Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Blockbuster Trade I Know I'll Never See Happen (but still kinda wish I would)


The Pittsburgh Penguins should trade Sidney Crosby.

Shockingly, that is not sarcasm. This may spark insane debate, but it's really quite pointless to argue since it will never happen no matter how much the logic of my argument of why it's a half-decent idea stands. I already KNOW I won't be waking up on March 5th to photos on the front page of the Globe & Mail of Crosby in a Habs jersey. So, I welcome rebuttals so long as they are an attack on my argument, and not just you telling me why it won't happen. (I already know WHY.)

Crosby is an amazing player and it is not beyond me that he is the second best Penguin (and third best player in the league) points-wise, or that he's the single handed saviour of hockey in Pittsburgh, or that he's a one-man marketing miracle, or that he is one of the best players in the world. I know these things. I also know he's got another four years on his contract. I know he has a very well written no-trade clause. I know everyone wants him to be a franchise player. And I'm pretty sure he wants to be a career Penguin like Super Mario.

But no matter how much I (and half of PA) love Sid as a Penguin, it doesn't change the fact that the Penguins have an incredibly talented core of players who seem to play just fine without him. In fact, the reason I think it would be a good plan for the Pens to trade Crosby is because the rest of the team seems to step up their game when Crosby's not on the ice because they know he won't be out there setting up any chances or scoring any goals, so they're going to have to take care of that themselves.

When Crosby was out with his high ankle sprain last year, Malkin just took over and blew everyone away when he began scoring for himself and Sid. Geno Malkin wasn't the only one who started upping his game - Max Talbot, Petr Sykora, Jordan Staal, the entire team brought their A-game and boosted Pittsburgh from the middle of the conference to second in the eastern conference. Then Sid came back and they went all the way to the Cup final. I'm not saying that the Pens would have gone that far without Crosby, but his being out didn't affect the team's record in the slightest (actually, if memory serves, the Pens' record while Sid was out was nothing short of stellar).

Now, Sid's out again. This time it's only been for three games (so far) with an undisclosed 'lower body' injury (gotta love Pat Quinn for adding the supremely, irritatingly vague 'upper body' and 'lower body' injury classifications to the hockey lexicon). If the last three games are any indication (particularly the game last night), I'm seeing a pattern emerging.

I don't want to say the team takes Crosby for granted, but ... I sort of wonder if they do, if they try that much harder when the El Captaine is out with injuries. It makes me wonder why they can't play with that kind of fire all the time. And it makes me wonder if the team would be better off without Crosby. I think some of the guys on Pittsburgh's roster are slacking a little; not consciously, but I think they rely on Sid the Kid a bit too much, like a kind of completely unacknowledged crutch that the team leans on.

When you have someone that talented, everyone else knows their place - when you aren't the super-star, no one expects you to blow the fans away. You're just expected to be a solid third liner or to block shots and not give up soft goals. On teams without a clear-cut super-star, the onus is on everyone to perform their absolute best. I'll admit it doesn't always happen, but at least the expectation is there. The pressure. To be better. And with it, the faint possibility of being the next big name on the team. The Penguins don't have that kind of competition. If there was such a competition it wouldn't even be for second place after Sid (since Malkin is the kind of guy who doesn't give a shit what he is expected to do and just scores as much as he bloody well wishes).

There's this huge rowing regatta every summer, the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta down in St.Kitts (St. Catherines, Ontario) where the final for any given category is between eight boats all vying for first place. There is no prize for second at Henley: second place is first loser. This provides all the more incentive to win.

In a race to be the best, how crap is it to have to compete for second place, or third? If there's no real recognition for the effort or the achievement, what is the point of pushing yourself to your absolute limit? I get the feeling there are a few Penguins who would benefit from a permanent incentive to bring their A-game, from knowing that if they worked their ass off, they might just come out on top.

As it stands, I feel as though the only time the team (and its individual players) pull out all the stops is when they feel they actually have to crank it up a notch to make up for the loss of their star player. When they are thrust into the spotlight; they shine. I'd love to see how brightly they'd shine if that spotlight was trained on them in every game.

It would probably be in my best interest to back this up with some stats. I probably will compile some and add them later to back up my claims that the Penguins might be better off (in the long run) without Crosby. Right now though, it's 1 a.m. and I'm too tired *coughlazycough* to get all stats-obsessed.

7 comments:

ali said...

Yep. Like you said, even though I know it won't happen (and I don't know if I would like it if it did), the Pens do seem to play better when Sid's not on the ice.

Do you think they could let Sid suit up in another player's jersey, and forget to tell the rest of the team that Crosby actually is playing that day... hhhmmmm...

Things are fortunately looking better lately...

go pens.

Lauren said...

I think a Sid-less Penguins would just be weird to me - kind of like a Mario-less Penguins would be strange too (not that I am in any way implying that Sidney has done as much for Pittsburgh as Le Magnifique has...yet).

With that said, it is rather peculiar that the Pens have been 3-0-0 without Sid (who has admitted to a groin injury - I was surprised he actually disclosed it - he's usually Mr. Secretive) - I do think they step up their game when they know he's out, but I think it's because they know he's only out temporarily and their not going to have to play extra-hard forever...with him gone permanently, I think they'd easily fall into a more "normal" pattern and their success rate might not be so high (although you also can't underestimate the one-man show Mr. Malkin frequently dazzles us with).

Val said...

I am with Lauren in that it would seem strange with a sid-less pens team, however, that said, the pens are an awesome group of hockey players with or without Sid.

It is an interesting theory you have, and while I don't disagree with it, I don't want it to come to fruition, either...

hope your trip is going well, have you done anything exciting that we need to know about? Peace out, girl!

Stephanie loves Ron MacLean said...

I do find it a tad upsetting that the Pens do so well without Sidney in the lineup....

Mer, I just bought tickets to the Ottawa at Pittsburgh game on March 14!!

mer said...

@ stephanie - WOOTWOOT! hopefully the Pens will kick Sens ass, which will be best for both teams: Pens get 2 points and keep (fingers crossed) a playoff spot, and the Sens go from a 10% chance of getting Tavares to a 17% chance... (or something like that)

@ val - yeah, so far, i'm boring. sorry :P potential bucket-loads of excitement to come at the end of the week - if I get my way ;)

lauren said...

His leaving would also save the Pens from having to work around that massive salary. I have no idea how close they are to the cap at the moment, but it's easier to make moves at the deadline when you don't have to do equal money-in, money-out.

mer said...

@ deets - it's not that massive really when you consider that Heatley is taking up about 12M$ of Ottawa's cap space... and scoring about 20 less points...