The Lakers having to choose between Shaq and Kobe, the two playres who led them to three consecutive NBA championships but were never invited to each others birthday parties, will be nothing compared to the choice #66 has to make in the not-so-distant future about who he wants leading the March of the Penguins -- 87 or 71?
It has to be rare for someone to pull back the reigns on an outrageous statement mere moments after committing it to print, but in this case it is necessary. No, Crosby and Malkin are not going to be battling through the media like S & K, nor is their relationship likely ever going to deteriorate to the point where they deny each others very existence. That being said, looking into the future I see some serious problems developing in Steeltown, all thanks to a high-ankle sprain and a salary cap system with allows very little wiggle room to suit up two top-shelf superstars who play the same position.
Being blessed with two superstars, legitamite Hall of Fame candidates, at the same time is a rarity, and Pittsburgh has been blessed twice. But the Lemieux/Jagr era was different, on the ice in the fact that they played different positions, but also because Lemieux had long since established himself as THE man in Pittsburgh, and his primary point-of-comparison was the Great One (Hmmm...maybe not THAT different after all). Crosby and Malkin, on the other hand, play the same position and came into the league in the same season. However, for various reasons Malkin always rode shotgun(1-North American ultra-hype for Crosby; 2- Malkin being drafted behind Ovechkin). I'm sure it is something Malkin has become used to since being drafted behind possibly the most popular Russian involved with NHL hockey since Anna Kornikova was cheering for the Red Wings, and I'm certain he would have been content in the role he was playing with the Penguins for the rest of the season. But the second he was asked to carry the team in Crosby's absense, Evgeni sat down and Geno stepped up. 71 has turned into a full-on NHL scoring machine and makes the players around him infinitely better -- maybe even more so then his Canadian Doppelganger. We have all heard rumblings about how Crosby is tricky to play with (remember when he and 8 the Great were linemates at the All-star game -- how'd that workout?), but Geno seems to be a glue that bonds individual players into linemates. Let me ask you -- Pre-High-ankle sprain, how many of you would have put Malkin in the top-three for MVP? How about now? I bet Sykora and Malone would.
It brings me back to my point -- a team can't afford (financially or functionally) to have two potentially-perennial MVP candidates on the same team playing the same position. Who plays center on the first PP unit and who moves to the wing/point? Who wears the C? Whose opinion do you use while planning the attack when you have your goalie pulled? Crosby signed a hometown discount for $8.7M per -- a big, deserved number that additionally ties into his 87 marketting machine. If Pittsburgh would have asked Malkin to sign for his jersey number also -- $7.1M per -- at the beginning of the season, we possibly would be debating today how much of a bargain that is. But they didn't, and there is no way with the emergence of Geno that he is going to be considering any less then the Kid got. Ove will be getting $9.5 starting next year -- if Geno wins the Hart, what does he get? Pittsburgh's hand is going to be forced, and we are going to see one giant deal in the very near future.
Long story short -- Geno is a potentially a Russian Lemieux, and if not for Crosby he wouldn't be destined for the same fate in Pittsburgh as Jagr.
(This is my first posting and it probably seems strange that I am writing about the Penguins since I am a massive Sens guy. Well, I couldn't jump in trashing my boys -- but I'll be writing something tomorrow regardless of the outcome in tonight's game against the Toskala Maple Leafs)