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2019-20 Season in Review: Sidney Crosby

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It was a tough season for the NHL’s best player

NHL: FEB 29 Penguins at Sharks Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Vitals

Player: Sidney Crosby

Born: 8/7/87 (33 years old)

Height: 5’ 11”

Weight: 200 pounds

Birthplace: Cole Harbour, NS, Canada

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Draft: 2005 PIT, 1st Round (1st Overall)

Contract status: Crosby’s contract (at a $8.7 million cap hit) continues through the 2024-25 season, at which point he will be a few months shy of his 38th birthday. Crosby’s cap hit is currently 19th in the league amongst forwards in 2020-21, behind such luminaries as Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2m), Mikko Rantanen ($9.25m) and Mitch Marner ($11m). Crosby is a good value on the books as his contract has aged.

2019-20 Statistics: 41 games played, 16 goals, 31 assists, 47 points

Looking back

Crosby ripped it up in 2018-19, scoring 35G+65A for 100 points in 79 games. It was Sid’s first 100-point season since 2013-14. Accordingly, 72% of Pensburgh voters gave him an A+.

Regular Season History & 2019-20 Season

—It was a tough year for Crosby. Though he has the reputation of missing a lot of games, he hadn’t done so lately before this season. Crosby had played 75+ games for six straight seasons from 2013-14 through 2018-19, but that went out the window with a major core surgery (called a sports hernia — even though it’s not really a “hernia” hernia) in mid-November.

Advanced Stats in the 2019-20 Season

(Ranks are out of the 14 highest TOI forwards this season on the team who played 200 minutes in the regular season at 5v5, per Natural Stat Trick)

Corsi For%: 53.0% (4th)
Goals For%: 50.0% (9th)
xGF%: 51.4% (6th)
Scoring Chance %: 50.4% (9th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 50.6% (6th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 8.4% (6th)
On-ice save%: .904% (12th)

—It was a fairly unspectacular fancy season for Sid too. He wasn’t bad by any metric, but this whole picture was a bit disjointed since the first part of Crosby’s season (Oct-Nov) had no Evgeni Malkin. And then the second part of Crosby’s season (Jan-March) had no Jake Guentzel.

Playoffs

4 games played: 2 goals, 1 assist

—Crosby was solid and productive early in the series against Montreal, but then like the rest of the team quietly bowed out. Sid only had one (secondary) assist in the last two games of Pittsburgh’s season. Perhaps related, he had a somewhat minor wrist surgery to clean up damage in the playoff aftermath.

Monthly Split

via yahoo!

—Crosby was good early, especially since he reportedly was dealing with the discomfort and pain in his core since training camp. By game 2 of the regular season centers Malkin and Nick Bjugstad were knocked out with injury (and Bryan Rust was hurt too), so Crosby tried to gut it out (no pun intended). You can see he ran out of gas in November and eventually had to pull the plug after another aggravation on November 9th against Chicago.

—Sid came back on January 14th, recording a 4 point (1G+3A) game against Minnesota and looking line a lion. Through his first 13 games in his comeback Sid scored 23 points (7G+16A), a 1.77 points/game that put him 3rd in the league in that stretch.

—At that point though, Crosby hit a wall. He only scored one point in the next six games, and only had 4G+3A in the last 11 games of the regular season. For most players, seven points in 11 games isn’t much to bat an eye over. For Crosby, it was a sign he wasn’t able to keep up his usual greatness. Any time Sid only has three assists in an 11 game stretch, that’s unusual and a somewhat important indicator that the game isn’t going good for him, or the Pens (and it wasn’t! The Pens were 3-8-0 down the stretch).

Charts (via HockeyViz)

Overall Role & General Data

The beginning part of Crosby’s season he was joined by Jake Guentzel and Dominik Simon as his wingers. When Sid came back from his long injury. Jake was gone himself. That meant a heavy dose of Simon+ Jared McCann prior to the team adding Jason Zucker in a trade. Zucker played at regular season with Crosby the rest of the way, at first with Simon but then the team attempted to upgrade and bring back Conor Sheary.

