Sidney Crosby is the measuring stick by which the hockey world compares it’s brightest stars, and for good reason. For over a decade — despite multiple ‘next ones’ entering the league — Crosby has proven time and time again that he is, far and away, the best hockey player on the planet. His numbers back this theory, the eye test confirms it and anyone who attempts to downplay his dominance by clinging to intangibles like toughness or sportsmanship either have a personal vendetta or simply don’t watch him play.
But now, the first player to truly have a shot at dethroning Crosby is here — he’s hungry to prove himself — and his new contract puts a spotlight on the fact that he may be more than the future of this league… He might already be the present.
Connor McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy last season, leading the NHL with 100 points — 11 more than both Crosby and Patrick Kane who tied for second. He was also voted as league MVP by those who cover the sport and his peers, scooping up the Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers not only made the postseason for the first time in 11 years, they advanced to the second round and took Anaheim to seven games before eventually getting eliminated. And after this season, he’ll carry the NHL’s largest cap hit on his new eight-year deal worth $100 million.
Let the debate rage on.
The Case for Connor McDavid
You might be thinking… Didn’t he do enough throughout his first two seasons in the NHL to make a solid case for himself? He did — but in case you missed it — Crosby had a pretty special run as well.
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) July 6, 2017
Using Stanley Cups to compare players isn’t fair, as it’s a team trophy that isn’t earned by one individual — no matter how much some traditionalists like to lean on it when discussing the all-time greats. But Crosby winning back-to-back Conn Smythe’s is a special feat accomplished only by a few of the best players to step foot on the ice. It’s a testament to his ability to raise his level of play when stakes are at their highest. McDavid — with .69 points per game through 13 playoff games — hasn’t made much ground in that department yet.
Keyword, of course, is ‘yet’.
But in regular season play, McDavid has been stellar. So stellar, in fact, that those who argue in favor of him being considered the best right now aren’t necessarily wrong. His 1.17 points per game over the last two seasons ranks second behind Kane, and just ahead of Crosby who’s averaged 1.12. He’s accrued 102 assists in 127 games during that span — trumping Crosby’s 94 assists in 155 games — and 60 of those are primary or in other words, the pass that led to a goal. At even-strength, among players with at least 400 minutes played over the last two seasons, only Jake Guentzel boasts a better points-per-hour than McDavid’s 2.82.
I guess what I’m saying is, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that he hasn’t surpassed Crosby when it comes to individual performance. The numbers don’t lie, and McDavid is on another level right now.
A Fun Future Ahead
The new kid, dominating the NHL from the start and saving a team from a dismal decade of losing versus the veteran who’s been there and done that — with three Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe’s and a barrage of other hardware to prove it. It’s exciting, and it’s what sports are all about.
Bonus — both are generally humble, great people as well.
Crosby has evolved. He’s grown into a true leader and respected voice in recent seasons under Mike Sullivan. He’s become more outspoken with the media and more candid in front of the camera. Crosby is becoming an ambassador as he matures, with an opportunity to take the role Wayne Gretzky did and represent his fellow players and the sport of hockey even more so than he has already. He can speak out against head shots, having suffered so many concussions of his own and the league will listen. They have to when it comes from a guy like Sid. He has the opportunity to change the game with off-ice actions.
And trust me, by no means am I implying that Crosby is done dominating on the ice.
McDavid — as he continues to grow and build upon what he’s already developed — is seemingly ready for the ‘best player’ title. His new contract places the weight of the world on his shoulders but he’s provided no reason to doubt his ability to bear it. Players like McDavid and Crosby have been in the spotlight since their early teens. Once they hit the ice, it’s just another day at the office.
Watching these generational talents tussle for 1A and 1B is something hockey fans should embrace. Plenty of players have been compared with Crosby only to be pushed aside and buried by number 87. McDavid is different, though. If you’re a Crosby fan, brace yourself for a future in which Crosby isn’t viewed as the best player in the world. That isn’t a knock on Sid, but instead, a compliment to McDavid and the player he is.