12/25/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
What's wrong with Sidney Crosby this season?
Well first things first, he's dealing with an injury right now that kept him out of the lineup for Monday night's game against Columbus. The injury was identified as occurring in Saturday's loss to Carolina. But Crosby's scoring struggles started long before this past weekend.
Crosby has played 32 games so far this season for Pittsburgh. He has 6 goals, 16 assists, and 22 points. Those numbers rank him as 146th in the NHL in goal scoring, 46th in assists, and 77th in total points. Not exactly Crosby like numbers for a guy who's averaged more than a point per game in his career. So why is Crosby in such a funk?
There have been quite a few theories thrown out. Some have said Crosby is injured and was hurt prior to the Carolina game. He dealt with a nagging wrist injury last season that many felt contributed to his decline in points scored last season. Crosby finished 2nd in the NHL with 84 points last season, 3 points behind Jamie Benn. I'd say the decline last season had a lot more to do with the lack of scoring in the NHL than any injury Crosby may have been suffering from.
Some have said Crosby's numbers are down because the Penguins played a more defensive game to start the season. But Mike Johnston was fired as head coach last week, and Mike Sullivan has replaced him. Crosby had 3 assists in the 4 games he's played with Sullivan as head coach. The Penguins also didn't have much time to practice with their new coach due to their schedule. Maybe Crosby's numbers will increase once Sullivan's system is in place and the team gets used to playing it?
Another thing that's been tossed around in the Pittsburgh media is that Crosby just doesn't have it anymore. That with 10 seasons behind him, the wear and tear of playing against top defense pairings and checking lines have taken their toll on his body. That Crosby is worn out and will never recapture the player he was. That he's never fully recovered from the concussion he sustained in 2011 that kept him out of the Penguins lineup for large portions of 2 seasons. I don't think that's the case with Crosby's funk so far in 2015.
Even more ridiculous though is the rumor that Crosby is at odds with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux. That's why it seems he's not putting the effort forward he has in the past. That he's coasting at times and taking shifts off. That Crosby doesn't care right now and it may be time for the Penguins to explore trading him. I disagree with the feud rumors and that Crosby isn't trying. I'm a Pittsburgh fan and a big hockey fan. Crosby to Tampa Bay for Steven Stamkos? I can't say that's not an intriguing idea if only for the fact it would be a rare superstar for superstar trade that would reshape both franchises, but I don't see it happening.
I think Crosby is just in a slump. A very long slump. But because it's Sidney Crosby, this is unheard of and there has to be something more than that. There has to be an injury or something rumor worthy going on that's causing this slump. I think it's a combination of things. One being the defensive style the Penguins played under Mike Johnston. Two being that scoring in the NHL is down again, and the league doesn't seem to be interested in doing anything to increase goal scoring. Three being that Crosby's passes have been off. His passing percentage is down considerably this year, and his passing percentage is usually one of the best in the league. Connecting on passes in high percentage scoring areas equals a lot of assists that Crosby doesn't have right now. And believe it or not, Crosby may be lacking confidence right now. Even with all of his accolades and being one of the best players on the planet, Crosby is human. And when you're in a slump it starts to wear on your confidence as a player no matter who you are.
So what's wrong with Sidney Crosby? He's in a slump, that's all there is to it. Let's see how things go under Mike Sullivan and at least wait until the end of the season before writing Crosby off as past his prime. Something tells me that this slump will end, but Sidney Crosby is far from done this season.
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