So what does the Penguins’ owner think about Sidney Crosby? He thinks that he is the best player in the game. That’s what he said a couple of weeks ago. “Sidney Crosby is arguably the best player in the world,” Jim Rutherford, the team’s president and GM, told NHL.com.
That’s a little like saying that Adolf Hitler was arguably the worst person in the world.
This is not to say that there are no good hockey players. There are lots of good hockey players, although in recent years they have mostly been found on other teams. But you know what you’re getting with Sidney Crosby: he’s an all-time great who has won two Stanley Cups and four scoring titles and has led his team to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals twice in three years, and he’s big enough to be intimidating on skates but quick enough to be dangerous at center stage.
“I’m never going to take him out of our lineup,” Rutherford said.”I’d probably put him in any other uniform you want me to wear.”
In 2009, Sidney Crosby was the best player in hockey. He had won the scoring title, he had been named MVP and he was the league’s top vote-getter for the Hart Trophy. At age 23, he was taking it all in stride.
“I’m not really too worried about whether or not there’s going to be a leadership role here,” he shrugged. “I just want to make sure that I’m playing a lot of games and helping my team win.”
Sound familiar? That’s because it is a typical quote from a typical player in today’s NHL: no pressure, no stress, no fuss. And it’s not even remotely true, especially now that the salary cap has been introduced. Crosby is one of the most underpaid players in the NHL (and arguably in any sport).
Now let’s look at how his boss feels about him:
“He has an immense talent but more importantly, he is competitive and driven,” said Penguins owner Mario Lemieux. “As a person, he is one of the most humble stars I have ever met.”
Pretty big difference there between “one of the most humble stars I have ever met” and “one of the most competitive and driven people I have ever met.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins are a team from the NHL. The team is owned by the Mellon family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins play in the Eastern Conference. Sidney Crosby is the captain of the team
The NHL is a team sport, not an individual sport. Hockey teams are like symphony orchestras or basketball teams or football teams. You can’t win on your own, but you can get better if the other guys play worse.
That said, it doesn’t follow from this fact that Sidney Crosby is the best player in the game. Because the best player in the game is usually also playing for the best team in the league, and it’s not clear how much better he’ll be than most of his teammates.
Crosby may be a great player, but he’s not likely to be every other guy on his own team, and he’s unlikely to be all of them.*
This argument leads to a lot of counter-examples: all sorts of players who are almost as good as Crosby are still uncoachable.* It even leads us to think that Sidney Crosby may not be all that good. The problem with counter-examples is that they’re hard to find, and false ones hurt more than true ones do. But when we look at it more closely, we see that they don’t hold up; especially true in hockey, where there are so many variables.*
The Crosby-Montreal rivalry is a great story, but it’s one that people who follow the sport every day have already heard about. It’s time to present a new angle.
The Penguins are the best hockey team in the NHL. Every year, they win the Stanley Cup. They are currently two wins away from their third title in six years, and they have a star player who has won two scoring titles and the Hart Trophy as MVP. The Canadiens don’t have another player like this in their lineup, not since Vincent Damphousse left them. Montreal knows that they need help to win and probably needs to trade for one soon, because Crosby will be leaving them next season and they need to replace him with someone who can do what he does. But no one has any idea how good this team is right now. Not even their own fans.
Trying to guess where Crosby will finish in his career? Making guesses about how many or which players will join him on the Penguins’ roster?
There are only a few things you can do with sports stats that are impossible to guess: who will win an individual award, what team will make it into the playoffs, and where Sidney Crosby will finish in his career.
Crosby is too good for
Sports are a lot like war. You have to win the battle before you can see the larger picture. In sports, there is a big payoff for being right: not only the winning, but also the amplification of your success through all the media that surround it. That’s what makes sports so much more fun than war.
The hockey version of this is Sidney Crosby. He won his first NHL scoring title at the age of 21 and was MVP in his first NHL All-Star Game just three years later, at 22 years old. His goals per game average has been above one every two games since he was 20. He will be 29 on February 5th.
Now, at 22 years old, he is already seven times as valuable as he would have been if he’d played only five seasons of NHL hockey and scored 10 goals per game each time he was in the league. And he’s still improving!
The theory of evolution has shaped our views of human history. The evidence that we have is not sufficient to convince a die-hard creationist, but it does put the idea of an intelligent designer at a much lower level of probability than it once was.
But we may be mistaken about how the world works. In particular, science has recently made a dramatic discovery that could undermine one of its core assumptions—the assumption that most things in nature follow simple rules.
Consider your favorite sport, ice hockey. In general, the best players are those who are fast and agile, who can hit quickly and accurately with their sticks and skate well. In fact, this is generally true for all sports.
But what if there were a league where the rules were such that you had to be big and slow to play well? What if the best players were those who had been trained from childhood to be big and slow? No more could they skate well; there just wasn’t enough room on the ice to move as quickly as they wanted. And no more could they hit hard or shoot accurately; there just wasn’t enough strength in their arms.
If these rules were followed in every sport, then no matter how good you were at ice hockey, you would always be at a