Sidney Crosby is turning back the clock; Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Penguins are not

By maaz

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For those looking to get into the nitty-gritty of the 2023-24 Pittsburgh Penguins season, it’s hard to see a better (or worse) performance than the team’s past five games. over that period, 36-year-old future Hall of Fame center Sidney Crosby scored five goals and seven points, playing like he hadn’t lost a step from the Crosby of 10 years or more. And yet, the Penguins dropped four of those five contests – including one damage to vancouver When Crosby put the team on his back, scoring in the second period to draw the Pens within one scoring a game-tying goal There were 28.2 seconds left in the third, but Pittsburgh fell in overtime.

Even when living legends turn back the clock, only they can so excess.

On a personal note, we’re in the golden age of Crosby’s old, 2000s superstar class in sports. In the NBA, 39-year-old LeBron James is having his best season ever for a player his age, and the NFL isn’t far off from seeing a 40-something Tom Brady. Rewrite the rules of aging As a quarterback. Father Time may be undefeated, but he’s having to work a little harder than usual these days.

Crosby is adding to his tally so far in the 2023-24 campaign. In 44 games, Crosby has 27 goals and 48 points; He averages 0.61 goals per game the third-best rate of his career in a season, and his best rate since the age of 23 in 2010–11. He’s still sporting a 200-foot all-around game, one of the best games in his Penguins league. Best Share of Total Shot Attempts When he’s on the ice versus off.

Because of all this, Crosby is currently tracking at 21.8 Well Adjust goals above replacement (GAR) This season, who is in 18th place Ranks 12th among all players and forwards in the league. If he maintains that pace, it will be Crosby’s best output in a season since he was 29 and Leading Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup In 2016–17, he had the best two-way season of his career in terms of defensive value as well.

By this measure, Crosby’s age-36 season was better than Wayne Gretzky (17.3 adjusted GAR), Mark Messier (17.1), Joe Sakic (16.6), Steve Yzerman (9.8) and Mario Lemieux (only 5.5 in injury-shortened games). Is. 2001-02 campaign), to name just a few of the great players Sid the Kid has been skating around. Only three forwards – Teemu Selanne, Gordie Howe and, AbsolutelyAlex Ovechkin — and seven skaters overall who have posted a higher adjusted GAR in a season at age 36 or older — is on track for Crosby in 2023-24:

By all rights, Crosby’s team should be excited by their historic performance. after all, The entire complex of this penguin squad It was that it was a kind of “last dance” with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and the core that helped Pittsburgh win three Cups in the late 2000s.

Whenever the post-Crosby era arrived, rather than make a move that could mean a soft landing, new general manager Kyle Dubas Now the effort to win has doubled With Pittsburgh’s current group when they dealt several future draft picks (and Signed for $10 million in cap space per year until 2026-27) for 33-year-old defenseman Erik Karlsson last August. It’s no coincidence that Pittsburgh The oldest roster in the NHL is (average age 31.2) this season, more than a full year older than the No. 2 Washington Capitals (29.9). In fact, this Penguins squad is the oldest squad in the NHL 2007–08 Detroit Red Wings The team (average age: 32.1) that, coincidentally, beat Pittsburgh and 20-year-old Crosby for the stanley cup,

So getting all-time performances in the late 30s from their captain and biggest star would seem to be the best-case scenario for any team built around an experienced group to make one last run at the championship. but penguin stuck in mediocrity, Their total losses (23) on the season exceed wins (21), sit out five points The final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, only 15th rank Elo power ranking of the league and slightly better than the chance of tossing a coin (51%) in making the playoffs. near pittsburgh Hovered around .500 at midseason At first, just to turn things and move cups. But to repeat the same feat, a lot will have to change for the Penguins team.

We also can’t really blame the acquisition of Karlsson, who has played relatively well this season (16.0 adjusted GAR). While that mark is slightly below them Norris Trophy winning form In 2022-23, they still provide Pittsburgh with one of Best blueline performances of the Crosby era – And this Famous Non-Defensive D-Man Has also not defended himself. Ironically, the Penguins rank much better in goal prevention (number 7) than making them (number 21) despite Crosby’s scoring heroics, and the addition of one of the best offensive blueliners the NHL has ever produced. go figure.

All of this puts Pittsburgh in jeopardy for the future. Their window to compete is closing fast, and they’re wasting what is possibly one of the last great seasons Crosby has left in his illustrious career. (Of the top 15 on our list above, excluding Crosby, they dropped from averaging a 21.9 adjusted GAR that season to 14.4 the next season and 11.1 the season after that.) There’s still time left to make some saves here, But not much else – which means we can look back at this season as the season when Crosby traveled back to his peak but couldn’t take the rest of his team there with him.