Oh boy, I could take a lot of heat for this one.
Screw it, I'm gonna get it off of my chest, and put my flak jacket on. I only ask that you hear me out and read my rationale before flaming away.
OK, let's set things straight right now. I LOVE SIDNEY CROSBY, in a purely plutonic fan-to-professional athlete type of way. He's far and away the best playmaker in hockey. He's the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise in the same mold as Mario Lemieux. It's quite reasonable to look back in retrospect and state that if it wasn't for an incredibly fortunate bounce of the ping pong ball in July 2005, the Penguins could very well be calling Kansas City home right now. He's mature well beyond his age and handles the dozens of media requests like a seasoned pro.
On the ice, perhaps more than any other hockey player, Crosby makes his linemates much, much better. Even me and my half-assed skating could get a handful of goals on Sid's line, and trust me, that's really saying something.
Crosby's primary attribute that leads to this is his incredible vision of the ice. It's not uncommon to catch yourself during the course of a Penguins game after a Crosby pass saying "Holy S***, what a pass !!".
He's the ultimate team player, he's the ultimate unselfish player, he's the ultimate modest player.
However, it's for all of those reasons that, in my view, he is hurting his team right now.
That is because, again in my view, Crosby is starting to remind me of Jan Hrdina.
Now that could very well be an incredibly ridiculous statement, and it probably is. Of course I am not comparing Crosby's overall game to that of Hrdina, let's not get carried away.
But Hrdina always had the ability during his five seasons wearing a Penguins sweater to constantly pass up excellent shooting opportunities. I don't know how many times during those years ('98-'03) he would be on a 2-on-1 break with someone and painfully force a pass to his teammate, only to have it broken up without a shot on goal. Now, sometimes I can understand if that teammate was Lemieux or Jagr, but even then, the defensive strategy is to stop the pass, therefore leaving the goalie to concentrate as much as possible with the puck carrier. Hrdina always seemed to ignore that strategy and force the pass anyway. Hrdina had 79 goals during those five seasons, but he could have had many, many more.
This year, Crosby, in his third professional season, has been doing his best Hrdina impression even more than he has in his two previous years. This season is only 25 games old, and I can remember at least eight, probably ten times that Crosby has passed up an excellent scoring opportunity, on a breakaway or not, in order to make the extra pass to a teammate. Last night's example in Toronto was the most outrageous to date. Crosby roared down the ice on a 2-on-1 break, the defenseman as he's supposed to do takes away the pass, and leaves Crosby with an open view directly towards Toskala. But rather than take the shot, Crosby even hits the brakes, still doesn't take the shot, and still forces the pass, which of course doesn't work by that time.
Come on, Sid, you've got to wise up and recognize what kind of situation you and your teammates are in. Your team is having a terrible time scoring goals from anyone besides yourself, Malkin, and Sykora. OK, I'll give the rare compliment to Malone also, he's getting the dirty goals that he needs to get. If your team was not as offensively challenged, and thus can easily get five goals a night, then it's not a problem. But right now, until such time that you get some more teammates that can consistently put the puck in the net, you simply cannot afford to pass up quality scoring opportunities on a nightly basis simply to try to help your teammates. Those unsuccessful attempts, and of course as a result the lack of goals because of those attempts, are hurting your team's chances to win the game.
I'm sure some of you think I'm nuts, or worse. But I know I'm not the only one out there with similar views. I've heard the boys on FSN Live talk about it. I've heard callers into that postgame show talk about it. I've read posters on message boards talk about it. So is everyone nuts ??
Let's face it, the Penguins' performance lives and dies based on the actions of Sidney Crosby. I just hope that Sid continues on this learning curve and recognizes that he cannot continue to pass up on chances to score, and therefore help his team win.
The Confluence of the Three Rivers