Time is set for Crosby to dominate once again

Like his teammates here, Crosby has the entire hockey world in front of him. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

Like his teammates here, Crosby has the entire hockey world in front of him. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Tim Kolupanowich


The NHL is back and, just as importantly, if not more so, so is Sidney Crosby.

When we last saw a shortened season back in 1995, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros were the top players as they tied for the lead in points with 70. Crosby, in his past two seasons, has put up 103 points in just 63 games, 1.63 points per game. That’s a 78-point pace over 48 games.

His concussion issues may worry some, but he is feeling great and playing better than ever. Josh Yohe notes in the article “Sidney Crosby Man of Steel” in the Dec. 17 issue of The Hockey News Crosby finally feels over his symptoms and how much better the game’s best player has become:

Playing the final 14 regular season games and all six playoff games gave Crosby the peace of mind that his head was OK. Feeling confident in his health again, he worked out like never before during the summer. The results have his teammates beyond impressed. “Sid has always been incredibly strong on the puck, probably the strongest guy in the league,” says (defenseman Matt) Niskanen, who has been practicing against Crosby the past two months. “And that hasn’t changed. But what’s different about him right now is how much faster he is. I’ve never seen him this fast, making plays with the puck at this fast of a speed. I’m telling you, it’s pretty scary what he’s going to do whenever we start playing again.”

Everything is back to normal now, as Crosby transformed his body during the summer. He returned to Pittsburgh in September following summer workouts in Nova Scotia and Los Angeles, his arms and shoulders noticeably bigger than before. “We all know he’s going to have a huge year,” said linemate Pascal Dupuis. “I mean, look at him. He looks amazing on the ice, just like always – maybe even more than before. He’s doing whatever he wants out there.”

A faster Sid certainly is frightening for the opposition to think about, especially since 2013 is going to be a sprint from start to finish unlike the grinding marathon that is the typical regular season. There can’t be another player with more will and reason to get back to playing NHL hockey right now because, as Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Puck Daddy explains, he could use some familiar ground after the ride he has been on since Jan. 1, 2011:

Especially after all the things that have happened to Crosby one after the other – reaching a new level, suffering a concussion, struggling to recover, seeking out unorthodox treatment, coming back, suffering a setback, identifying a neck problem, coming back again, training hard over the summer, feeling better than ever before, getting locked out, getting involved in talks … getting sick of practicing and riding the emotional roller coaster and waiting to do the one thing he wants to do.

Crosby, the face of the game of hockey, has played only 28 hockey games in more than two years.

And don’t forget, the last time we saw Crosby truly healthy, he was doing seemingly whatever he wanted anyway. Before his concussion problems began, he was coming off a 25-game point streak in which he posted 26 goals and 50 points. TSN has projected Crosby to finish with 61 points, while ESPN predicts 63. Both sources may have had him a few games short of the full 48, but surprisingly neither had him over an assist per game despite the fact he had 29 in only 22 games last season, including six goals and 25 points in the final 14 games, and will be playing with the best cast of goal scorers in his career.

Evgeni Malkin scored 50 and James Neal had 40 last season and the duo has become an elite one-two punch in the goal-scoring department while Chris Kunitz remains a consistent 25-goal man. Many of Pittsburgh’s depth players including Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke and newcomer Brandon Sutter are adept at filling the next and capable of 15-20 goals apiece during a full season, so Crosby will have plenty of passing options and we know he finally found his scoring touch since he was on pace to break the 60-goal mark the year after reaching 50 for the first time. As Cotsonika notes, the only thing he should really be worried about now is rust, especially since many players have been active in other leagues.

What is Crosby worried about most? Rust?

“I am,” he said, laughing. “I mean, I’m human. I’m like any other guy who misses a lot of time. You have to focus on things. You have that concern of making sure you start well and that you’re up to speed and your game’s there. I think that’s normal. I think that’s part of the challenge of playing, and you look forward and are excited for those challenges.”

Ah, but rust is relative. Crosby has looked like Lemieux used to when he kept coming back from health problems and retirements.

Crosby has been on the sidelines way too long for his, and his fans', comfort. (Wooble/Wikimedia Commons)

Crosby has been on the sidelines way too long for his, and his fans’, comfort. (Wooble/Wikimedia Commons)

There are other reasons his season was too short last year besides his health. Crosby absolutely has to be bitter about the way the season ended last season, a six-game, first round loss to Philadelphia in which they blew a 3-0 lead in Game 1 and 2-0, 3-1,4-3 and 5-4 leads in Game 2 on home ice. For a player who absolutely despises losing as much as Crosby, that can only fuel his desire to get back to dominating the league. There’s nothing he isn’t capable of doing, as evidenced by having already led the league in goals, assists, points and won the Stanley Cup Hart and Pearson (now Ted Lindsay) Trophies and Olympic gold medal before turning 25.

Here’s his chance to once again take the NHL by storm and prove no one deserves the title of best player in the world more than he does. In a full schedule, Crosby would likely become the first player since 1995-96 to record at least 130 points in a season, but can still post obscene numbers (relatively speaking) and 30 goals, 50 assists and 80 points are not out of the realm of possibility. But more than his scoring ability, it’s his speed, power, defensive play, determination and yes, that agitating style unique for a player of his caliber will be on display as well, hopefully without any more reasons to hit the pause button on his career.


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