Sidney Crosby is Fine, Overall NHL Offense is Declining


Amid the highs and lows of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ up-and-down season, one thing has remained constant – the steady stream of criticism regarding Sidney Crosby’s play.

The captain has not had a stellar outing thus far, but only in the sense that he isn’t leading the league in scoring or seeming as otherworldly as he has in the past.

He is, however, still scoring at an elite clip – having put together 61 points thus far in 56 games.

Criticism of Crosby’s play perhaps reached its pinnacle on Monday when Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi suggested the Pens captain’s play has dipped due to his old age and inability to perform at the level he was at in his younger years.

While many of Rossi’s points have been found to simply be inaccurate, a larger issue persists with pieces that decry Crosby’s numbers as not simply a bit short of what’s expected of him, but in fact an indication of him losing some of his signature talent.

Crosby’s current pace puts him on track for around 90 points – a total that would be by far the lowest of any season wherein he’s played over 75 games.

Is that an indication of Crosby’s game declining, though, or of the NHL’s offense declining as a whole?

Three players are currently tied for the NHL points-lead this season – Patrick Kane, Jakub Voracek, and Niklas Backstrom all sit at 64 points, which puts them all on pace for around 85 points.

Thus, at this moment, not a single player is on pace to reach 100 points – or get anywhere near it.

In fact, the best chance to reach or close in on 100 points lies with Crosby.

The trend towards lower overall scoring is one that has been building for quite a while.

Last season saw only one player top the 100 mark – Sidney Crosby. Ryan Getzlaf finished second with only 87.

Prior to that, in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Martin St. Louis was on pace for over 100, with Steven Stamkos right behind him.

The 2011-12 season saw Evgeni Malkin top 100, with both Stamkos and Claude Giroux on his heels with over 90.

2010-11 saw one 100-point season from Daniel Sedin, alongside four players who topped 90.

In 2009-10, the NHL’s offense was rolling magnificently, with an astounding total of four players who topped 100 points, and three more who topped 90.

So where does that leave us?

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The NHL’s offense certainly seems to be declining, as seen by the dropping annual totals.

In the last five seasons the number of players who tallied 100-point seasons dipped from four to one.

The number of overall players who came close (the 100-pointers plus the 90-pointers) fell from seven in ’09-’10 to five the season after, then to three, then to two, until finally Crosby sat alone on top last season.

That being the case, Crosby failing to reach his usual 100-point mark this season may be an indication of him getting old, as Rossi suggests, or it could simply be a continuation of a trend that has persisted in the league for the last half-decade.

Noteworthy in the question of Crosby’s falling dominance is that even in this season, wherein Crosby sits 6th in the league in overall points, the Pens captain still ranks 1st overall in points-per-game (1.09).

Just like he did last season. And the season before that. And the season before that.

The 100-point club measure may not be a perfect indicator of overall league offense – a myriad of external factors have to all swing the right way for a player to put together a century-mark season – but one thing remains clear; the numbers are certainly falling.

And that trend extends to all NHL-ers, not simply Sidney Crosby.