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Sid the Kid is Still the Game's Best

The spirit of "Sid the Kid' was back on Thursday night against Colorado.

Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

This week, I just happened to receive a free copy of Sports Illustrated's "Hockey's Greatest" on the top ten players at each position and various other lists. You can read more on my thoughts about the book at the end of this article.

While reading this, it got me thinking... where does Crosby fit among the game's greatest of all-time, where is he currently, and can he do anything to change those rankings.

Life as Sidney Crosby is probably pretty nice considering where you and I sit at the table but once you get tagged with the prodigy label at ten years old (159 goals in 55 games) and excel against kids in their  teens as he grew, it probably wasn't always fun and games for Crosby.

I'm sure some of what we've seen out of Crosby being the robot in conversations, rarely stepping outside the mold of an ambassador representing the game he loves ever so much is because of the pressure to succeed and live up to the lofty expectations as the game's greatest.

Since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux entered the league, plenty of players were labeled as the 'Next One' like Eric Lindros and Alexandre Daigle but it wasn't until Crosby came along that we truly saw the game's greatest on display at such a young age.

It has been ten years since Crosby's draft in 2005 and now scouts want to talk about finding the next Sidney Crosby and just like those elevated to have the torch passed from Gretzky and Lemieux, the same has been done when talking about John Tavares, Nathan MacKinnon, and this year's number one pick Connor McDavid.

Those expectations have forced guys like Daigle to question whether he loved the game and recently, I've wondered if Crosby has any space to himself to just play hockey and enjoy it.

That's life for Crosby and I'm sure he'll tell you that he wouldn't have it any other way but like Lemieux in his disgust years because of the garage league antics of Gary Bettman and those who prop him up as a figurehead to continue the good old boys network, I just wonder if the all too grown up kid has any joy left.

It has to be hard for someone as talented as Crosby to be hamstrung by his own coach. Who puts the kid in the defensive corner to skate 200 feet? I'll never understand why Penguins ownership hasn't stepped in on Crosby's behalf to stop this Kevin Constantine era style of hockey.

This system is so bad, I go back to the great Herb Brooks quote in 2001, "The game I believe in is made-to-order for those guys, so they can express themselves and bring out all their talents".

Brooks was talking about the enigmatic Alex Kovalev and here we are longing to see Crosby unleashed.

In the book, Crosby was ranked as the sixth best center of all-time behind Gretzky, Lemieux, Jean Beliveau, Mark Messier, and Steve Yzerman. A pretty impressive ranking considering he's 28 years old and ahead of greats like Phil Esposito, Stan Mikita, Bryan Trottier, and Howie Morenz.

Much like Lemieux, we've been robbed of Crosby's best because of health issues (concussion).

The guy we see today, he doesn't blaze around the ice with as much vigor but that's not to say he's no longer the best among today's stars. We'll leave that laughable moment for Pittsburgh's radio and print journalists to question whether Crosby is even a top five player."

For as much criticism as I've written about Crosby's refusal to change his style and this season's scoring troubles, one can never question his motives to be a winner.

That drive to be the best might have finally pushed the notoriously superstitious center to change his ways on Thursday night against Colorado. As good friend Nathan MacKinnon was in town for the Avalanche, Crosby surprised everyone at Consol during pre-game warmup as he took to the ice without his helmet.

Scoring a game-winning goal was an added bonus on this night as the kid was back on the ice this night.

You could see a different player in the video and photographs.

He was a different player during the game too.

We might be saying 'about damn time' but remember, this is a kid that has had to play a sport he loves with a label on his back to be among the greatest of all-time.

What we witnessed on Thursday was something special, just a kid wanting to be different.

For our sake, let's hope that spirit continues to live on as he's still today's greatest.

Sports Illustrated's Hockey's Greatest

If you enjoy a good conversation debating the number one players, moments and other topics, then this is a good book to use as reference point in those discussions.

This book features a list for the best center, left wing, right wing, defensemen, goaltender, coach, most entertaining player, game, rivalry, single season team, skater, sniper, clutch performer, and shootout specialist (Yes, Erik Christensen was ranked #9).

There are some great pictures and articles included in the book, which I think would go great in any sports collection, especially us rabid hockey fans.

In full disclosure, I owe a thanks to Adam Rifenberick at Press Box Publicity to have a free copy shipped to me without any requirement to write a review about the book.