MARIO LEMIEUX AWARD: BEST PLAYER
By Ken Campbell
Judging how good Sidney Crosby is by the number of games he has played in recent years would be a little like determining how smart Albert Einstein was by how many chemistry classes he showed up for in high school.
So forget that Crosby has missed more than half the Pittsburgh Penguins’ games over the past three seasons. If you’re looking to give out the Participation Badge for perfect attendance, Henrik Sedin is your guy. But if you’re interested in who is the best all-around player in the world, the conversation begins and ends with Sidney Crosby.
Crosby will likely be a finalist for the Hart Trophy this season despite missing the last quarter of the campaign. What will likely keep him from winning is that he missed the last quarter. Had he sat out the first 12 games of the season and scored 56 points in the last 36, the engraver would have been alerted.
Remember, here at THN we distinguish between the best and most valuable players in the league. And Crosby is the best, the same way he was last year when he was limited to 22 games and the season before when he played just 41. It’s not a stretch to suggest Crosby would have won the past three Hart Trophies had he stayed healthy.
Condemn Crosby, if you will, for being injury-prone, though we’re not sure anyone in the league would have avoided those injuries. It’s because he’s Crosby that he has been injured so much. When you stay out of the play the way a guy such as, say, Phil Kessel does, it’s reasonably easy to stay healthy. But even when Crosby has come back from a devastating injury, he’s never picked his spots. He goes just as hard to the net, hits and gets hit with the same level of ferocity and stands in places where he’s going to get pushed around and pucks in the face.
There are a couple of things you have to ask yourself when considering where Crosby ranks among the best players in the world. First, if you could start a team with any player available, who would you pick? And second, does he make the players around him better?
Well, there might be some variance in opinion on the first one. And that’s largely because of injuries, which we’ve already established have nothing to do with how good a player is. On the second one, ask Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis how good Crosby is. When Crosby was their center, Kunitz had 20 goals and Dupuis 17 in 35 games. In the next 13, Dupuis had three and Kunitz two.
And whenever Crosby comes back from one of his injuries, we always expect something special and he always delivers. So stop taking attendance and celebrate the greatness.
(Five points for first place vote, three for second, one for third)
Sidney Crosby – 48
Alex Ovechkin – 19
Steven Stamkos – 5
Jonathan Toews – 5
Martin St-Louis – 4
Sergei Bobrovsky – 4
Patrick Kane – 4
Pavel Datsyuk – 1