Seeing Crosby playing with Simon (a not very skilled scorer) and McCann (a player whose last goal of the season was mid-January) really shows and reminds why the Pens wanted Sheary back, operating with the mindset pre-pandemic that it would help Crosby and the first line out to add a skilled player who once scored 53 points in 61 games not too terribly long ago and did the most of his work with Sid.

The other item that stands out is the very bottom chart. See how the black line is way ahead of the red line? That means Sid was in a big offensive role (ironic since he’s gained Selke hype mainly through media talking him up). But he’s not in a defensive role, and nor should he be. Crosby is an elite offensive weapon. You want him starting in the offensive end as much as possible. The Pens “buzzsaw” line ate up a ton of d-zone draws, and a benefit was freeing Sid up to be tilted more towards offense. That’s smart coaching and a nice little wrinkle.

Even-Strength Unblocked Shot Locations

Crosby gets to the front of the net and shoots. A lot. That’s a smart way to score. What else do you expect from the smartest and most determined hockey player?

A goalie’s nightmare

When you’re an NHL goalie and number 87 is on the ice, I’d imagine it’s like the beginning of a horror movie where the bad guy is sprinting around in the shadows and some creepy music is playing. You know some bad stuff is about to go down, and you’re pretty much just powerless to stop it. The Pens with Crosby on the ice are extremely dangerous and bound to generate shots from in close.

But also, peep out the dark red/brown areas from the point. There’s no better low-to-high passer in the league who involves the point more than Sidney Crosby. Defenders are going to get their chances too with him on the ice, it’s not just shots from the slot and front of the net.

Bottom line

After enjoying the last six seasons of pretty much solid health, 2019-20 was a season to forget for Crosby with two surgeries (core and wrist). He still was a fairly productive player, even if he played all his regular season without some/most of Rust, Malkin and Guentzel as the Pens also endured a horrifically injury-filled season themselves.

Crosby recorded NHL career assist #800 this year, but failed to get to the 1,000 games and 1,300 point marks that he otherwise would have cleared had it not been for unexpected troubles.

That’s unfortunate since without injury, lockout and pandemic a 15 year NHL career would mean a maximum of 1,230 games. Crosby’s sitting on 984, and the captain celebrated his 33rd birthday getting bounced out of the playoffs by the 24th seed in the league. He’s never been older, and other than his rookie season his team has never fared as poorly, leaving a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.

Ideal 2020-21

While fans may lament the price of draft picks and prospects that it has cost, the trade additions of Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen in the past few months is a great thing for Crosby (and his buddy Malkin). Shuffle the deck no matter how you want, with a healthy and productive Guentzel and Rust and the Pens have what looks like their most impressive and balanced top-six group in the 87/71 era. Pittsburgh has seemingly always had problems finding enough “wingerz for Sid”. This year, Patric Hornqvist and Dominik Simon aren’t even in the top-6 picture any longer, though they could add depth and options.

Crosby’s getting older, but speaking of Malkin, the big Russian just had a super fine age-33 season himself, leading the league in P/60 at 5v5 in 2019-20. That would be an ideal situation for Crosby to take a page out of his teammate’s playbook and be healthy and uber-productive next season, in his own age-33 season on a rejuvenated team.

Question to ponder

At age 33, Crosby hasn’t been a legit scoring title contender for 6 years, (even in 2018-19 with 100 points Sid was still 28 points, basically light-years, behind the Art Ross winner Nikita Kucherov).

How much will his core/groin impact his game moving forward? This is a forward built on driving with his legs, bending and pushing forward in unnatural ways. Will he be able to regain all his strength and power? Just how much of a toll his body has taken moving deeper into his 30’s will always be something to monitor and watch.

Grade

Poll

Grade Sidney Crosby’s 2019-20 season

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    A
    (146 votes)
  • 42%
    B+
    (246 votes)
  • 26%
    B-
    (156 votes)
  • 5%
    C
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (6 votes)
585 votes total Vote Now