Is Sid the Kid overhyped or unappreciated?

Sidney Crosby came into the NHL with much fanfare. Four years later, the debate rages over Crosby's...

Sidney Crosby came into the NHL with much fanfare. Four years later, the debate rages over Crosby's status as the best player in the game. (Darryl Dyck/Edmonton Sun)

Randy Sportak and Dave Pollard, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

No. 87 has been considered the greatest thing since sliced bread for as long as we can remember. Wayne Gretzky annointed the Cole Harbour, N.S. phenom as most likely to break the Great One’s records. Some say Crosby has lived up to the hype. Others argue he isn’t even the best player on his own team — let alone in the NHL. Sun Media writers Randy Sportak and Dave Pollard debate whether Sid the Kid is overrated and overhyped, or is he The Man.

RS: It’s funny how our society wants to tear down people or find the latest shiny new penny to love. Sidney Crosby is still the same player who won the Hart Trophy, and Art Ross Trophy in 2007, yet people want to insist he’s not one of the best in the league.

DP: There’s no question Crosby is one of the best players in the NHL. But he has plenty of company in that category, including one player who is right in your own back yard, Randy. Guy by the name of Jarome Iginla. I don’t see Crosby being among the top three forwards, let alone the best player in the league. Crosby, for my money, isn’t even the best player on his team right now. That honour goes to Evgeni Malkin.

RS: Dave, I knew that Malkin being the better player would come up, but I don’t buy it. All Malkin has to worry about is scoring points. He’s not counted on as heavily as Crosby for leadership — heck, Malkin barely does interviews — or facing top players or any other duties besides scoring points. When Malkin was piling up points, the Penguins weren’t winning. As soon as Crosby started rocketing up the charts — thanks to finally having some half-decent wingers — look at the difference.

DP: Just wearing the ‘C’ doesn’t automatically qualify Crosby as a leader. He’d be better off using some of the energy he expends whining to the officials on his own teammates, who have under-achieved for most of the season. OK, so you don’t like Malkin as Crosby’s equal. How about Iginla — Mr. Everything to the Flames? Or maybe Alexander Ovechkin, the league’s only 50-goal scorer at this point? It’s not that Crosby isn’t a great player, he just isn’t the best in the game. Wayne Gretzky did Crosby no favours when he touted Sid as a player who could break some of his records. That raised the bar to levels that no 21-year-old could reach.

RS: Actually, I don’t think Crosby should wear the ‘C.’ That puts too many duties on him. He’s not allowed to turn his back on the media. It’s not in his character, but also look at what happened at the all-star game. He was threatened with a suspension, so he showed up hurt. It’s true Crosby has spent too much time whining, but so did Gretzky, who wouldn’t rack up the same number of points in today’s NHL like he did back in the day. For me, it’s about how complete a player is. Ovechkin scores by the bucket load, but doesn’t play the same game — have you seen him backcheck? He’s more like Malkin that way. Iginla isn’t the same either, not nearly as good defensively and doesn’t kill penalties. I’d rather have a complete player, and Crosby has a more complete game than all of those guys, much more along the lines of Steve Yzerman.

DP: If it’s a complete player that should be anointed ‘best in the game,’ how about Philly’s Michael Richards? He’s head-and-shoulders better than Crosby in so many aspects of the game, but you’d never think of him as top dog in the league. As much as I loved Yzerman during his heyday, I don’t think he was ever considered the top player in the game. It would be difficult to make an argument that he was better than Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and others.

I think part of the problem I have with Crosby — besides those syrupy Tim Hortons ads that seem to be on perma-loop — is that he doesn’t seem to have progressed as a player since his MVP season. He’s stuck on 28 goals with, what, less than a dozen games left in the regular season? That’s just not good enough for me to call him the best.

RS: What do you mean “stuck”? He had a 12-game point run with seven goals and 22 points. I don’t think you can call anyone the best in the game. Look at the goalies and the defencemen, many coaches will argue you can’t win without having a great player in that category. But Crosby is indeed among the top-three forwards. Actually,

I think he has progressed from those MVP seasons. Offensively, he had to settle for second-fiddle wingers while Malkin was allowed to play with the best of a mediocre lot they have in Pittsburgh and still rack up points. All the while, he’s been honing his skills in other areas — faceoffs, penalty kill — and plays with way more grit than credited.

DP: OK, maybe ‘stuck’ was the wrong choice of words. But he’ll need to light it up just to hit 35 goals, which would be just the third-best total of his four-year career. Crosby plays with more grit than he gets credit for, always has. I’ll give you that. He’s probably taken more abuse than any single player over the last four seasons and he still keeps coming back for more. But you made the point I’ve been making: He’s among a group of players who could be thought of as the best, but he’s not the best. He may one day get there, but he’s not there yet.

RS: Expectations are always unrealistic. Look at Eric Lindros, Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan? Lindros came the closest to being what was advertised, but fell well short of a Hall-of-Fame career. Crosby won a Hart Trophy and led his team to the Stanley Cup final before his 21st birthday, which is pretty much more than any other player in the game today can boast. If I choose to take a forward to build a team around for the long-term, he’d be the one because he’s the one capable of doing everything you need to win, not just pile up points, and seeing as he’s near the top of the league in that category, does a dandy job of that, too.

DP: All those accomplishments are in the past, Randy. In the here and now, do you honestly believe Crosby will win the Hart Trophy this season? He might be one of the three finalists — I’m not convinced he’s a lock to even be nominated — but nobody has been better than Ovechkin, the reigning league MVP and the most likely Hart winner for 2008-09. And since you’re throwing around ages, are you forgetting he’s just 23, a mere two years older than Crosby? Ovechkin has single-handedly resurrected the Capitals franchise. He brings fans out of their seats every time he’s on the ice. It’s been a couple of years since you could say that about Crosby.

RS: Ovechkin won’t be bringing fans out of their seats through four rounds of the playoffs. I don’t like Washington’s chances of doing that.

I think the reason people want to say Crosby isn’t as good as so many other players is because we’ve seen and heard about him for so long — I saw him as a 14 year old playing at the Mac’s Tournament (in Calgary) — and have been so inundated with commercials featuring him, we want to find faults.

DP: That’s precisely my point. The NHL adopted Crosby as its poster child even before he played a game in the league. People were force-fed Crosby as the face of the league, which insinuated he is the best player in the league. If we want to debate the public relations side of things, there’s no question Crosby is numero uno. He’s a fantastic ambassador for the league, just as Gretzky was. He’s got a vanilla personality, knows how to deal with the media and rarely says anything controversial. He’s just what the league wants as its public persona. But that doesn’t make him the best player.

RS: Yet, he’s delivered as promised. He’s not only done an amazing job in the PR department but been the great player as advertised. The NHL failed him by putting so much on him and Ovechkin.Why not market others like Iginla, Zach Parise, Henrik Zetterberg (he has to have a personality somewhere) so people don’t turn off Crosby out of spite and appreciate how tremendous a talent he is.

DP: That’s one thing Crosby understands — his obligations to promote the game. And you’re right, the NHL has made it a heck of a lot tougher for Crosby to focus on what’s important. He spends so much time promoting the game, he has no energy left to promote his game. Eventually, Crosby will reach the top of the mountain but, for now, he’s at a plateau well below the peak. Ovechkin is king of the hill, Randy. You can’t convince me otherwise.


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