Canada is no stranger to developing, adapting and producing some of hockey’s greatest and best. In return, hockey to Canadians is what baseball, football and baskeball are to Americans. Except all blended into one. Hockey is the sport to rule them all north of the American boarder. A byproduct of just that is Sidney Crosby. Considered by many to be the best hockey player on the planet. A Cup champion in 2009, the 5 time all star led the league in goals scored in 2010 and was named captain before he was even legal to consume alcohol in America.
Crosby was it, the “reincarnation” of Wayne Gretzky. Golden child to the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom were in grave danger of liquidation due to horrific regular season records and a lapse in fan interest due to the rebirth of the Steelers.
Four short years after his draft the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup since the Early 90’s after falling to Detroit in 6 games in the previous years final. One year later Crosby won a gold medal at the Olympics, by scoring the over time winner against team USA.
From there, things got difficult.
Crosby would miss nearly 100 games from 2011 to the end of 2012 dealing with concussion like symptoms. Repeated playoff disappointments would be the result, which only added to Crosby’s frustrations. In 2013 a rejuvenated Crosby got his team back to the Conference Final, losing to Boston in four games. 2014 saw the New York Rangers oust the Penguins in 7 games, the sting carried over to the next year. The Rangers yet again defeating Pittsburgh in 5 games.
Change was on the horizon, head coach Dan Bylsma was fired. Mike Johnson was hired and subsequently fired after a lackluster beginning to the 2015-16 campaign. Journey man and long time assistant coach Mike Sullivan was hired, with the responsibility of reeling the ‘stars’ after all they were all there. A couple of months later and Sullivan has Crosby and company back in the Cup Final.
Such an accomplishment has been largely on the back of their captain, who has clearly elevated his game. “He’s on a different level when he’s playing like he is right now” boasted Wayne Gretzky. Surely having the best third line in the league, along with the miracle success story that is Matt Murray doesn’t hurt. However, someone needs to hold the reigns and while many may argue its Sullivan, Crosby has my vote.
Jonathan Toews has done it all. Named captain of the Blackhawks at 20 years old he’s taken his team to three Cup Finals and won them all. Captured gold twice at the Olympics, won the Conn Smythe and has been an allstar 5 times. By the way, he hasn’t turned 29 yet. ‘Captain Clutch’ as he’s often referred to is not by accident.