Starkey: Wait, Sid doesn’t need a winger?
The sacred document arrived early Tuesday morning. I had never seen anything like it. Shane Endicott appeared within its pages. So did Nils Ekman.
Bob Grove, who deserves some kind of honorary doctorate for his amazing work as an unofficial Penguins historian, created the document based on a silly question I’d asked the day before:
“Grover, do you happen to have a list of every single linemate Sid has ever played with?”
Grover didn’t. But he went into his laboratory and soon emerged with one. The topic seemed pertinent, with the Penguins having gone to great lengths to finally “get Sid a winger” only to see the Phil Kessel experiment last seven disappointing games.
I’m sure it’s the coach’s fault that Sid-Phil failed, but at some point don’t you have to throw up your arms (don’t hurt yourself, Beau) and accept the fact that maybe Sidney Crosby wasn’t meant to play beside a sniper? Or a high-pedigreed winger of any sort?
Ziggy Palffy quit. Marian Hossa left. Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal needed to play center. Jarome Iginla never even made it onto Sid’s line. And Kessel lasted seven games (this was before the Penguins went to Washington on Wednesday).
So how about we all agree to an imaginary entente that goes something like this:
“We will never again utter the words, ‘Sid needs a winger,’ no matter how desperate we are for a talk-radio topic. Ever. Ever ever ever. Ever.
— signed, All of Mankind.”
I’ve heard it said that Sid is the world’s greatest grinder. It’s true. And it’s a compliment. He is a straight-line guy with the legs of a sprinter and the hands of a jeweler. His best line had Chris Kunitz, back when he was alive, on the left, and Pascal Dupuis on the right. That’s pretty much all you need to know — and I’ll bet those three are reunited someday soon.
Anyway, back to Grover’s document, which is not for the faint of heart. According to it, Sid has played with 53 linemates across 10 years and 635 regular-season games.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
The 18-year-old Sid started with a decrepit John LeClair on his left and Mark Recchi on his right. He was soon moved to left wing — good idea, Edzo — on a line with Rico Fata and Palffy, who promptly quit and fled the country (can you blame him?).
It’s a wonder Sid didn’t quit that year, too. He also played right wing on a line with Endicott and Ryan Malone, centered Tomas Surovy and the headless horseman himself, Konstantin Koltsov, and played in some combination with Surovy and either Jani Rita or Michel Ouellet.
He also had two stints on a line centered by some guy named Mario Lemieux.
Sifting through this stuff is like reading a Greek tragedy. I literally wanted to cry, half from sadness, half from laughter. Sid began Year 2 with Ekman and Colby Armstrong and at one point found himself skating with Malkin on his left and Chris Thorburn on his right.
Here are the rest of Sid’s season-opening and season-closing linemates, left to right:
2007-08: Opened with: Jordan Staal, Petr Sykora. Closed with: Max Talbot, Marian Hossa
2008-09: Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan; Kunitz, Bill Guerin.
2009-10: Malkin, Dupuis; Matt Cooke, Fedotenko
2010-11: Kunitz, Dupuis; Staal, Dupuis
2011-12: Kunitz, Dupuis; Kunitz, Malkin
2012-13: Kunitz, Dupuis; Kunitz, James Neal
2013-14: Kunitz, Dupuis; Beau Bennett, Lee Stempniak
2014-15: Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist; Daniel Winnik, Hornqvist
2015-16: Kunitz, Kessel; ?????
I’d be remiss to leave out some other notables, though I’m guessing Sid wishes the Penguins had: Brian Gibbons, Richard Park, Taylor Pyatt, Steve Sullivan, Tanner Glass, Alex Ponikarovsky, Mike Rupp, Chuck Kobasew, Andy Hilbert and Jeff Taffe.
In some ways, it’s a sad story. It’s also a testament to Crosby, who has not only survived to tell about it but also has averaged the fifth-most points per game all time (1.348). You could say the man is amazingly adaptable and maybe, for some, difficult to adapt to.
Just don’t say the Penguins never tried to find him a winger.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at [email protected].