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Penguins Blog: Crosby Made Right Call; The Phrase That Pays

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, NHL news, Team Canada

Sidney Crosby put together an outstanding season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sidney Crosby has a passion for hockey with few, if any, equals.

Sidney Crosby had an opportunity to extend his season by playing for Team Canada in the IIHF world championships that will begin Friday in Czechia.

Sidney Crosby declined.

Sidney Crosby did the right thing.

Why Crosby opted against participating isn’t known; it certainly isn’t because of any qualms about representing his country, considering that Crosby’s resume includes appearances in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, two world junior tournaments and the 2006 and 2015 world championships.

That he didn’t play for Canada in more world championships is a by-product of the Penguins’ run of 16 consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs, since the two events invariably overlap.

But regardless of Crosby’s reason for not taking part in the tournament this spring, he made the correct choice, for himself and for his team. His NHL team, that is.

Although Canada invariably sends a capable squad to that competition — Penguins winger Michael Bunting is on the team this year — having Crosby’s talent and intangibles on hand surely would have been a plus for it.

Still, while it surely wasn’t evident in his performance during 2023-24, the hard truth is that Crosby will be 37 years old when next season begins. He’s defied many of the issues that arise for players his age — or younger, for that matter — but Time is undefeated against the greatest athletes in every sport. (And everyone else, for that matter.)

If the Pittsburgh Penguins are to return to the playoffs in 2025, let alone win a round of two, they will need another exemplary showing by Crosby. That means it’s in their interest for him to be rested and recovered from the rigors of the past season when the team convenes for training camp.

Skipping the world championships has nothing to with allegiance to his country; the guy has a maple leaf tattooed on his heart. (Figuratively, at least.)

He’s simply doing what’s best for the franchise for which he has been the cornerstone for nearly two decades. A franchise where his legacy will endure for many decades, long after Time has finally overtaken his on-ice work.

What does it mean?

Although the Penguins’ press release two days ago announcing that associate coach Todd Reirden had been fired seemed rather perfunctory — two paragraphs, fewer than 100 words — it did not go unnoticed that an otherwise standard-issue platitude about Reirden’s service from president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas included a phrase that said he and coach Mike Sullivan had spent two weeks evaluating the coaching staff, and that the two of them “agree that this change was in the best interest of the team moving forward.”

Sullivan has earned a reputation for being fiercely loyal to those who’ve worked under him, and all indications are that he wanted to keep his staff intact for the coming season.

Dubas, meanwhile, clearly believed that at least one change was called for. And as the guy who oversaw a power play that seriously underachieved for most of the season, Reirden was a logical candidate to go.

The real question, though, is whether Sullivan really did come to share Dubas’ perspective, or whether he simply accepted that Dubas has the authority to make any personnel decision he deems appropriate. Another possibility, of course, would be that Dubas’ statement that included the reference to Sullivan agreeing with the move didn’t necessarily reflect reality.

There’s no evidence that that’s the case, but since neither Dubas nor Sullivan has met with reporters since shortly after the Penguins’ season ended, it can’t be completely ruled out, either.

And if that did happen to be the case, it surely would not say much about the future relationship of those two.

It’s Tocchet’s time

Rick Tocchet won one Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a player and two as an assistant coach, and his blend of toughness and talent earned him a place among the franchise’s most popular all-time players.

His first two-head coaching opportunities — with Tampa Bay in the pre-Jeffrey Vinik era, before he joined Sullivan’s staff, and Arizona, when he left the Penguins — came in situations were failure was virtually guaranteed, which made it reasonable to wonder how Tocchet would fare in one where there was a reasonable chance for success.

Well, he’s gotten it in Vancouver. And it’s hard to argue with the results.

In his first full year behind the Canucks’ bench, Tocchet has led them to the Pacific Division title and past Nashville in Round 1 of the playoffs, despite having to use three goaltenders in that six-game series.

His work also has secured him a spot alongside Nashville’s Andrew Brunette and Rick Bowness of Winnipeg as finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the NHL’s top coach.