While it is hard to believe there are things in hockey that Sidney Crosby
hasn't experienced during his amazing run through the first five years of his NHL career, it is indeed true.
"There are always new experiences," Crosby told NHL.com. "I think you are always learning."
One of the biggest things the 23-year-old Crosby has learned is that the grind of an NHL season -- especially one that runs into June -- places incredible demands on his body.
So he makes a point of using his summers not only to relax, but to also get down the best possible physical base to prepare him for the tests he will encounter in the coming season.
Not surprisingly, that process has changed a good deal with the hockey lessons he has picked up since breaking into the League in 2005.
Today, Crosby spends his off-time working on drills that will help him gain speed and increase the strength of his lower body, which is the core for all that he accomplishes on the ice.
"I think that's so important for a hockey player now," Crosby said of his emphasis on lower-body development. "And as much as you're trying to build and gain strength, you're also trying to make sure that you stay healthy and prevent injuries as best you can.
"That's really what goes into my mind when I'm preparing for a season. I think strength-wise, speed-wise, you are just always trying to gain that edge."
Crosby does a lot of his preparation with Andy O'Brien, a strength and conditioning coach who entered his life as a teenager and prepared him for the NHL with a variety of unconventional exercises that concentrated on balance and mobility more than traditional strength development.
"He's kind of a multi-sport trainer, and so for me I enjoy being athletic," Crosby told NHL.com. "I don't mind lifting weights, but I like trying to be athletic when I'm doing it, too. I've been with him for nine years, and it's been good.
"He's got a pretty good feel on things, and I enjoy the stuff we do. It's always new and when you train every day in the summer, it needs to be new. I think he does a good job of that."
Crosby also has shown a willingness to work on his game during the offseason. After his Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, Crosby spent a good deal of the short summer working on parts of his game he thought to be deficient.
He spent that summer taking faceoff after faceoff and firing off shot after shot as he tried to lose a reputation as a pass-first player and make himself harder to defend.
"He's got a pretty good feel on things, and I enjoy the stuff we do. It's always new and when you train every day in the summer, it needs to be new. I think he does a good job of that." -- Crosby on Andy O'Brien, his strength and conditioning coach
Crosby took more draws than any other player in 2009-10, winning 55.9 percent of the 1,791 faceoffs he contested, an improvement of almost 5 percent. And as far as goals, Crosby only finished tied for the League lead with 51, 18 more than the previous season.
"I think as far as shooting and all those things, I think the biggest thing is to just keep guys guessing," Crosby said. "It's pretty easy now to scout guys and get guys' habits and tendencies down. So in order to create things consistently, you have to keep guys guessing. For me, I want to continue to improve and shoot the puck, but it doesn't mean I will score 50 goals just because I shoot the puck. I want to make sure I'm creating things and if I am doing that, hopefully it will go in."
Actually, there is very little hope involved in Crosby's game. As he has proved every season since entering the League, he has a plan to improve during the offseason. Almost always, that plan serves as the foundation for success -- no matter the vagaries thrown at him during the course of an nine-month schedule.
"There's so much that goes on over the course of the year, and I think you're just more ready for what happens and what you have to go through over an 82-game schedule," Crosby said.
"That being said, I think there's always new things happening, and there's always new challenges and there's always adversity, and I think the thing that will never change is a season is always a roller coaster. So there's good times and bad times, and consistency is always important. So I think that's the main thing."