Comparing Sid to Gretz is unfair

SCOTT MORRISON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

The comparisons between Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky, rejuvenated in recent days -- obviously by the The Kid's first visit to Edmonton -- were as inevitable as they are ultimately unfair.

Different players, different eras.

Heck, even Crosby hinted as much when he suggested it would have been nice to have played in the Gretzky era, when goaltenders weren't Michelin Men and the game was different. That isn't to diminish what Gretzky accomplished, either.

"A lot of us watch those classic games and you see the equipment on the goalies and it's hard not to cringe sometimes," Crosby said at a press conference the other day, making a lot of folks feel just a little older with the "classic" reference. "Sometimes you wish you were shooting on guys with little bit smaller equipment. But that's just the way it is."

Like we said, different players, different eras and, ultimately, it is patently unfair to compare anyone to Gretzky. There will never be another like him. But for fun, let's do the comparison anyway because Crosby measures up pretty well.

In his first season in the NHL, Gretzky tied for the scoring lead with 51 goals and 137 points and won the Hart Trophy.

Crosby, by comparison, had 39 goals and 102 points and was sixth in scoring, still a heady accomplishment.

In his second season, Gretzky won the first of seven consecutive scoring titles and surpassed Bobby Orr's record for assists with 109, finishing with 55 goals and 164 points.

Crosby finished his second season with 120 points, won the scoring title, the Lester B. Pearson Award and Hart Trophy. He also became, at age 19, the youngest player, including Gretzky, to reach 200 points in his career.

In his third season, Gretzky went off the charts. He scored an incredible 92 goals (breaking the record of 76 held by Phil Esposito), the first 50 of those goals coming in just 39 games. He finished that remarkable season with 212 points.

After that, in his fifth season, came the first Stanley Cup and the rest is history.

As for Crosby, in his third season, prior to last night, he was tied for second in scoring with 37 points, on pace for 117, which would make for another terrific year. But this is where the comparisons end.

So far, Crosby has lived up to his extreme billing, but to expect anyone to dominate the way Gretzky did is foolish. Although even Gretzky would admit that if there is anyone with the potential, it is Crosby, who possesses similar poise off the ice as The Great One.

Overall, Crosby is a different player, in a different era, but pretty darn special nonetheless.

It's curious, but you no longer hear people wondering if a star defencemen is going to be the next Orr because we have come to accept there is only one Bobby Orr.

Maybe, in time, the same will apply to Gretzky.

In contrast, Crosby, who was born a few months after Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers won their second Stanley Cup in 1987, is a great player but not a landslide No. 1. Not yet, anyway, although his first two seasons have been tremendous.

Whatever the differences in the game, Gretzky and his remarkable skill exploited them to the absolute fullest. He was light years ahead of any other player in the game, which speaks to his greatness and attendant dominance. No matter the circumstances, Gretzky was by far the greatest player of his time, until age and Mario Lemieux started to catch up.


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