Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been synonymous for nearly two decades. The most decorated player in team history has accumulated over 500 goals, three Stanley Cup championships, and is 91 points away from 1,500 in his career. After dominating for so long, Crosby is facing something new for the first time in his career: lower expectations.
It feels sacrilegious to state, but the league wide perception of Crosby and the Penguins has fallen. Aging and a lack of playoff success combined with the immense young talent across the league have toppled the mighty Penguins in the eyes of many.
Recently, hockey analyst JFresh conducted an online poll ranking the top 100 skaters in the league. The poll garnered thousands of votes and ranked the Penguins captain as the 13th best skater in the league.
Anyone who watches Crosby play, knows the Penguins' center is a top five or 10 player. This league may be ruled by the likes of Connor McDavid and Auston Mathews, but Crosby’s two way skill is unmatched. Not only that, Crosby is fresh off of a fantastic season.
Despite missing 13 games, Crosby managed 31 goals and 84 points. Compared to the previous two shortened seasons, Crosby’s 1.2 points per game was an increase. He and left winger Jake Guentzel were one of the most dynamic pairings in the league, combining for 71 goals together.
The one noticeable knock on Sid’s game is his slight decline in speed. Compared to other top-tier players, it's clear that Sid's explosive lower body strength has been surpassed after a 15 year run of dominance. Now, he's just a fast player, not the fastest player, a steep decline for such a skilled veteran.
If you ask Sid the Kid, he still thinks he’s at the top of his game. In an interview this summer, Sid suggested he wanted to play with the Penguins for another six seasons, which would have him still playing during his age 40 season. Can he do it? If healthy, there’s no doubting Crosby has the skill and physical capability to keep playing.
So what can the Penguins expect from Sidney Crosby this year? The first thing, is a determined and motivated captain. After failing to get out of the first round since 2018, Crosby and company are locked in on putting that failure behind him. The Penguins will continue to get more of the reliable and consistent two-way excellence that is Captain Crosby.
As for his offensive numbers, Crosby is well overdue for a 100 point season. Not since pre-Pandemic times has he eclipsed the century mark in the regular season. Hopefully with a healthy season and his trusted winger, Guentzel, on his side, Crosby should return to right around 100 points on the year. Anything less than 90 points in a full season would be a disappointment.
The Penguins are hoping that Crosby has a little more magic left in him as he enters his late 30's. Despite the league's superstars trending younger and younger, it seems the expectations for Crosby from both the team and himself have barely wavered.
If anything, expectations might have increased for Pittsburgh's captain. There is an expectation that he can continue to do the impossible, as he's done his whole career. An expectation the Penguins and the best player in the Salary Cap Era are running towards, not away from.
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