By Jake Shoemaker
In hockey lore, Wayne Gretzky is unanimously considered the greatest player in NHL history. His 1983-1984 season, when he posted 2.77 points per game, was the most dominant offensive season ever. Gretzky’s career points per game average of 1.92 seems like an untouchable record. And, while that might be true, Sidney Crosby’s current point pace of 2.00 per game in the current season must be acknowledged as significant, especially considering today’s NHL. Yes, I recognize that we are only three weeks into the NHL season and Crosby has only played seven games, but Crosby is out-producing the “average” Wayne Gretzky.
History tells us that Crosby’s pace isn’t sustainable. Only 7 different players dating back to 1917 (when goalie pads no doubt weren’t what they are in the modern era) have averaged 2.00 points per game or more in a season. And naysayers might question Crosby’s health issues as a serious concern to production sustainability. But it is, after all, just an average. And if Crosby only plays in 60 games and produces 120 points, he will still win the Heart Trophy. So how unreasonable is it?
To put it simply, it is not unreasonable. Crosby is just 26 years old. Perhaps amidst the prime of an already historic career. Despite coming off three straight injury ravaged seasons, those three seasons happened to be three of the four most productive seasons of his career. Crosby has a an elite sidekick in Evgeni Malkin who prevents teams from keying solely on the Penguins Captain and, although Crosby doesn’t play with Malkin at even strength, the two have proven to be lethal when teamed up on the power play. Crosby also is playing alongside Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz for the second straight year, a combination that proved to be highly successful in 2013.
The least sustainable part of Crosby’s game thus far has been the rate at which he has scored goals. His torrid pace can be attributed to a career best shooting percentage which is up 6.4% from his career average. Additionally, the Canadian star has taken more than half a shot per game more than his career average which indicates that he may be looking to score with more frequency. Will Crosby score upwards of 70 goals, as projected? It is unlikely. But with more shots comes more chances for rebound opportunities for teammates, which of course can net Crosby quite a few assists.
Whether you believe Crosby will sustain his 2.00 points per game pace or not, his offensive greatness is indisputable and he looks poised to have a memorable season.