Sidney Crosby’s NHL awards reality shouldn’t overshadow his latest Penguins masterpiece

Auston Matthews is coming up on 65 goals and has had the Rocket Richard locked down for weeks, Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid are embroiled in an Art Ross race for the ages with Nikita Kucherov, and all of this probably means that Sidney Crosby won’t get a single vote as first all-star team center despite the fact that No. 87 is having one of the great seasons of his decorated career.

This serves as an explanation for why Peter Stastny never made a first- or second- all-star team during his career, why Pat LaFontaine made the second team once (first team, never) and Steve Yzerman was never so honored until his 17th season when he was voted onto the first team in 1999-2000.

That was life in the fast line for centers when the NHL was ruled by the Wayne Gretzky-Mario Lemieux hegemony. Now, there are McDavid, MacKinnon and Matthews and one of these three will not be voted onto either all-star team.

Crosby may not get a vote as an all-star, but he might be a factor in the Hart Trophy balloting. Tampa Bay’s right wing Kucherov, who entered Saturday with 133 points to MacKinnon’s 131 and McDavid’s 128, seems to be leading the polls.

Sidney Crosby has pieced together one of the best seasons of his NHL career. AP

But it is Pittsburgh’s center out of another generation who has had as much impact on this season as anyone, somehow dragging his teammates into at least the periphery of the playoff fight on almost his sheer will, alone. Twenty points (7-13) over the previous dozen games entering the weekend illustrate a portion of his impact.

Not only is there no need to add a qualifier citing Crosby’s age of 36, that would constitute an insult. No one needed to know Crosby’s age to recognize that he dominated the Rangers in every facet at the Garden last Monday when the Penguins were a gust of air from being blown out of the playoff picture.

Crosby has a year to go on the 12-year, $104.4 million extension that began in 2013-14. He has been the most underpaid athlete in professional sports since the moment he entered the league in 2005-06, capping himself for 17 years at an annual average value of $8.7M per — to coincide with his 8-7-87 birthdate and uniform number 87 — following his mandated three-year, entry-level deal. An uncapped Crosby would have merited a payday at least treble that amount.

Nathan MacKinnon entered Saturday with 131 points in the Art Ross race. NHLI via Getty Images
Nikita Kucherov, at 133 points, entered Saturday as one of the Art Ross candidates. USA TODAY Sports

There is some trepidation that the captain might flee what surely appears to be a ship sinking more rapidly than the S.S. Blueshirt at the advent of The Letter in 2018, but the majority (and perhaps more learned) opinion expects an extension early this summer ahead of an attempted accelerated reconstruction. Good luck with that after the last three or four years of doubling down on an obsolete group.

Next season would be Crosby’s 20th as a Penguin. Martin Brodeur left New Jersey for a half-season in St. Louis so he could go out on his own terms. Mike Modano signed with his hometown Red Wings for one final season after 20 years with the Stars organization.

If Crosby does ask out, presumably he would alert GM Kyle Dubas after the season so the Penguins would be able to trade him over the summer to a contender — say, Colorado, Tampa Bay or, who knows, Vegas?

Again, though, that’s not anticipated. Crosby is expected to remain in Pittsburgh, putting up seasons for the ages.

Sidney Crosby, pictured celebrating during a January game, has compiled 20 points across the Penguins’ past 12 games. Getty Images

The Art Ross runner-up will have the most points since 1995-96, when Jaromir Jagr’s 149 finished 12 in arrears of Lemieux. And this will mark the first year with three 130-point scorers since 1992-93, when six players hit 132 points or more, led by Lemieux’s 160.

I wonder whether the Wild’s twin additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on July 4, 2012, ultimately represent the most disappointing and perhaps destructive free-agent signings in NHL history even while at the same time at least partially filling their objective.

Minnesota had missed the playoffs four straight years when the winger and defensemen signed twin 13-year, $98,000,006 contracts worth an annual average value of $7,538,462. The Wild made the playoffs eight of the next nine years. They assembled one of the more entertaining teams in the league.

But they won a total of two playoff rounds, one apiece in 2014 and ’15, unable to get out of the first round in 2016, ’17, ’18, ’20 and ’21 while failing to qualify in 2019.

Parise and Suter, who play for Colorado and Dallas, respectively, were bought out following the 2020-21 season. As a consequence, the Wild carried a combined dead cap hit of $12,743,588 last year and for the same $14,743,588 this year that will be applied in 2024-25.

Maybe an A for intentions and an F for results?

Or does this merit a gentleman’s C?

Artemi Panarin climbed to second place on the Rangers all-time single-season scoring list with 111 points, bypassing Jean Ratelle’s 109 in 1971-72 while trailing only Jagr’s franchise record 123-point 2005-06.

But remember this. Ratelle had 109 points in 63 games before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury when struck on the skate by a slap shot from teammate Dale Rolfe. That was on March 1, 1972, in the second period of a match at the Garden against the Golden Seals.

Artemi Panarin moved into second place on the Rangers’ all-time single-season scoring list with 111 points. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

And he came into that game with 28 points (16-12) in the previous 13 consecutive games. He finished the season with 1.73 points per game, a franchise record, but second that season to Boston’s dastardly Phil Esposito, whose 1.75 PPG translated to 133 points (66-67) that won the Art Ross Trophy.

Ratelle, though, played just 62 full games and part of that 63rd. No. 19’s PPG accounting for 62 games calculates to 1.758 per. And 1.758 per would have earned Ratelle 134 points and the Art Ross Trophy.

Fifty-two years later.

Still too soon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *