Monday, March 05, 2007

Is Sidney Shooting Back at Critics?

According to Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period, Sidney is fighting back at his critics through his on-ice exploits.

Let's scroll back to early October 2006. As the 2006-07 season was commencing, if you'd ask ten hockey people who they'd prefer on their team, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, nine would have told you the Russian winger.

Indeed, Ovechkin was the new poster boy for the NHL with his massive rookie season, easily outdistancing Crosby in a landslide vote for Rookie of the Year. His highlight reel goals, his appearance at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver and willingness to do every interview made Alex everyone's darling.

I'm calling a big BS here.
1 - 9 out of 10 hockey people would have instantly picked Crosby over Ovechkin. We know Crosby's upside is bigger and his game is more well-rounded.
2 - While Alex was quite the darling, Crosby was the one who got the most media attention, endorsements, and even a book about him.

If you had asked me then who I'd want to start a franchise, I would have said (Ovechkin), too.

Now, I'm not so sure.
Not so sure? Umm... judging by the first three paragraphs of this article, I'm questioning this guy's hockey sense in general.

For those of you hiding under a rock since the New Year, Sidney Crosby has led the Pittsburgh Penguins on a massive run over the last twenty games.

Once struggling to get into the final eight in the Eastern Conference, the Pens are within waddling distance of the New Jersey Devils for the lead in the Atlantic Division and sit in the fourth position overall in the East.

With all the impossible hype surrounding him last season, Crosby still fashioned a 100-point season (39G, 63A), but was an afterthought with Ovechkin's campaign. As the Penguins entered this season, the spotlight was on another Russian rookie, Evgeni Malkin, whose European vacation to get to the NHL was headline news in the summer.

And while Malkin has put up predictably strong numbers, he's not the reason that the Penguins have won 13 of their last 16 games.

Yes, Mark Recchi is ageless, Jordan Stall is tracking for 30+ goals and Marc Andre Fleury is maturing into an NHL goalie, but Crosby has put up numbers at the tender age of 19 in terms of the man he was originally compared to, Wayne Gretzky. Crosby has a 15 point lead over Vincent LeCavalier in the scoring race and barring injury, will come in over 130 points in his sophomore season, which would be the highest point total for any scoring leader since Mario Lemieux tallied 161 in 1996.

Ovechkin, still a virtuoso, remains in the top ten in scoring and is still the most dynamic player to watch for my money. But when you consider the Washington Capitals are sitting fourteen out of fifteen in the East, perhaps it's time to re-examine who the more valuable player is.
Hmm, why does the writer so easily dismiss the quality of teammates Crosby has? Yes, Fleury sucks, but Recchi, Malkin, Whitney, Gonchar, and Staal are a lot higher quality than what Ovechkin (Clark?) has around him.

No doubt Crosby is a great player, but it's not as if Crosby, by himself, would turn the Capitals into a contender if he switched places with Ovechkin. Crosby was awesome last year, but the Pens were nowhere near a playoff spot.

The Capitals' roster, especially the defense, has junior varsity written all over it, but they do have some depth along the forward wall (Alexander Semin, Dainius Zubrus, Chris Clark) and a veteran goaltender in Olaf Kolzig, so there's a bit of talent to carry on Ovechkin's broad shoulders. But because his mentality is to shoot first, ask questions later, he's less likely to make the players around him better
Depth? You call that depth? No, that's the makings of a poor first line. Depth means you have QUALITY and QUANTITY. The Caps have neither.

While Crosby's stats combined with the Pens' improvement make him an odds-on choice for the Hart Trophy at this point, my other two candidates for the honor are evidence that the game, with all the rule changes, hasn't really changed that much.

It's still about goaltending. New Jersey's Martin Brodeur has had an insane season; he's posted 11 shutouts during a year that is arguably his career best. It's not so much the doughnuts he's thrown up on the board; it's more the team he's doing it with. Talk about junior varsity, the Devils are next to last in goal scoring in the East, only ahead of the hapless Philadelphia Flyers (my, have times changed.)
Bernstein somehow completely ignores the fact that Brodeur has an insane SV% this year, and actually DESERVES MVP consideration, while he didn't in the past. It has nothing to do with the game changing or not.

Bah!! you can read the entire article right here. The good stuff comes near the bottom, where he discusses non-Crosby topics.

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