If any team can boast the “modern-day” Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it’s the Edmonton Oilers and their dynamic duo
By the 2011-12 NHL season, Crosby was 24 years old and in the midst of his career-altering concussion problems, and Malkin was 25 and in the midst of one of the best seasons of his storied career.
So, maybe the Crosby/Malkin and McDavid/Draisaitl comparison isn’t perfect, but it’s about as close as can be found in the NHL today. Crosby and McDavid are the generational talents, the best players in the world. Malkin and Draisaitl are the faithful sidekicks (feels gross to actually type out) who are often overlooked because of their more famous teammate.
At age 24, Crosby had won a Hart, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophy and captained the Penguins to two Stanley Cup finals, winning one. In 434 games, Crosby had scored 223 goals and 386 assists for 609 points.
Early in his age 24 season, McDavid has won a Hart and two Art Ross trophies and captains the Oilers. In 366 games, McDavid has 171 goals and 325 assists for 496 points.
At age 25, Malkin had won a Hart, Conn Smythe, Calder and two Art Ross trophies and a Stanley Cup with the Penguins. In 427 games, Malkin had 208 goals and 319 assists for 527 points.
Early in his age 25 season, Draisaitl has won a Hart and Art Ross trophy. In 437 games, Draisaitl has 176 goals and 271 goals for 447 points.
Crosby and McDavid are the only logical fit in the NHL, and while Malkin definitely had a better start to his career than Draisaitl, the German-born center is one of the best players in the league now. The one-two punch each team boasts at center is unmatched in the NHL, and like the Penguins in the aftermath of the 2009 Cup win, the Oilers haven’t experienced success with their dynamic duo yet.
This season, the Oilers’ top two lines feature McDavid flanked by wingers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi, and Draisaitl flanked by wingers Dominik Kahun and Kailer Yamamoto. Two fine, high-scoring lines, but the Oilers’ bottom six is a disaster. If the top lines aren’t scoring, which certainly isn’t often right now, no one is. Even with the top lines scoring exorbitantly this season, the Oilers are pretty mediocre.
The Penguins were a mess between 2010-11 through 2014-15, and the primary reason was the team was primarily focused on building ridiculously overpowered top lines with absolutely no depth.
If Crosby and Malkin weren’t in the lineup (which was frequent early in that period) or not scoring, the Penguins had no chance. It wasn’t until the Pens finally invested in building a team that could consistently roll out four lines that the Pens actually returned to successful playoff runs and Stanley Cup trophies.
Through the first half-decade of the McDavid/Draisaitl run in Edmonton, something isn’t clicking. Whether it’s a weak bottom six, subpar defending, or shoddy goaltending, something’s got to give. And it most likely will; you can’t keep McDavid down for too long.
However, those parallels to those early-to-mid 2010s teams are far too strong to ignore.