Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is, at the moment, in the driver’s seat for the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross with 45 points in 26 games. What we’re witnessing, and forgive the whiff of hyperbole, is one of the greatest offensive seasons in recent NHL history.
His 33 assists – including five in a victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday – give him an assists-per-game average of 1.269, which is the 20th-highest ratio in NHL history for a single season. The names ahead of him: Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Adam Oates and Bobby Orr.
His 1.731 points per game rests just outside the top 50 all-time, at No. 51. Yet it’s the highest in the last 13 years, since Mario Lemieux’s 1.767 in 2000-01.
Perhaps most impressive of all: He’s making Chris Kunitz look like Jaromir Jagr.
Sid is on pace for 83 points this season, or 141.9 points in an 82-game season, which would be the highest in the NHL since Mario (161) and Jagr (149) had their incredible campaign in 1995-96.
(Before you toss that projection away because of Crosby’s health, keep in mind he played 81 in 2009-10 before concussion-like-symptoms submarined the next two seasons.)
Now, this output can lead to delusions of grandeur. Like the idea that Crosby could accomplish something Mario-esque in 2013: Putting up 100 points in 48 games.
Should he continue the kind of production he's had over these past eight games, where his 20 points gives him a 2.5 points per game average, over the final 22 games of the 48 game season it would give him another 55 points. Along with those 45 he has, that would see him hit 100 points on the nose.
That’s asking a wee much of Sidney Crosby, as a 2.5 points-per-game average would be on the Mount Rushmore of offensive performances.
One hundred points is probably out of reach. He’ll just have to settle for the Hart, the Art Ross and whatever hardware he leads the Penguins to in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite the challenges from the likes of Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos and his own teammate Evgeni Malkin, I've never wavered on the idea that Crosby is the best player in the world.
Neither has the guy many consider the best player of all-time. Via ESPN.com, Wayne Gretzky said:
"The thing about the game of hockey is that there's always a lot of good players," Wayne Gretzky told ESPN.com Saturday. "Whenever a crop of guys goes through, we always wonder who will take the next step and sort of carry the mantle. You look throughout the league, you see guys like [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry in Anaheim, [Steven] Stamkos in Tampa, [Alex] Ovechkin and [Evgeni] Malkin. I've always been partial to [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk in Detroit -- they're pretty solid hockey players," Gretzky said.
"But in my mind, I don't think there's any question Sidney Crosby is the best all-around player in the game. His hockey sense is so strong and so solid, combined with his God-gifted talent of being able to see the ice, see the entire picture in front of him. And, most importantly, I don't care how good you are, if you don't have a work ethic, it doesn't matter. There's no question that each and every game, he's one of the hardest-working guys on the ice. In my mind, he's the best player in the game today."
And he's having one of the better seasons in recent memory.
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