Considering how much Crosby’s accomplished in his NHL career, it’s hard to believe he’s only 30 years old. The future Hall of Famer capped off another tremendous campaign in 2016-17 with his third Stanley Cup as well as several more resume-stuffing accolades -- including laying claim to the Rocket Richard Trophy with an NHL-best 44 regular-season goals. Crosby also became just the third player in league history to bring home the Conn Smythe hardware as playoff MVP in back-to-back seasons. He may not be the safest fantasy pick due to his indelible concussion history, and he may have been overtaken by Connor McDavid for the honors of being the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts, but Pittsburgh’s golden boy is fresh off his fourth consecutive 80-plus-point campaign and showing no signs of slowing down.
Crosby scored only six goals and 13 assists in his first 30 games last year, sparking worry that he was starting to decline early at age 28. Pittsburgh then axed coach Mike Johnston in mid-December and promoted the organization’s AHL coach, Mike Sullivan. The move worked out in a big way, boosting Crosby’s production back to normal rates – 30 goals and 66 points over his final 50 games – and leading the Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup championship. While his overall 1.06 point-per-game production was the lowest in 11 NHL seasons, Crosby’s improved output under Sullivan nearly mirrored his career average of 1.33 points per game. In addition to the playoff heroics that led to his first Conn Smythe Trophy, Crosby registered his second-highest shooting percentage (14.5) and even added a career-best 90 hits in the regular season. He enters 2016-17 with his potential linemates in flux. Chris Kunitz is yet another year older, Patric Hornqvist has difficulty keeping up at even strength, and the speedy Conor Sheary hasn’t proven his 5-foot-8 body can withstand the rigors of a six-month season. Nevertheless, Crosby has always found a way to rack up numbers and figures to do so once again in 2016-17.
On the heels of his fifth 100-point season, Crosby saw his productivity fall back a bit last year, as he receded all the way to 84 points. That's still great, but not quite the scoring rate his owners have come to expect -- though he's a good bet to bounce back from an unusually low shooting percentage. There are also two pieces of good news to report. First, he made it through the season in relatively good health. Second, Crosby has received one heck of a reinforcement, as the Penguins picked up Phil Kessel to man his right wing. Those two could make fire together -- Crosby the ultimate setup man, Kessel perhaps the second-best sniper in the league today. That could mean a return to triple-digit points for Sid the ... Millenial.
After winning his second Art Ross Trophy with 104 points in 2013-14, Crosby scored just one postseason goal in 13 games. The team revealed he played with a wrist injury late in the season, and there have been rumors he's also dealing with a shoulder injury. The star center said he'll play through the wrist pain, but there's still a chance he could undergo surgery at some point. Pittsburgh is expected to once again start Crosby with Chris Kunitz on his left wing and Pascal Dupuis on his right, but both players are in their mid-30s, with the latter coming off knee surgery. At any rate, so long as he’s healthy, Crosby will pick up points regardless of his linemates. In fact, more than one-third of Crosby's points (38) came on the power play. Most likely, Crosby will be just fine after a summer of rest, but training camp takes on added significance for him, given his questionable health status.
With 56 points (15G, 41A) in 36 games, Crosby finished tied for third in NHL scoring despite missing one-quarter of the 2012-13 season. His primary injury -- a broken jaw -- was of the fluke variety. More importantly, he managed to stay concussion-free for the entire year. Despite playing at less than 100 percent for much of the time since the 2010 Winter Classic, Crosby has compiled 55 goals and 159 points in his last 99 games, good for a 1.61 point/game mark. In fact, he's tallied more assists (104) than games played (99) over that span. With another season removed from his concussion woes and the Pens re-signing Crosby's linemates (Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz) in the summer, the star centerman is primed for a huge campaign at age 26. He could quite easily challenge his career point mark of 120 in 2013-14 -- provided he stays healthy, of course.
As Crosby fantasy owners are acutely aware, the star centerman missed 60 regular-season contests in 2011-12 due to concussion-like symptoms. When he was healthy, he led the NHL with a 1.68 points per-game mark, including eight goals and 29 assists in 22 games. Therein lies the rub. A healthy Crosby likely contends for his second Art Ross Trophy while a Sid with head and neck pain leads to fantasy zeros for extended periods of time. Heading into 2012-13, Crosby's reportedly feeling good and symptom-free, maintaining an excellent summer workout regimen. Risk tolerance will determine where Crosby goes in drafts for a player whose upside is nearly unrivaled. Do you feel lucky? Don't expect Crosby to last long on draft day.
Crosby's health status is one of the hottest topics in the NHL heading into the 2011-12 campaign. A concussion short-circuited what began as a career year in 2010-11, one in which Crosby led the league in nearly every major statistical category at the time of his traumatic brain injury (TBI). With Evgeni Malkin occasionally at his side, Crosby totaled a Mario Lemieux-like 66 points (32 G, 34 A) in exactly half a season (41 games), good for 30th in the league -- tying him with the likes of Rick Nash, Joe Pavelski, and a pair of ex-Flyers, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Prior to suffering his TBI, Crosby rattled off a 25-game point streak which included 26 goals and 24 assists. He posted a career-best 19.9 shooting percentage and took an NHL-high 40.1 percent of his team's faceoffs (winning 55.6 percent). Crosby figures to play alongside Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, but the organization has added several options who could see time with No. 87, including James Neal, Steve Sullivan and Jason Williams. Crosby suffered an apparent setback in April, as he dealt with headaches that were believed to be the result of a sinus infection, but the fantasy stud has since resumed skating. Crosby's ability to stay healthy will go a long ways toward determining whether Pittsburgh challenges for a fourth Stanley Cup.
Considered by many to be the most complete skater in the NHL, Crosby went on to record 51 goals last season, allowing him to share Rocket Richard Trophy honors (most goals in a season) with Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. But the glory didn't stop there. When Team Canada needed someone to step up with a goal in OT play for the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, it was Crosby who ultimately delivered. Remember, at 23 years old, ˜Sid the Kid˜ is just that, a kid, and one who has plenty more 100-point seasons ahead of him.
About the only area Crosby can do better is to score more regular-season goals. Last year he totaled 33 in 77 games. In the postseason, however, Crosby led the NHL with 15 goals, a rate that translates into 50 over the course of an 82-game schedule. He also has the most polished linemates he's ever had, with vets Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin to his sides. Perhaps most importantly, Crosby joins Evgeni Malkin on the man advantage, combining for the most lethal duo in hockey. Provided the Olympic games don't wear him down or create an injury, there's no reason to think that Crosby couldn't produce career highs across the board.
Crosby missed nearly 30 games in 2007-08 due to a high ankle sprain but still finished second in team scoring with 72 points (24, 48). The ever-improving star increased his faceoff wins to 51.4 percent, including 54 percent on the man advantage. What might he improve upon this season? Coach Michel Therrien might let him loose more often shorthanded, increasing his points total in that category. He enters this year with another mystery cast of linemates after jelling with the since-departed Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis in the postseason. It’s true that 101 skaters averaged more time-on-ice than Crosby (20:50), a point of contention between Therrien and his detractors. Nevertheless, Crosby enters the new campaign primed to contend for the Hart Trophy he won back in 2006-07. A strong playoff push -- 27 points in 20 games – reaffirmed his role as the team’s on-ice go-to guy while Evgeni Malkin had his troubles.
Where else in hockey can a legitimate case be made that a 20-year-old kid with a $43.5 million contract is underpaid? Crosby does it all. He led the Penguins in scoring with 120 points (36/84/120), 35 more than anyone else on the team. He improves on the fly, too. Crosby failed to convert eight of his first nine shootout opportunities before lighting the lamp four times in his final six tries. He netted just four PP goals in the season's first 40 games before ringing up nine scores on the man-advantage in the last 39 contests. Atlantic Division foes have to be a bit scared by the fact that Crosby elevates his game against them. He combined for 33 points (10,23) in 15 games against the Flyers and Islanders alone. Even though the 2006-07 preseason line of Crosby, Nils Ekman and Colby Armstrong was an abject failure, Crosby didn't miss a beat. Just wait until he finds a linemate or two that can keep up with him.
If it's true that the sky's the limit for Crosby, then there's already more than a few stars and perhaps a planet or two named after him. The youngest player ever to reach the 100-point plateau, Crosby netted 102 points (39/63) in 81 games last year. His 110-minute penalty total ranked the 18 year old first among the NHL's top 25 scorers, pleasing fantasy owners but serving notice that opponents could knock the young protégé off his game. Obstacles? There were many, but Crosby came through his rookie campaign with flying colors. A natural center, former coach Ed Olczyk slotted him at wing for the first part of the season. His most productive linemate -- Palffy -- then quit on him in January. Mario Lemieux was forced to retire once and for all with a heart ailment, and the only proven offensive weapon remaining -- Mark Recchi -- called Crosby out for arguing with refs, and then the Penguins traded Recchi. Medal-less Team Canada passed him up for the Olympics, and Peter Forsberg, of all people, labeled him a diver. By comparison, the slate is clean for Crosby in 2006. His likely linemates -- Colby Armstrong and Nils Ekman -- won't scare too many opponents, but maybe they should. Sid the Kid has a way making the best of any situation. He totaled 22 points (7/15) in his last 10 games of 2005, and narrowly missed out on catching that other rookie, Alexander something or other, in the points race (106 to 102). It might be a bit premature to say that the hockey universe revolves around Crosby, but not by much.
The two-time Canadian Hockey Player of the Year led the CHL with 168 points (66/102) in 2004-05. The Penguins will ask a lot of the 18-year-old center, but if he handles the pressure as well as he did when he appeared on The Jay Leno Show, then the Pens should be in good shape. Born on Aug. 7, 1987, he wears No. 87 on his sweater. Wouldn't it be fitting if Crosby finished with 87 points as a rookie?
Crosby is a bonafide superstar in waiting and may very well be the next in a long line of talents that include names like Lemieux, Lindros, etc. His on-ice vision is second to only the illustrious Wayne Gretzky and he delivers multiple-point games with his eyes closed.