|Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby is entering his first season as the Penguins' captain.
There will be so much newness, but don’t expect Crosby to change. Penguins fans are going to have to get used to the same, old Crosby. And that should suit them just fine.
“I mean, obviously, it's an honor to be a captain,” Crosby said on a conference call with reporters Monday that was dominated by chatter of the captaincy. “But playing my first one as captain, I mean, it doesn't really feel that much different. Like I said, it was an honor, and it still is an honor. But I don't think my focus or mindset really changes any different than it would be last year or the year before.”
The youngest captain in NHL history, Crosby said he won’t change one bit with that sacred letter on his uniform.
“I'm just going to keep everything the same,” Crosby said. “I've always tried to lead by example. As far as playing with emotion, I think I always have played with emotion, and I need to keep playing like that. But as long as I channel it and put it towards the right things, that's what I have to do.
They say change is good, but when it comes to Crosby, Pens fans should like things just the way they are. After all, we’re talking about the reigning NHL scoring leader, the Hart Trophy winner as the League’s MVP and the player voted on last spring by his peers as the best in the game. The guy who scored 120 points as a 19-year-old, the same kid who has taken the hockey world by storm in such a short time. Crosby was the most decorated hockey player in the world last season, helped get the Penguins back into the playoffs and cemented his standing as the most marketed player in the NHL.
He’s got a lot on his plate -- more now than ever before -- but that has never seemed to change the person or player Crosby was. And it doesn’t figure to start changing him now. Remarkably, Crosby is only 20, but while some players wouldn’t be able to handle so much so fast, that hardly seems to be a concern when it comes to him.
But the bar has been raised again this season. Though Crosby has met -- and exceeded -- most expectations tossed his way, the hope for the Penguins will be a little higher than it was a year ago. Some believe Pittsburgh has a team worthy of contending for a Stanley Cup title.
“We have to prove that,” Crosby said, sounding very much like a captain. “You can't talk about it. We're not going to talk about it. Sure, it's easy to say we are, but we have to prove that. I think we're working hard, are prepared to first of all get in the playoffs, but we have to prove it.”
Mark Messier compared the young Penguins to the old Edmonton Oilers teams he played for during the All-Star Game in Dallas last season. Those Oilers teams featured young stars like Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Jari Kurri when they were all coming into their own. They came up through the ranks as a group, just like the evolution of future stars in Pittsburgh.
Another comparison that’s come up is the addition of more established veterans, guys gradually coming in like Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, Darryl Sydor and Petr Sykora, an aspect of those Oilers teams that allowed their future stars to blossom.
|Sidney Crosby is the reigning NHL MVP, netting 36 goals and 120 points last year.
“You need depth obviously,” he added. “Any team that wins a Stanley Cup has great depth. They have four solid lines, great goaltending, good defense. I mean, you need a complete team. One or two star players on a team aren't going to win a Stanley Cup. You definitely need a supporting cast and overall complete team.”
The Penguins aren’t going to sneak up on anybody anymore. The expectations for the team are a little higher this season, as are the expectations surrounding Crosby going into his third NHL season.
Don’t expect any of that to change No. 87.
“I mean, as far as myself, I just want to make sure I'm contributing,” he said. “I want to make sure that hopefully I'm producing and doing things, maybe little things, little detail things, winning faceoffs, (being) strong defensively. It's the same thing every year.
“But as far as the team, we’ve just got to make sure we have a strong start,” Crosby said. “Obviously, we have to get into the playoffs. Maybe it's not going to be 105 points this year … we'll see. But we have to find a way to get in the playoffs and get ourselves positioned to hopefully make a run.”