, playing as Crosby’s primary left winger on the Penguins top line, while 39 year old Mark Recchi had 24 goals and 68 points as the Penguins first line right winger in 2006-2007.
What many want to do is put stock into Crosby not finding immediate chemistry with talented wingers on Team Canada for the second straight Olympics. It’s hard to read anything into how players mesh with Crosby at the Olympics or anybody for that matter. It’s a bigger ice surface and the coaches rarely give time for combinations to gel as for instance how can you say Jeff Carter was a good or bad fit? He played one game with Crosby. Marty St. Louis also only got one game to play with Crosby. Impossible to draw any conclusions there either.
Just maybe the real story here isn’t Crosby’s wingers but it’s Crosby. Including NHL and Olympic play, Crosby has just one goal in his last 10 games (7 NHL games, 3 Olympic games).
He wasn’t playing his best hockey going into the Olympics. Crosby had just three multi-point games in 12 games prior to the Olympics. Two of those multi-point games came against the lowly Buffalo Sabres and one against the Islanders, another non-playoff team.
The good news for Canada is that Crosby is likely bound to breakout just at the right time.