Many years ago in my epically profligate youth, I was out drinking with RJ and the Deadhead. (Sounds like a bad sitcom.) After about 37 pitchers of beer, the three of us had a rousing argument over who was the better quarterback -- Terry Bradshaw? Or Terry Bradshaw? Oh, emotions boiled over, fingers were pointed, spittle flew and I do believe that I pulled a Kruschev and banged my shoe on the table. The whole argument culminated with RJ hollering, 'You can take your Bert Jones, and you can take your Dante Pastorini, and you can shove them straight up your ass!'
I feel like I can have the same argument about Sidney Crosby. Who is a better hockey player? Sid? Or Sid? And to paraphrase my old drinking buddy, you can take your Alex Ovechkin and you can take your Steven Stamkos, and you can shove them straight up your ass!
Two years ago, Sidney Crosby was the best player in the NHL. I thought that he had arrived at his true, highest self and in so doing, carried his team to a Stanley Cup championship, personally besting the entire Philadelphia Flyers roster, then Ovie, then the Red Wings along the way. It was great. Pittsburgh fans were both lucky and appreciative. Hell, we were all on cloud nine. Or cloud 87.
Then, something crazy happened. Sid got better. I didn't actually think it was possible, and yet, he went ahead and did it.
When Sid first arrived in Pittsburgh, he was immediately one of the best players in the NHL. The most obvious strengths of his game were his vision and speed. And his soft hands. But there were holes in his game. Following that rookie year, he vowed to spend his off-season improving his face-offs. I'm not sure how a person gets better at that, but he did it. Then, despite being a point generating machine, the knock on Crosby was that he, himself, did not score enough goals. So the next year, he promptly went out and scored more. It seems like when he sets his mind to a task, he just simply achieves it. He is, quite simply, the best player in the NHL. And there is no argument to be made.
Some are enamored of laser-like wrist shots, like the one Ovie unleashes from all over the ice. If there were a way to measure talents in a vacuum, to somehow quantify just the innate, singular talent of launching a disc of vulcanized rubber towards a goalie at the speed of light, then Ovechkin has more talent that Sid. Geno Malkin probably has more. Marian Gaborik, who has one of the sneakiest, most effective shots in the game for my money, has more.
But the thing you have to factor with Sid is totality of his game -- that his game is so complete is precisely what makes him so special.
He wins faceoffs.
He plays defense.
He can see plays happening two and three seconds before they happen.
He has speed and strength and elegance.
He scores from up high, and he plants himself at the goal mouth, fight off cross-checks and buries the puck behind helpless goaltenders.
This year, he is everywhere on the ice and has scored from every spot of the Consol Center except the executive washroom.
He leads his team by example, brandishing his work-ethic and equanimity. He never gives up on a play and the team has taken on that personality, which puts him light-years ahead of everybody else. He is the greatest and I wonder, is it possible we STILL haven't seen the best he has to offer?
So, Penguins fans, who is better? Sid? Or Sid?
And we get to watch him ever night. So really, who is luckier? Pens fans? Or Pens fans?