Friday, May 23, 2008

It Was Inevitable - the Beatification of Sidney Crosby Begins

It Was Inevitable - the Beatification of Sidney Crosby Begins

USA Today Writer Kevin Allen First To Start NHL Star On Road To Being Recognized As The Deity He Must No Doubt Be.

(Editorial Note: This may be as ill-advised as my rant about Comcast's Lisa Hillary (sorry once again Lisa, but I think I've atoned and hopefully learned from that information age/web 2.0 mis-step. Here we go. I was working on a much more interesting piece on the Caps and wasn't going to post again till tomorrow prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Finals, but I saw this little comment/gaffe made by Kevin Allen in today's USA Today, a paper with a circulation of over 2Million - America's largest and I couldn't resist my urges to comment. So here goes.)

With the Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals it was likely inevitable. Since his team is in the finals, and Sidney Crosby would be the youngest player to Captain an NHL team to it's championship IF they win, it was likely inevitable that rather than describing him as what he is, media from the broader markets and more traditional sources would slip into hyperbole and declare him the undisputed best forward and/or player, etc. Calling that one and confirming that hype must sell papers sure didn't take long. In his "Finals Preview" on page 9C of today's USA Today, Kevin Allen states: "Key matchup: Lidstrom vs. Crosby. This is best-on-best, the game's best defenseman against the NHL's top forward."

Calling Lidstrom the game's best defensemen is as problematic as calling Crosby the NHL's top forward. Using "the game" as the predecent to the statement implies the best of all time, to be sure the 38 year old Swede is a future Hall of Famer and the likely winner of the Norris Trophy as the best defensemen in the league this year; but the best of all time? - clearly open to debate since now the group expands to include the likes of stars from bygone eras such as Bobby Orr. Nicklas Lidstrom's career is long and storied enough to warrant consideration and inclusion in that GROUP of players who could be considered the best of all time, but why do we need to declare him the best other than to sell copies of today's USA Today, which a hockey story on page 9C clearly isn't likely to do anyway.

Calling Crosby "the NHL's top forward" or even "the NHL's top center" right now is also clearly premature; and, by objective measures, probably just plain wrong. One of the best - yes again, he is definitely in that GROUP of players who are the elite in the NHL today. However, Crosby's play this season, prior to the playoffs, in the position of center had even been eclipsed by his teammate Evgeni Malkin. There are 30 players who finished with more points them Crosby overall; granted his season was shortened by injury, but even on a points per game basis, Crosby, a center, tallied 1.36 points per game (.45 goals per game and .91 assists per game). That puts him slightly behind scoring title winner Alexander Ovechkin who averaged 1.37 points per game (a whopping 0.79 goals per game and 0.58 assists per game). Also, Many consider Goals vice Points, the measure by which forward's contributions to their team should be gauged, if that's your measure of a forward's worth/value, "Sid the Kid's" 0.45 goals per game put him behind approximately 14 other NHL forwards this year. Crosby's +/- is +.34 per game (overall +18). His +/- performance per game puts 8 players ahead of him for the year including Ovechkin, Defenseman Lidstrom, and forwards Jarome Iginla, and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, who with 1.23 points per game and .57 goals per game also puts him in the group. Teammate Evgeni Malkin's per game stats this year: 1.29 points, 0.57 goals, and overall +/- +18 while playing 100% of the regular season games and logging an average of 21:19 per game.

My point - Sidney Crosby is very good, and if he has a reasonable length career, the 20 year old Center from Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia, will indeed likely be in that group of all time greats that includes Wayne Gretzky and Crosby's mentor in Pittsburgh - Mario Lemieux. However, the risk of early deification of Crosby, who played only 53 games in this year's 82 game regular season, is three-fold. First, it cheapens the achievements of those who match or actually exceed Crosby's current performance, for example Ovechkin, and arguably Malkin, Iginila, Pavel Datsuk, Zetterberg and a few others. Second, it clearly cheapens the accomplishments of the "all time greats" like Gretzkey, Lemieux, and numerous other including "Rocket" Richard, etc. Third, since so many of the other players in the current NHL who are in the ranks of the elite are European, it is fuel for the claims that the "Hockey Press" favors Canadians; regardless if this is fact or merely perception it is fuel for these claims.

On the overall plus side, thanks USA Today, the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs got a picture and inset headline on the front page of the Sports Section on a Friday edition along with a story about the NBA playoffs and this weekend's Indianapolis 500. Not bad for a sport The Onion frequently pokes fun at and usually doesn't get it's due in the MSM. LETS GO CAPS!!!!! Can't wait for next season at the phone booth. Now it's back to work - seriously, this was just a diversion from putting the finishing touches on a proposal update due on Tuesday morning, here at ICx Technologies.

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