Where in the World is Sidney Crosby?


It doesn’t take an in-depth hockey analyst to see there’s something wrong with Sidney Crosby.  A quick glance at his stat sheet tells you everything you need to know:  9 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, 1 powerplay point.  This is an annual all-star forward, finally surrounded by an offensive front-loaded team, who usually scores at a pace of a point-per-game.

So what in the world is going on with him?  Why is he so unCrosby-like?

Player Chemistry
One answer could be, the team chemistry has been shifted entirely too much.  They finally brought in a natural sniper in Phil Kessel, in hopes that he’d thrive in a relatively stress-free hockey environment, riding shotgun next to Crosby.  So far, that hasn’t exactly happened.  In fact, Kessel looks more comfortable next to Malkin.  With the addition of Kessel, the hockey world noticed, again glaringly, Crosby was no longer looking to shoot the puck, but to hold it and look for Kessel.  He didn’t have a single shot in the first couple games.  That’s a red flag of a stat, whether Crosby was looking to make Phil feel at home by feeding him constantly, or whether it’s Crosby’s nature to try to set up teammates.  He’s no longer bogged down with lower tier talent, management got him a “shiny new toy” and he’s bound and determined to play with it.

With the addition of Kessel, the lines have been juggled from their productive ways of the past.  Dupuis and Kunitz, don’t have the luster they once did with Crosby a few years ago.  Perron remains an invisible enigma, Hornqvist, no matter how much hard work he throws out there, has yet to break through, Plotnikov hasn’t solved the rubix cube of North American hockey yet, and the rest of the summer additions are better suited for third and fourth line roles, with the exception of Sprong, who earned a spot on the team, but not a shot on a top line yet.  Too many variables moved out, brought in, and haven’t been properly utilized yet.  Every one of these names should be able to produce, especially with Crosby, yet none have.  Is it a matter of time before an overload of scoring finally breaks through?  Crosby’s production seems to be the key.

Head coach Mike Johnson replaced the old style of run-and-gun Penguins hockey, with a more defensively responsible system.  While Crosby has had his chances, under Mike Johnson’s tutelage, his offensive numbers have dipped.  Scoring in the NHL overall may be trending downward, but a healthy Crosby hasn’t had too much trouble, until as of late.  Last year, 84 points.  Previous near-full seasons played, over 100+ points.  The coaching system could be smothering his offensive style of creating through skating, passing, and setting up camp near the goal.  Now he has to be aware of defensive positioning, backchecking, instead of using some of that Crosby magic and offensive hockey instincts.  I was no Bylsma fan, but one thing about him, he let Crosby play.  It’s almost as if this new coaching staff is sucking the fun out of hockey for him, and it seems to show on the ice.

Voodoo Curse
Alright, maybe not voodoo.  However, my belief is, much like Marc-Andre Fleury a few years ago, Crosby is stuck in his own head, way too much.  Think about it:  between being the NHL’s poster boy, the Penguins captain and leader, Olympian, product spokesperson, hockey celebrity, all those things alone would weigh heavy on a 28 year-old.  Add on top of it pressure from ownership to look great on the ice so they can sell your franchise, again, and a constant win-now culture they’re putting on the players.  He’s a professional, yes, and with that comes pressure, but he’s also a human being, and stress like that can crush even the strongest-willed person.  Why wouldn’t he clench his stick too tight, force too many bad passes, over think his every move on the ice.  The franchise and the league has leaned heavily on this guy for a decade.  He should ask Marc-Andre Fleury for his sport’s psychologist’s card.  It seems to have flipped MAF into beast mode these last two years (with the help of a new goalie coach).

These Penguins are barely surviving as it is, playing brutally ugly hockey, winning by the skin of their teeth, and are lucky and unimpressive at this point in the season.  They look like a team without a leader.  Crosby better find his way soon, or this team will be worse for the wear the longer the season progresses.

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