I'm just going to come right out and say it: Sidney Crosby is underrated. There. I said it. I said it because it had to be said. Somebody had to say it, and I'm saying it. The man the NHL force feeds down our throats on every broadcast, commercial and marketing campaign has become so overrated that he's actually underrated. And I'm completely serious.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't think he's even the best player on the Penguins, let alone the best player in the entire league. If I'm starting a team right now and can pick any player in the league I'm probably taking Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin over him. Crosby would be next, of course, and playing third fiddle to those two guys is similar to "only" being the third richest guy in the world. Not exactly a bad thing.
Honestly, you could throw their names into a hat, pick one out, and still come away quite satisfied with the player you were "stuck" with. It's a win-win-win situation. You can't lose.
Here's where I'm going with this, and the main reason that I've come to the seemingly impossible conclusion that Crosby is actually underrated: when players in the NHL are claiming that Patrick Kane is better, more talented, and more interesting than Crosby, he's officially become underrated. And not just underrated, but ridiculously underrated.
Overreaction to a small sampling of players? Absolutely. But the fact even one person has come to such a conclusion is enough for me.
I love Patrick Kane. I think he's one of the league's brightest young stars, a tremendous talent, and a guy the NHL should be marketing the crap out of -- along with Crosby, and Ovechkin, and Malkin etc. etc. etc. -- but he's not on the same planet as Crosby as a player right now. He may never be.
Earlier this season, in an interview with Dmitry Chesnokov, Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin fired the opening shot when he said the following about Crosby:
What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else. Even if you compare him to Patrick Kane from Chicago ... [Kane] is a much more interesting player. The way he moves, his deking abilities, his thinking on the ice and his anticipation of the play is so superb.On Wednesday, Puck Daddy posted another Chesnokov interview, this time with Montreal's Sergei Kostitsyn. After pointing out that Kane was the most talented player in the NHL, he joined the Crosby is overrated bandwagon.
I think that if you take any player, even if he is "dead wood," and start promoting him, you'll get a star. Especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill. Let's say you put someone in front of the net and let him deflect pucks in, and he scored 50 goals; everyone will say "Wow!" and then hand him a $10 million per year contract. That's what they like here.
And who is the most overhyped player?As I already mentioned above, I have no argument that Malkin and Ovechkin are better players. But the list ends there. When you actually take a look at what Crosby has accomplished in the first four years of his career it's actually quite incredible and should, objectively, end any debate.
It is probably Crosby, just like everyone says, just like Semin said recently. It is true that [he gets] a lot of attention. If you ask me, I think Semin and Ovechkin play much better than Crosby.
But you have to agree that Sidney Crosby is a great player with great skill. It's not for nothing he is considered one of the best players.
Yes, he is very technically skilled. But Semin, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin are more technically skilled. And it's not because they are Russian, it's just my opinion.
In his second year in the league, for example, he took home the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scoring (120 points) and the Hart Trophy as the league MVP. Just for comparisons sake, Kane, in his second season, is currently 36th in the league in scoring and on pace for 80 points. Just saying.
The thinking in Pittsburgh right now is that Crosby is not having a "Crosby-type season."
And he's not. I've been guilty of speaking out on this as well. It's almost as if he's, for lack of a better word, spoiled us.
By the standards he's set for himself throughout his career he's actually having a down year. In terms of points per game, it's the second worst season of his career (he's currently averaging 1.35 points per game. He averaged 1.33 during his rookie season). Here's the funny thing about that: he's still second in the league in scoring.
Ahead of every player not named Malkin.
Look, I can understand why hockey fans outside of Pittsburgh look at the 21-year-old, the coverage he gets, and get annoyed. Especially when he didn't get any sort of punishment for his nut-punch of Atlanta's Boris Valabik. If Sean Avery, for example, had pulled the same stunt he probably would have been burned at the stake in Gary Bettman's back yard. And his fighting style certainly leaves plenty to be desired.
That stuff doesn't sit well with fans because it makes it look like there's some sort of double standard for star players. And you know what? There is. That's why Ovechkin doesn't get suspended for hits like this (right here) and Matt Cooke gets two games for them.
But let's not allow that to ignore the fact this is a guy that has already posted a pair of 100-point seasons (he was on pace for a third before his high ankle sprain a season ago) a scoring title, a league MVP, and played in the Stanley Cup finals in just his first three seasons in the league. Most players will go their entire careers and not reach any of those milestones, let alone all of them. And he has yet to hit his peak as a player. He's still only 21.
Being Boring Doesn't Help Him Win Fans
While a lot of fans loved the fact Semin was willing to speak his mind and, essentially, call Crosby overrated, and Ovechkin is praised for his flare, fire and intensity, Crosby can be mind-numbingly boring on and off the ice. And by "on" the ice, I mean after he scores goals. This, I think, hurts him with fans outside of Pittsburgh.
He doesn't slam himself into the glass, scream like a banshee, point at the opponents bench, or ride his stick around the ice like a horse after every goal. Maybe he should start.
He rarely speaks his mind in interviews, instead offering up standard cliche's such as, "he's entitled to his opinion," and "I just play my game." Stuff like that. Boring. All of it.
A week ago, San Jose Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick sounded off on young players in the league, including Crosby, about how there's too much "bitching and whining going on."
Just once, I wish Crosby would have responded with something like, I had no idea Jeremy Roenick was still in the league, or something along those lines.
It would have been perfect. I imagine people would have loved it (we eat up public feuds among athletes, for whatever reason). It might have resulted in a suspension from Bettman -- if history is any indicator, trash-talking is not allowed in Bettman's NHL -- but, man, it would have been worth it.
People still remember Patrick Roy's response to a Roenick tirade in the 1996 Western Conference Finals when he said "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."
That's comedy gold.
Greg Wyshynski, editor of Puck Daddy, has campaigned for Crosby to embrace the villain's role this season. On Wednesday, The Pens Blog echoed a similar sentiment in a post that is so amazing -- and terrifying at the same time -- that it makes my head hurt.
People have grown to hate Bing because he is a good-natured guy who was made into the face of the new NHL. Everyone now loves A.O. because he is the anti-Crosby. He has no pressure on him. This is where Bing needs to turn heel. In his next interview session, he needs to drop F-bombs and maybe even hit someone, possibly Rob Rossi or preferably Rich Walsh, with a steel chair.Exactly.
Either way, whether he embraces the role of NHL super-villain or continues on as the PC, say-all-the-right-things player we currently see, as long as there's a group of players that would place Patrick Kane over him, the NHL's media-darling is going to continue to be underrated.