The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a bizarre start to their season. Thought to be one of the most stacked teams in the East, Pittsburgh finds itself 10 points back of the Metropolitan Division lead and dealing with bizarre off-ice issues. First, it was Evgeni Malkin telling reporters the team was “mad at each other,” and now a report has surfaced that there’s a “big falling out” between Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
According to SiriusXM’s Matthew Barnaby, who played with Lemieux in Pittsburgh during the 2001-02 season, there is a potential rift growing between Crosby and Lemieux.
“The more I looked into it, the more I found out people with the same sentiments: that there’s a big falling out between Mario and Crosby,” Barnaby said. “Whether that pushes that to move (Crosby) at some point, whether he wants to move, that I don’t know.”
Steve Kouleas was on air alongside Barnaby and dug deeper into his comments, asking if any fracture in the relationship between Crosby, the team’s brightest star, and Lemieux, who co-owns the Penguins, could be linked to Crosby’s contract or team performance, Barnaby said he’s heard multiple reasons.
“I’ve heard over coaching, I’ve heard also after the 2014 playoffs when they lost out,” Barnaby added. “Maybe the personnel isn’t right.”
After news of Barnaby’s comments broke, Lemieux released a brief statement via the Penguins’ Twitter account, saying the report was, “absolutely not true. It’s silly.”
The Penguins are currently third in the Metropolitan Division with a 12-8-0 record, though they do have a minus-one goal differential and are currently one of only two teams in a post-season position with a negative goal differential. Crosby is also having one of the most trying seasons of his career, having scored just three goals and 11 points through 20 games. His 45-point pace would give him with the worst full-season total of his career.
What makes the report so shocking is the relationship between Lemieux and Crosby has a rich history. When Crosby came into the league as a rookie in 2005-06, he began living with Lemieux. "He's a great kid — down to earth," Lemieux told USA Today’s Kevin Allen in 2005. "We spend a lot of time together. We drive everywhere together. He's really dedicated to the game, which is amazing when you consider his age.”
He remained living with the family for the next several seasons. It wasn’t until after the 2009-10 season, just one season after the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup with Crosby on the club, that he finally moved into his own place.
Crosby signed a 12-year, $104-million contract extension with the Penguins in July 2012 and is in only the third year of his new deal. This season, Crosby is set to earn $12 million, not to mention the money he pulls in from endorsement deals with Reebok, Gatorade and others.