After last spring, when Sidney Crosby limped down the stretch with just 1 goal in 13 playoff games, a lot of attention was paid to a wrist injury suffered in late March. It was revealed in July that Crosby would have wrist surgery, but he instead took a course of rehab and avoided going under the knife.
He had two goals in 10 games down the stretch last season. He had one goal in 13 games in the playoffs. He later admitted the injury affected his shot and limited his faceoffs. "Yeah," he said in September, "it didn’t feel good."
He didn’t have surgery and said he was happy to avoid it. He entered the season saying he was pain-free, and the wrist certainly didn’t seem like an issue early. He had seven goals in his first eight games.
But now he has four goals in his past 29 games. He’s averaging fewer shots per game (2.97) than he did over his career before this season (3.37). He’s averaging fewer faceoffs per game (20.86) than he did last season (23.58).
It’s enough to make you wonder if the wrist is an issue again, at least a little bit. But for the record, when asked Wednesday night if he was still happy he didn’t have wrist surgery, he said: "Oh, yeah."
Dejan touched on the Crosby wrist injury a little too in his piece this morning and outright dismissed any issues:
The wrist, again, is fine. Anyone who saw the zip on that wrister he clanged off the pipe behind Tuukka Rask in that game can attest to that. No rumblings at all to this effect.
However, a look at Crosby's faceoffs over the years shows that something might be up.
Crosby maintained a pretty good faceoff % in the playoffs - even if during power plays he wasn't good - but he wasn't relied upon as much as previous years. I included that data just to show that even when he had a wrist injury, he was still pretty capable in the faceoff dot.
The only season where he's close to current performance was 2011-12- the year Crosby came back in November from his 11 month concussion layoff, only to be knocked out of the lineup for a few more months soon after. That's not encouraging for now, because Crosby has been a 54-55% guy every year except his most fragmented, disjointed one.
That has to be troubling and is a piece of circumstantial evidence that Crosby- who has only scored 4 goals in the last 29- isn't quite right. Crosby is still driving possession and generating chances, which is a good thing - but let's remember he also drove a lot of possession and generated chances last spring in the playoffs. The issue, that nagging, concerning, frustrating issue is that he isn't finishing them, for whatever reason.
Of course, this could all blow over and end in a big way. Crosby is a creature of repetition and thrives in familiar situations, avoiding change wherever necessary. This year has been different with Pascal Dupuis out long-term and Chris Kunitz missing time with a broken foot. Newcomer David Perron might add skill and youth to Crosby's line, but it will obviously take some time.
To illustrate just how much the Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis line might be affecting Sidney Crosby's scoring slump, I put together the following from stats.hockeyanalysis, with the most common linemate for Sid in parenthesis and the total time the linemate spent while Sid played 5v5:
|Season||% with Kunitz||% with Dupuis|
|2010-11||74.1% (1)||61.5% (2)|
|2011-12||41.2% (2)||45.9 (1)%|
|2013||82.1% (1)||70.7% (2)|
|2013-14||80.0% (1)||32.9%* (2)|
|2014-15||55.8% (1)||7.0%** (8)|
Other than the concussion-disjointed 2011-12 season, Crosby has basically been pinned at the hip with Dupuis and especially Kunitz. Aside from this season, with Kunitz dropping off the Crosby line due to injury, and now recently the addition of Perron.
What does it all mean? Hopefully Crosby gets more comfortable with his new linemates, and begins becoming more productive like his old self. Getting the power play going will be a surefire way to boost the points and goals too.
The lingering concern on faceoffs still festers, though. Hopefully Crosby isn't dealing with any nagging injury (wrist related or not) and is able to get back on the right track.