LAS VEGAS – Fresh off a 100-point season and one of the best defensive efforts of his career, superstar Sidney Crosby appeared in Las Vegas Tuesday on the eve of the NHL Awards, where he’s a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. The Hockey News caught up with him to discuss the Penguins’ disappointing playoff result, off-season rumors surrounding his teammates, being a celebrity and more.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: It was a great season for you personally – 100 points, and a lot of people had you in the discussion for the Selke Trophy– but team wise, it wasn’t what you were expecting. So was it a hard year for you that way? Knowing you did really well individually, but getting swept in the first round must’ve been tough.
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, it was tough. You get so pumped about getting into the playoffs, and you work so hard to get into that position, and it’s not easy to get there. It’s a grind all year to find your way in. To have that result, to be out in four, to have that disappointment, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. You try to use it as motivation and learn from it.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: There’s been a parallel between the Blackhawks franchise and Penguins franchise in terms of the way the teams were built, with big star power. And you see a couple years ago, the Blackhawks get swept in the first round. Then they’re out of the playoffs the next year. Some people have said this season could’ve signalled the end of an era for you guys. How do you stave off that idea and turn things around?
CROSBY: It’s a challenge playing these days as far as the parity of the league and how tight everything is, having to find ways to be successful, but we still have a lot of belief. We still had 100 points last year as a group. We had some injuries we had to deal with. Matt Murray was out for an extended period of time, and various guys through our lineup were out, and everyone found a way to step up. So I think we’ve shown we can be a successful team, something you’ve got to do year after year. We’ll look to try and do it again.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: There have been two schools of thought about the Penguins off-season: one is that this group – it was Evgeni Malkin who said it at the end of the year – “We want another shot with this group.” Others have said, no, it’s time for some dramatic changes. Where do you fall on that? Are you hoping for some aggression from Jim Rutherford this off-season and some changes? Or would you rather keep it going with this group?
CROSBY: When you look over the years, our team and organization have always done whatever it takes to be successful and evaluated our years for what they’ve been. We came off a year when we won in 2016, and we weren’t satisfied with winning just then. We wanted to win the next year and came back and won the next year. So I think our group’s done a really good job as an organization of just evaluating what we need to do.
Our job is to play, and management has to do everything they can to put guys in the right positions. But yeah, I think it’s whatever they think and believe we need. As players, we’ve got to go out and do the job every night, but it’s up to us to prepare and make sure we can be the best we can be on the ice. But when it comes to (off-season moves), it’s just trusting them to make the right decisions, and I’m sure they’ll do that.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: When it comes to the Selke Trophy vote, many thought you’d be in the top three this year. Is that something you were hoping for and priding yourself in, having a good year defensively? Because it seemed like this was the best defensive season you’ve ever had, looking at the advanced statistics.
CROSBY: It’s just one of those things. It worked out that way. It was a bit more of a role playing against other team’s top lines. That was just something that happened more for whatever reason. It was nice to be in the conversation. There are so many great players. You look at the guys who were nominated, great defensive players. But for sure it would’ve been cool. It would’ve been something I probably wouldn’t have expected going into the start of the year.
That being said, being in the conversation is good, and I want to make sure I’m playing well at both ends of the ice. Ultimately, you’re not doing that to necessarily be nominated for awards. You want to find a way to win games, and that helps.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Is the Selke a “bucket list” item for you considering you’ve won almost everything else there is to win?
CROSBY: I don’t know. I look back on this year, and I was in the conversation. I’m not sure how many cracks I’m going to get at that. As long as Bergy (Patrice Bergeron)’s in the league, there’s probably only two spots. He’s got one of them locked up every year.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: One thing that’s always been fascinating about you is, for a player who’s been the face of the league, such a public personality in the league, your personal life, by big star standards, has been kept relatively quiet. Is that something you’ve done by design? Have you started thinking about life after hockey and starting a family?
CROSBY: I’ve always been that way. When I was young and growing up, there was so much attention, and everything was magnified, and just having certain things to yourself was nice. I take a lot of pride in being professional and taking what I do seriously. As far as personal stuff, I’m not on social media and stuff like that, like other guys would be. But that’s me. I think people respect that. Everyone does things differently. That’s just something I’ve felt comfortable with. Being a hockey player, you automatically think, “There are certain things that are going to be more known about you,” but it’s nice to have that (privacy) for sure.