Can a player on the edge of the top five in NHL history be a forgotten man?
Of course, yes.
The epic, memorable and stat-rich 2021-22 NHL season belongs to many superstars. Auston Matthews has just become the first player in 26 years to score 50 or more goals in 50 games. Roman Josi set the Nashville Predators single-season points record by a defenseman and has a shot at becoming the NHL’s first 100-point defenseman since Brian Leetch in 1991-92. Jonathan Huberdeau set a single-season NHL record for assists by a left winger. If Connor McDavid retains the scoring title, he will be the third player in NHL history to win four Art Ross Trophies before turning 26. Leon Draisaitl became the 24and player to get 50 goals and 100 points in a season more than once. Kirill Kaprizov set the Minnesota Wild franchise record for single-season goals, while Chris Kreider has a shot at breaking the New York Rangers record for single-season goals.
Connecting with the gargantuan shadow cast by so many great players this season: a certain Sidney Crosby. Do you remember him ? He returned to the radar Sunday scoring in overtime to lift his Pittsburgh Penguins past the Nashville Predators. In doing so, he recorded 1,400 career points in Game 1,100. Crosby is the seventh fastest player in NHL history to reach 1,400 points, behind Wayne Gretzky (580 games, LOL), Mario Lemieux (691), Marcel Dionne (1,022), Phil Esposito (1,070), Jaromir Jagr (1,086) and Steve Yzerman (1,093).
Crosby’s 75 points in 61 games this season put him on pace for 101 points in an 82-game schedule, though he won’t hit more than 69, having missed 13 games this season due to illness and of a wrist injury. His 1.23 points per game gives him his highest average since 2018-19 and his second best mark in his last eight seasons – and he does it at 34. Based on scoring average, he’s having one of the best scoring seasons ever by a player aged 34 or older (min. 40 games):
|name||Age||Season||Points per game|
|Martin Saint Louis||37||2012-13||1.25|
Offense aside, Crosby is having one of the best seasons ever for a forward in his age group once we factor in his two-way impact.
The Penguins this season without Crosby on the ice at 5 on 5:
– Outclass opponents 47-34 (+13)
– Outrun opponents 574-499 (+76)
– Opponents Outchance 542-423 (+119)
– Hold a 1,002 to 841 advantage in shot attempts (+161)
– Hold a 224-177 advantage in high danger attempts (+47)
With Crosby on the ice at 5-5, the Penguins are getting about 58% of goals, 53% of shots, 56% of scoring chances, 54% of shot attempts, and 56% of high-danger attempts. . Crosby hasn’t lost his ability to tip the ice and run the game in his team’s favor.
So should he warrant more chatter as a marginal Hart Trophy contender? He’s unlikely to edge out Matthews, McDavid, Josi and Johnny Gaudreau on the ballot, but Crosby has been largely responsible for his team’s success in 2021-22. The Penguins are 5-4-4 in the 13 games he has missed this season, good for a 0.538 point percentage. With him in the lineup, they’re 37-18-6, a 0.656 percentage point percentage. If you think of the literal definition of Hart’s criteria, Crosby is among the players who have most directly influenced the fate of their team this season.
However, history is unlikely to be on his side for the momentum of the ballot. Only three times has the MVP gone to a player 34 or older. Joe Sakic in 2000-01 is the only player in this century to even win the Hart in his thirties. The reasoning is quite easy to understand: when great players reach their thirties, their offensive peak passes and/or they tend to sacrifice part of the attack for a better all-around game. Without the eye-popping point totals, it’s rarer to catch voters’ attention. Crosby still holds an almost elite level of offensive production, but he’s no longer in the God Tier. That means he’s unlikely to win another Hart in his career, even though he’s one of the most productive 34-year-olds in NHL history.
How about a Selke trophy as a consolation? It will also be difficult to grasp. As Crosby once told me in an interview, his way of looking at it, as long as Patrice Bergeron is in the league, there’s only two Selke runner-up spots up for grabs, and that certainly isn’t going to change that season given Bergeron’s sublime play.