Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What To Expect From Sidney

Now you should probably sit down for a minute before I tell you where this next story came from. Are you sitting? Okay, don't say I didn't warn you: it came from (I know! I thought the same thing: Is the Ice Bowl Winter Classic going to be played in hell now?) Well, E.J. Hradek of ESPN The Magazine felt that the NHL mattered enough at least to chime in with his speculations of what we're going to see from Sir Sidney in the 2007-08 season. Let's take a closer look at what Hradek's got to say.

No pressure, Sid, but everyone's expecting BIG things from you this season...

Obviously, Hradek isn't stupid. He pretty much states the obvious and tells us that Sid is going to be good this year:
...while he's a very unique athlete and he's mature beyond his years, Crosby just turned 20. We shouldn't forget that. Sometimes, when someone is this good, this fast, we tend to lose sight of that. We shouldn't.

On the flip side of that statement is a frightening message to opponents -- he's getting better. In fact, after rehabilitating his injured left foot, Crosby got back to some serious training. And, according to one source, Crosby feels he'll be stronger and faster as a result. Now there's some good news for the other 29 teams, eh? I guess they all should be happy that he's not 25 yet, when he'll be approaching his prime as an athlete.

For the record, though, Crosby's improved strength and speed will make him tougher to catch and harder to knock off the puck when you can get to him.
Hradek goes on to predict that "Darryl" will become a 40 goal scorer this season. He scored 39 in his rookie year and 36 last season, so this is where I respond to Hradek "Thanks for the newsflash, Tom Brokaw." Even people with limited knowledge about the sport of hockey could have safely predicted that one without worrying that they end up looking stupid.

The one spot Sid needs to work on according to Hradek (as well as most of the rest of hockey fans everywhere) is his faceoffs:
Last season, his 49.8 win percentage ranked him 52nd in the league. That was better than the 45.5 faceoff win percentage he posted during his rookie campaign. So, he is getting better on the draw. As he gets older and stronger (good faceoff guys use their experience and strength), we suspect his faceoff percentage will improve. Crosby understands the details of the game and knows the value of winning key faceoffs.
It's worth pointing out that faceoff percentages are actually a weakness throughout the entire Penguins team. Hradek closes the article with an observation that puzzles me:
Crosby also has done a good job at handling his celebrity status. That can be a problem in a hockey dressing room, where the emphasis should be on "team" rather than the individual. Crosby hasn't let the hype interfere with his focus. It's another reason why he's earned the respect of his teammates.

With two seasons of experience behind him, Crosby figures to have an even bigger impact on the game. The kid from Nova Scotia will continue etch his mark on the NHL.

This season, he'll again do everything for the Penguins … except buy the beer.
"Everything?" I think Therrien, Malkin, Staal, Roberts, Whitney, Fleury, et al. would beg to differ. I don't care how good a player is - Sid is the best in the entire league right now, but even he can't carry a whole NHL team by himself. Between this guy and the countless idiots that refer to the Penguins as "The Pittsburgh Crosbies," I don't know how these people have jobs as sports writers.

He doesn't work alone.

I don't know how I missed bringing you this. It's a couple of weeks old, but The Chronicle Herald Sports of the Nova Scotia News compiled a list of the 10 best players to have passed through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. It may not shock you that Mario Lemieux has a firm hold on the number 1 spot. What may surprise you is that our title man Sid checks in at a stunning number 4:
4. Sidney Crosby, C (Rimouski Oceanic, 2003-05) — Not many people around here need an introduction to this guy. The Cole Harbour native is the reigning NHL scoring champion and is the face of hockey around the world. He holds the Q record for the most points by a 16-year-old with 135 in 59 games. But he also represents the modern QMJHL era because he is the first Maritimer to make a huge splash in the NHL since the league expanded to Halifax in 1994.
I'll leave you today with a very cool and very strange fact that was in my inbox this morning courtesy of Friend of The Show and "Saint Sid" nickname submitter Chris L.:
Here's an interesting thought. The only numbers ever retired by the Pens are Michel Briere (21) and Mario Lemieux (66).

21 + 66 = ??

"Look Ma, no helmet!!" Michel Briere - what a tragic loss.

Of course we all know that if the Penguins didn't retire #10 for Ron Francis, the next number to be retired by the organization will be number 87. It must be fate!!! :)

I forgot to give credit: my friend Jonny V. from Commentorblog of The Pensblog pointed out the story.

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