The premise seemed logical: It doesn’t appear Sidney Crosby gets much individual coaching from the Penguins staff, and that hardly would be ideal, or even fair.
*Crosby has often been seen between shifts heaping intense attention on his new best friend, the iPad kept on the Penguins bench. Sometimes, it’s just him and the device, often his linemates are huddled around, and occasionally assistant Mark Recchi is seen offering input.
*Mike Sullivan was asked earlier this season when Crosby was in a scoring slump if he had spoken to his team captain about shooting more. The coach said he had not, and didn’t really plan to.
*Sullivan said more recently that offering tips or advice to Crosby was different from doing so with most other players because Crosby is already so self-aware and detailed.
Sullivan further offered the kind of testimonial that a long string of coaches has bestowed on Crosby.
“I don’t think there’s a more driven guy than our captain,” Sullivan said. “He’s always working on some aspect of his game so that he can be the very best. That attitude, that discipline, and that appetite to want to win, be the best, certainly trickles through our locker room.”
The Real Truth
So Crosby in a lot of ways self-coaches. He sets an example for his teammates that goes beyond anything a coach could do.
Despite all the logic that points to Crosby not receiving much individual coaching, some digging by Pittsburgh Hockey Now revealed something altogether different.
Crosby needs, gets and wants individual attention from his coaches.
“There are always things – you go over games, you check video, little things, based on your positioning and based on your strengths as a player, weaknesses, you name it,” Crosby said Monday.
“Little details, little things you get from Sully or Recchs or sometimes even (defensive assistant Sergei Gonchar) with a lot of power play stuff and the way he sees the ice. You’re always looking to get better. You’re always looking to learn. With the staff that we have, they know the game really well, and there’s a lot of things you can take from that.”
How about that? Crosby, the face of hockey and widely considered the best player of his generation with three Stanley Cups and lots of other hardware bearing his name, not only gets individual coaching, but he craves it.
Rick Tocchet, the first-year Arizona head coach and former Tampa Bay head coach, spent the past three seasons as a Penguins assistant. He swears that Crosby is a pleasure to work with individually.
“I loved working with Sidney Crosby,” Tocchet said. “For the amount of time I’ve been a coach, it’s been one of the most positive things for me because he thinks the game as a coach and as a player. But he’ll be the first guy that if he struggles, you sit in the office and you talk about it, and you’ll say, ‘Hey, I noticed something. Off the rush, you’re not shooting as much, and now teams are starting to do this and that.’ And he’ll go, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’
“He’s very analytical when it comes to that. So the next game he will try to do the stuff that you talked about.”
Sidney Crosby and Sully in Sync
It’s not that Tocchet is some sort of star whisperer – remember, he was ballyhooed as a big reason for Phil Kessel’s success based on their relationship. Tocchet said Sullivan also works well with Crosby.
“Sully has a great relationship with Sid, and they talk a lot,” he said. “Same thing — Sully will mention something. A lot of the times, Sully’s right, and Sid knows. He’s a thinker. He knows where his game’s at. He knows where he’s going with his game.
“But he likes to talk. He likes to know your opinion. It’s not like he’s going tell you, ‘Hey, I know everything about my game.’ He wants to talk. They both can help each other, really. (Sullivan) has never come across where you’re afraid to say something to Sid.”
It’s not as if Crosby’s coaches are going to be misguided – or nuts — enough to, say, try to get him to revamp his backhand moves. But there are nuances they can offer.
“Just some simple things,” Tocchet said. “Like, taking a one-timer. ‘Why don’t you try opening up your hips a little bit more?’ And he’d go try it. He was very receptive. Very receptive.”
That’s significant because Crosby’s ego lags behind his considerable talent level. As analytical as he is, he doesn’t assume that he always knows best or has all the answers.
“You know what? It’s so good to have different sets of eyes,” he said. “Everyone looks at the game and sees it differently. Sometimes when you look at yourself, you’re only thinking as you as a centerman or you in your position.
“I think when you have different sets of eyes and guys who look at the game differently – whether it’s as a winger or as a coach, as a defenseman – you get some different input, and that’s something you can take and learn from.”
So there you go. Premise debunked.