In this week's Head-To-Head,'s Evan Grossman and Adam Kimelman debate which superstar is the best all-around player, Washington's Alex Ovechkin or Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

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It's Ovechkin, no contest!
 By Evan Grossman | Staff Writer

Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky are compared to each other at each and every opportunity. But here’s one you probably haven’t heard before: They are both not the best players of their respective generations.

No disrespect to either guy, but there’s something you people need to wrap your minds around. Gretzky, despite his total rewriting of the record book, was not as good as Mario Lemieux was -- just like Crosby, despite his trophy-case first two years in the NHL, is not as good as Alexander Ovechkin.

That’s right. I said it. Crosby might be the face of the NHL, might have all those endorsements and that brand new “C” stitched into his uniform system, but in no way shape or form is he better than Ovechkin and his tinted visor. Crosby will be the first to tell you that, but maybe humility is Crosby’s only winning character trait in this argument.

Ovechkin is good -- and he knows it -- and that room service commercial gag is but the first of what will be many last laughs No. 8 has over No. 87.

The other side of this debate is so stale and it’s so predictable. You’re going to hear about how Crosby is the youngest captain in NHL history, the youngest league scoring champion in North American sports history and what a swell guy he is. Spare me. I’ve heard it all before, and while I admire Crosby’s all-world skills, he simply doesn’t have the all-universe talent Ovechkin brings to the table.

Put Ovechkin on the Penguins the last two years and put Crosby on the Capitals teams that have taken the ice the last two seasons, and then come back and tell me you think “Sid the Kid” is better than “AO.” Simply put, Crosby has been surrounded with a better supporting cast every step of the way. Not saying Crosby is the sheltered suburban kid to Ovechkin’s street smart overachiever from the projects, but it’s hard to ignore that Crosby has been surrounded with guys from Lemieux to Mark Recchi to Gary Roberts, while Ovechkin got to play with Dainius Zubrus and Jamie Heward his first year. Who would you rather play with? Right.

And Crosby hasn’t exactly been the only kid at the adults’ table with classmates like Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury learning the ropes with him. Ovechkin came up with Steve Eminger and Tomas Fleischman. Again, who would you rather play with? Exactly.

Please don’t base your entire Crosby-is-better argument on how much he’s accomplished at such a young age, because that doesn’t wash. Bring up the captaincy, and I’ll counter with Ovechkin played in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey as a 19-year-old, the youngest player in that tournament. Or as a 16-year-old, Ovechkin set the World Junior scoring record with 18 points in eight games, won a gold medal and then as a 17-year-old became the youngest player ever to dress for the Russian National Team.

Throw in Ovechkin’s 98 goals in his first two years, versus Sid’s 75. Or what about the fierce hits that have become a staple of Ovechkin’s game? Just like Mario was a better player than Gretzky because of that aspect of his game, it also sets Ovechkin apart from Crosby.

In short, Ovechkin has done more with less than Crosby has had in his NHL career, and from this point of view, Ovechkin’s done pretty well for himself. So while you keep comparing Crosby to Gretzky, think of Ovechkin as the modern-day Mario.

And I’ll take Mario over Gretzky any day of the week.

Sid the Kid is The Man!
 By Adam Kimelman | Staff Writer

What’s the old saying? Don’t believe the hype?

Take a look at Sidney Crosby. It’s not hype; it’s gospel truth. “Sid the Kid” can’t buy a beer yet, but he’s got a chance to sip something out of that big silver mug the NHL gives away each June.

Think of all the kids in all the youth leagues who lace up their skates on weekends; all the minor leaguers and beer leaguers; even all the NHL guys. How many is that? Thousands? Tens of thousands around the world? And not one of them can keep up with the 20-year-old kid from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Sidney Crosby has lapped the field. He’s hockey’s version of Alex Rodriguez, LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s Wayne Gretzky for the YouTube generation.

There are haters, of course. Without evil, there would be no good.

A list of who the game’s best player today is could include Chris Pronger, Marty Brodeur, the venerable Joe Sakic, even the guy most compared to Crosby – ad nauseum – Alexander Ovechkin. Those arguments surely are wisely thought out and plotted, backed up with quotes from opposing players and coaches and all sorts of statistics. But guess what? They’re all wrong. It’s Crosby, and it’s not even close.

Let’s start with tracking Crosby’s still-developing career. As an NHL rookie, at just 18, he had 39 goals, 63 assists and 102 points. That’s a great season for any player at any age, but playing in 81 games was just the tip of what Crosby had to do that season.

He was the face of the new NHL. He was the centerpiece of every League marketing campaign coming out of the lockout. His helmet and sweater might have been black, but he was the White Knight the NHL was counting on to lead it into the Promised Land. And through every interview, every photo shoot, every minute spent under the magnifying glass, Crosby didn’t just persevere, he starred.

Last season, at age 19, all he did was lead the League with 120 points, finish a plus-10 --after going minus-1 as a rookie -- and win the Hart Trophy.

Oh, and after years of early tee times for the Penguin players, Crosby carried the team into the playoffs for the first time in the post-Mario Lemieux era.

And while Crosby has been making himself into the Atlas of the hockey universe, he’s carrying his teammates on his shoulders, also.

Look at Colby Armstrong. After 3-½ seasons in the minors, Armstrong played 47 games on Crosby’s wing in 2005-06 and scored 16 goals. Ryan Malone’s development has been in fast-forward since he jumped on Crosby’s coattails.

Crosby makes everyone around him better. He has the innate ability to see things three or four steps ahead of everyone else. He sees guys get open before they even realize they’re open. No one else playing today can do that, and maybe no one outside of Gretzky has ever done it.

Now for the present.

With age and maturity has come physical strength. Crosby has grown to a solid 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, making him even tougher than ever to knock off the puck. He’s also developing into a responsible, two-way player. And that C on his sweater only has given him more voice in a locker room that already looks to him to lead on the ice.

But more than physical strength is his mental power. It’s his drive and determination that make him such a sublime player. Case in point: In Crosby’s rookie season, in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, at a raucous Wachovia Center, Philadelphia’s Derian Hatcher used his stick to send a special welcome-to-the-NHL greeting to Crosby’s front teeth.

Did Crosby run and hide? Nope, he came back to score the overtime game-winner. Last season, he took ownership of the Flyers like he was part of Ed Snider’s family. Pittsburgh went 8-for-8 against its eastern Pennsylvania neighbor and Crosby had seven goals and 16 points.

The argument has now moved past the point of where Crosby ranks among players in today’s game. He’s climbed that mountain and is already sipping cocoa at the summit. Soon enough, the talk will be where Crosby ranks among the best ever.


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