Penguins’ Sidney Crosby refuses to criticize teammates |
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Jonathan Bombulie

By captaining his team to three Stanley Cup championships and putting in 13-plus seasons as the face of the league, Sidney Crosby has earned certain rights and privileges.

One of them, perhaps, is the right to publicly criticize teammates for poor performance should he desire.

But if Penguins fans are expecting to see Crosby to exercise that right, they’d better be prepared to wait a long time.

Like, forever.

No matter the length of the losing streak or the egregiousness of the errors he saw a teammate committing, Crosby said he can’t imagine a circumstance where he would stand in front of a swarm of cameras and microphones and rip him.

“No. None,” Crosby said.

If he has a message he wants to get across to a teammate, he’ll do so in private.

“I don’t think there’s ever really a purpose to that,” Crosby said. “If you have an issue, you deal with it directly with that person. It doesn’t need to go past that. It has happened. Sometimes it’s when guys are heated right after the game when we do interviews. It could happen easily sometimes. But for the most part, if there’s an issue or you want to talk about a play or if you want to be critical of someone, I think it’s better to do it face to face.”

Crosby’s belief stands in contrast to the leadership style employed by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who last month publicly criticized receivers Antonio Brown and James Washington for route-running mishaps in a loss to the Denver Broncos.

Crosby said he wasn’t aware of the specifics of Roethlisberger’s comments, and even if he was, he wouldn’t throw shade at the Steelers captain’s motivational tactics.

Every team is different. Every locker room is different. Heck, every sport is different. In hockey, being outspoken is frowned upon. In football, it’s more accepted.

Crosby just knows that isn’t his style.

“Maybe some teams, that’s how they push each other,” Crosby said. “I just haven’t seen that really happen with our team, and things have gone pretty well. I want to keep it that way.”

If there ever was a season when Crosby would be justified in criticizing teammates, this would probably be it.

As the team has limped to a 12-10-6 start, Crosby is on pace to score 47 goals. Leaving power-play production out of the equation, he’s averaging nearly a point per game at even strength alone: 12 goals and 12 assists in 25 games.

At points in the season when the Penguins have been struggling, Crosby has been their brightest shining light.

Since Nov. 5, the Penguins have lost seven games with Crosby in the lineup. They’ve managed 11 goals in those losses. Crosby scored five, assisted on two others and was on the ice but didn’t hit the scoresheet for two more.

That includes the remarkable Dec. 4 game — also in Denver — when Crosby scored a natural hat trick to pull his team back into a 3-3 tie with the powerful Avalanche only to see it disintegrate into a 6-3 loss by the final buzzer.

If Crosby didn’t publicly criticize teammates after that game, he probably never will.

“There are certain times you discuss something and things can get heated, especially on the bench where it’s more intense,” Crosby said. “Things do happen, and that happens whether you’ve won eight in a row or you’ve lost. Probably more when you’ve lost. But I think that’s part of the game. I think everyone knows how to handle it. You just try to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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