Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Call to the Hall: Pittsburgh Penguins

Welcome to LWOS Hockey’s summer series, Call to the Hall, where we take a look at the next great player from each NHL franchise to get called to the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are a few caveats, the player must be active, and must have played 300 games (or 150 for goaltenders) with the franchise.

Call to the Hall: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a plethora of legends who have spent significant portions of their careers in the Steel City. Among them are Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, and Tom Barrasso. Of those, Jagr is the only one still active in the NHL today, and while he’s clearly an all-time great and stone cold lock to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame upon his eligibility, he’s not the one I’ve selected to argue the case of.

While Lemieux defined the previous generation of hockey in Pittsburgh, there’s clearly a new face that has carried the torch for the Penguins in recent years, and that player is none other than Sidney Crosby.

Sidney Crosby

Before the beginning and heading into the onset of his NHL career, Crosby was hyped up as being the very definition of a generational talent. Now roughly a decade removed from his draft day and NHL debut, it’s safe to say that Crosby has fully lived up to the lofty expectations that were set for him before he ever stepped on an NHL rink.

He’s already accumulated a laundry list of accolades that basically ensure that even if he was to never play another NHL game, Crosby would be a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Crosby has been named to the NHL First All-Star Team three times (2007, 2013, 2014) while being named to the NHL Second All-Star Team twice (2010, 2015).

Additionally, Crosby has twice won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player, in 2007 and 2014. He’s also won the Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s MVP as voted by the players three times, in 2007, 2013, and 2014.

While all of those awards may be impressive, there’s a large shadow of disappointment cast over those numbers. Crosby almost certainly would have cleaned house at the 2011 NHL Awards had it not been for the concussion issues that limited him to half a season that year. His 66 points in 41 games led the league by a country mile at the time of his injury.

Had he not been missed half of that season with the concussion issues, it’s a sure bet that he’d have three Art Ross Trophies and three Hart Trophies. Were Crosby to win a third Hart Trophy in the near future or had he been able to do so in 2011, he would already have matched the number of league MVP titles won by his Pittsburgh predecessor Lemieux.

By winning just the two he’s already won, he’s already matched the likes of Guy Lafleur, Dominik Hasek, Stan Mikita, Mark Messier, Bobby Hull, and Phil Esposito. He’s already surpassed players such as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Sergei Fedorov, and Brett Hull. Clearly, Crosby already has the individual hardware to be considered a Hall of Fame lock upon his eventual retirement.

He’s also captained his team to a Stanley Cup championship; this isn’t something that I personally hold to be very significant when evaluating a player’s career resume, but many who vote on these sort of things do. The fact that Crosby has hoisted the Cup only serves to further cement his chances when the time comes, not to mention his two Olympic gold medals.

With individual and team awards already covered, let’s take a look at Crosby’s case from an individual production standpoint. This is, in my mind, where he really separates himself from some of hockey’s greatest players and establishes himself in that elite tier.

Crosby is currently 5th in the history of the entire NHL in points per game. That on its own is absurd. While his detractors will point out that he hasn’t yet played the portion of his career in which he’s past his prime, it’s also worth pointing out that Crosby has played in much lower scoring eras than the players ahead of him did. The only four players ahead of him? Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, and Lemieux.

If Crosby were to play just one more season this year, record 60 points (say 20 goals and 40 assists, surely, a conservative estimate), and then retire for whatever reason, Crosby would move into 98th all-time in the NHL in points despite not playing a single game past the age of 28. He would be about 84th all-time in assists as well.

I didn’t need to write all of this for you to know that Crosby will eventually belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but hopefully this has helped to paint a clearer picture of just how strong his case is that even if he were to retire now or next summer, he’d already be an absolute lock. He has the team and individual awards to back it up. His rate stats are top-five all-time caliber, and his counting totals would put him in the top 100 even if he played just one more drastically disappointing year before calling it quits.

While there are still some who affectionately refer to Crosby as “Sid the Kid,” it’s certainly time to recognize that we aren’t dealing with a kid anymore. The kid who was billed as hockey’s next generational superstar has grown into a man who needed exactly a decade to establish himself as a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
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