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Steigerwald: Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number for All-Time Greats Like Crosby



By daveynin from United States - Hello, Sid!, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Back in June of 2005, when the Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby, I had planned to predict that he would have three Stanley Cup rings before he turned 30, but I forgot.

As it turned out Crosby carried the Cup he had just won for the third time in a parade in Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia on Monday.

It was his 30th birthday.

So, now what?

For the past few years we’ve been hearing that the Penguins’ window was close to closing because goal scorers and point producers like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin tend to slow down quite a bit in their late twenties.

It’s hard to imagine anybody with a motor like Crosby’s ever slowing down, but what should the realistic expectations be for him now?

Wayne Gretzky was 30 during the 1990-91 season. He had 41 goals, 122 assists for the Los Angeles Kings and won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer.

He was still going strong at 33 when he had 38-92-130 in ’93-’94 but he never scored 30 goals again and only scored 20 or more three times after that.

If you look at the top five players of all time, including Crosby, it’s reasonable to expect a lot more points in the next few years.

Mario Lemieux turned 30 at the beginning of the 1995-96 season and had a pretty good year. He scored 69 goals and had 161 points. That was good enough for the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Trophy as the MVP.

He won the scoring title at 31, too, with 50-72-122.

Then he retired, which seems more ridiculous as each year goes by. Lemieux came back in December of 2000 at 35 and was the best player in the league 30 seconds into his first shift.  He scored 35 goals and had 41 assists in 43 games.

He wasn’t too shabby at 36, either with 28-63-91.

Injuries and the lockout only allowed him to play 36 more games before retiring for good at 40.

Bobby, Mess and Jags

Bobby Orr’s bad  knees forced him to retire at 30. His last full season was 1974-75 when, at 27, he played 80 games, scored 135 points and won the Ross and Hart Trophies.

Gordie Howe played for 20 more years after he turned 30. That may be a little too much to expect from Crosby. Howe was a respectable 32-46-78 at 30. He scored 39 goals for the Red Wings when he was 39 and 44 when he was 40.

Then he popped in 34 for the New England Whalers of the WHA when he was 49.

So, 30 hasn’t been such a bad number for the all time greats.

How about Mark Messier? He scored 47 goals for the New York Rangers when he was 35 in 1996 and another 36 when he was 36.

Jaromir Jagr had 36 goals and 41 assists for the Washington Capitals after he turned 30 in February of 2002. When he was 33 he scored 54 for the Rangers. The most goals he had after that was 27 for Florida in 2015-16 when he was 44.
Last year, at 45, he played in all 82 of the Panthers’ regular season games.

It’s much harder to put up points in the NHL now with the gigantic, athletic goalies and the heavily padded shot blockers, so Crosby can’t be expected to match many of the numbers put up by the old-timers, but there’s also no reason to expect a noticeable drop in his production any time soon.

His 44 goals last season probably translates to 55 or 60 in the ‘80s and ‘90s and nobody should be surprised if he wins a few more scoring titles.

And when you’re evaluating Crosby’s production, unlike most of the other all time greats, you have to take his grinding into account. There’s no reason to believe that he will become any less intense or relentless along the board as he ages. He may even turn that up a notch if and when age ever takes a toll on his point production.

It’s kind of interesting, by the way, that the guy who may be the most mature, respectful, trouble-free athlete in Pittsburgh history is known as the “Kid.”

Oh, By the Way

When you see the pictures of the Penguins literally taking the Stanley Cup around the world to share their pride with friends, family and local community, it’s kind of scary to think what would happen if there were only one Vince Lombardi Trophy and the NFL entrusted it to its champions.

The Cup ending up in Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool may be why the trophy has a full time care taker now. Based on what we’ve seen  from NFL players in the off season over the years, the caretaker for the Lombardi would have to be armed.

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John has over 40 years experience doing just about everything you can do in Pittsburgh sports, including work at KDKA (TV and Radio), WTAE, the Tribune-Review and many more. Author of Just Watch The Game. Columnist and opinion writer here and at Pittsburgh Sports Now. You can regularly find John on Twitter and Facebook.

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