In an article published yesterday on Puck Daddy, Ryan Lambert responded to Rob Rossi’s Tribune Review article outlining why Sidney Crosby is underrated. Between his sarcastic, subjective rants and sketchy analysis, Lambert “refuted” Crosby’s underrated status and even managed to imply Sid is over-hyped. As a Rossi fan, and Penguins die-hard, it will be tough to stay objective in my rebuttal to Lambert’s article. But as an astute observer of the obvious, it should be no problem.
In order to appeal to the bullheaded masses who believe Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, or Henrik Sedin are a step above Crosby, I will admit two things:
- Crosby is not as physically talented as Ovechkin or Stamkos. He does not have the shot or hands like them, and he never will.
- People do not find Crosby as fun to watch. That the fans can’t comprehend what Crosby brings to the table, however, doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Oddly enough, as Lambert and Rossi point out, Crosby has only won one MVP trophy. It is hard to argue with the results seeing as how the Hart Trophy is such an objective award. So how is Crosby fairing in the MVP race for this season? Lambert expands on the issue in his article:
Says Tribune-Review writer Rob Rossi, the author of this wonderfully enlightening piece:
“Still, even off to the best goal start of his career (14 in 21 games) and with 10 of the 25 individual multipoint games recorded for a club with a bottom-third power play, Crosby is not the quarter-pole favorite for MVP.”
Shocking specificity in the need to find multi-point night stats aside, Rossi raises an interesting point: Crosby has more goals to date than he has through 21 games at any point in his career; so why would we not unanimously vote him MVP if the season ended today?
Here is where the argument for Crosby’s dominance lies. Lambert doesn’t see why including the multi-point games is important, but putting the smallest amount of thought into the subject would allow any reasonable person to comprehend that Crosby has carried the Penguins on his back. Other teams do not have to worry about shutting down any other line because Sid is the only one producing. As complex of a theory as that is, let’s look at the numbers.
- Crosby is the only player in the NHL’s top 25 scorers to account for more than 45% of a teams points while no one else on the roster has accounted for more than 35%.
- He is one of only three players in the NHL to have scored twice as many goals as the next highest goal scorer on the team. Stamkos and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets are the other two players.
- Crosby is also the only player in the NHL’s top 25 scorers to account for at least 15% more production than the next highest scorer on the team. Sid has been involved in 46% of the Penguins scoring efforts while Evgeni Malkin has chipped in on 31% of all tallies.
- Finally, Crosby is the only player to in the NHL to be listed in all three of these categories.
Apparently for Lambert these stats still do not justify Crosby’s position at the top the NHL. So let’s look at some other facts. Mentioned above was Crosby’s teammate’s statistics, what was not mentioned was that he plays with wingers Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on a nightly basis. Neither player has ever surpassed 25 goals in their career–a far cry from the 43 that Stamkos’s linemate Martin St. Louis put up in 2006 or the 33 Nicklas Backtrom posted last season alongside Ovechkin. The former Lightning first overall pick also benefits from recording more than half of his goals on the power play — a luxury Crosby does not have. For those who argue that Stamkos’s power play expertise is an additional reason why he is more valuable, look at Crosby’s numbers with the man-advantage. He has tallied nine power play points, including five goals. Both numbers are tops on the Penguins. Clearly, Pittsburgh’s man advantage is not struggling because of #87.
To Stamkos and Ovechkin apologists, goal-scoring is the ultimate attribute though. Since the start of the 2008 season Stamkos has tallied 98 goals, Ovechkin has scored 137, and Crosby has accumulated 132. These statistics include both shootout goals and post-season goals. For those who argue that it is not reasonable to add these into the totals, I would ask why not? It shows dominance. More playoff time equals more goals. More importantly though, the better you do in the playoffs and in the shootout, the better your team does in the standings. It not only shows who has been the best goal scorers over the past three seasons, but also shows who gets it done in the crunch and can carry their team through the playoffs. These statistics also started at the beginning of Stamkos’s rookie season. Again, some may see this as unfair to compare the statistics of a rookie to those of players with more experience. Of the three players though, Stamkos’s 23 goals as a rookie places third behind Crosby and Ovechin’s rookie numbers of 39 and 52. One total that was also factored in which does not help Crosby’s case is empty net goals. Ovechkin dominates the empty net with a total of 11 over the past three seasons. There is simply nobody better when it comes to firing the puck into vacated cage. Stamkos has only posted a modest four over that time frame, however, his empty net goal in the final game of last season tied him with Crosby for the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals. Sid’s three empty netters is last amongst the players.
Another factor hindering Crosby is his stiff competition. Dating back to Stamkos’s rookie year, Southeast division teams have surrendered 187 more goals than their Atlantic division counterparts (not including Washington and Pittsburgh). During that span, eight Southeastern squads have finished in the bottom eight of the NHL in goals allowed. However, only three Atlantic division clubs finished in the bottom eight of the NHL since 2008. Also, outside of the Penguins, the Atlantic division has placed five teams in the playoffs over the past two seasons. Just one Southeast team outside of the Capitals has earned a playoff birth over the same time frame.
Getting back to shootouts, there has been nobody better over the past 100 games. The Stanley Cup captain’s career percentage is 14% better than Ovechkin’s or Stamkos’s total of 28%. This is where I will insert some minor opinion. My thought is that scoring in the shootout is fairly important, considering that it is the ultimate clutch moment in hockey. Of course the clutch is something which Crosby is very familiar with. His shootout goal versus the Swiss National team and Olympic gold medal winning overtime goal are considered two of the biggest goals in Canadian history. I’m sure Stamkos was celebrating at his Olympic party.
There are other statistics to look at when comparing the superstars though. One which favors Stamkos is shooting percentage. The twenty-year-old is lighting it up this year at 25% while Crosby is at 17.3% and Ovechkin brings up the rear at 11.6%. Certainly impressive, however, Crosby is the only one of the three who has yet to dip below the 13% mark. Perhaps the biggest gap between the players comes in the faceoff circle though. Seeing as how faceoffs are not part of his responsibility, Ovechkin finds himself less valuable than either of his rivals. Although, clicking at a mere 46% in the circle is not helping Stamkos’ argument either. The opposite end of the spectrum shows that Crosby has won more faceoffs than anyone in the league and also owns the 14th best percentage in the league at nearly 57%.
Finally, there is defense. It’s hard to find definitive stats which showcase each of the players’ production over the past three seasons. The closest statistics I could find were blocked shots and takeaways. Ovechkin leads the group in takeaways over the past three seasons with a total of 143; Crosby falls in the middle with 108–4 more than Stamkos’s 104. Crosby leads all three players when it comes to sacrificing the body though. With a total of 97 blocked shots, he bests Stamkos by 27 and Ovechkin by 40. Obviously these statistics are hard to compile accurately, but I don’t mind including a few highlight reels of Crosby saving goals or locking down defensively to illustrate the point that Sid is the best of the bunch when it comes to preventing the other team from scoring.
Ovechkin is supremely skilled and Stamkos has been dominant during the 2010-2011 campaign. When faceoff success, shooting percentage, shootout accuracy, defensive statistics, and Olympic winning goals are factored in though, there is simply no subjectivity–Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world, and is therefore, as accurately stated by Rossi, underrated.
*All stats where compiled before NHL action on 11/23/10