Penguins Predictions: How consistent is Sidney Crosby?
Editor’s note: Beat writer Jonathan Bombulie will make a series of Penguins predictions leading up to the start of training camp Sept. 14.
Sidney Crosby has recorded between 84 and 89 points in each of the past four seasons. Will his point total stay in the same range this season?
Ever since returning from the concussion problems that plagued him at the early part of this decade, Crosby has been stunningly consistent. Over the past four seasons, he has played between 75-82 games and recorded between 237-255 shots on goal. There’s no reason to think it will change this season. He’s 31, but studies have shown forwards usually score within 90 percent of their peak through age 32, and that elite scorers often stave off age-related decline into their late 30s. Crosby sometimes takes some good-natured abuse for how superstitious he is and how committed he is to routine. If the end result is scoring at a point-per-game pace for years and years, players should be lining up to stickhandle inside the McDonald’s logo before every game.
B. No. It will go down.
For one thing, even putting the concussion history aside, a player isn’t likely to average 79 games played per season well into his second decade in the league. Injuries are an inevitable part of the game. Second, Crosby’s numbers last season were propped up a bit by an outstanding Penguins power play. He had 29 assists with the man-advantage, his most since 2008-09. If the power play’s success rate slips just a bit from its 26-percent pinnacle, so will Crosby’s point total.
C. No. It will go up.
The show Crosby and Jake Guentzel put on in last season’s playoffs was something to behold. If their success indicates a lasting chemistry, not a one-time hot streak, Crosby will have his most simpatico linemate since the heyday of Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Also, Crosby’s shooting percentage was 11.7 last year. His career average is 14.5. His goal total of 29 could bump up a bit. Maybe not all the way up to 44 like two years ago, but definitely into the 30s.
As Crosby has matured, everything about his game – from his mental preparation to his work ethic in practice – has grown more consistent. He’s in a sweet spot, and it would be foolish to predict a deviation from the standard he’s set the last four seasons. The crux of the question, however, isn’t really related to Crosby’s actions. It’s related to Father Time. When will Crosby experience an age-related drop in production and thus, when will the Penguins’ championship window begin to close? Looking at some recent historical comparisons – all-time great players with a points-per-game average in the neighborhood of Crosby’s 1.29 – the window should stay open for at least another couple of years. Players such as Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg began to slow down around 32 or 33. Steve Yzerman didn’t really decline significantly until he hit 37 or so. Crosby is still a ways away from a tipping point.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.