For Sidney Crosby, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups meant much more than joining the Detroit Red Wings on a short list of repeat champions. It also had a bigger meaning than the significance of claiming a second Conn Smythe Trophy. Instead, it was validation for Crosby as one of the greatest players in NHL history.
Even without the titles, Crosby has long earned his place among the game’s greats. Entering the league as the heir apparent to Wayne Gretzky, Sid the Kid has not disappointed. He put up 102 points in his rookie season, and followed that with a career high of 120 points the next year. The eight-time 30 goal scorer has blossomed into the unquestioned top player since entering the league in 2005-06.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the Cole Harbour native though. Multiple concussions kept him off the ice for a total of 106 games between 2010-2012. A lockout cut the following season in half; stalling Crosby’s climb towards the NHL’s all-time points leaders. To make matters worse, the Penguins hadn’t won a Stanley Cup in six seasons despite dominating the Eastern Conference when the 2015-16 campaign rolled around.
For the first time in his storied career, questions arose over Crosby’s long-term prospects. His stats began to dip ever so slightly, and his team couldn’t find its footing in the postseason. Could Crosby’s body hold up through the grind of an NHL season? And most importantly, could he handle the scrutiny of being labeled the next great one?
Crosby answered his critics with a resounding yes midway through last season. His 19 playoff points helped lead his team to its second championship, defeating the San Jose Sharks. Crosby also earned his first Conn Smythe Award as postseason MVP. It was a huge weight off the shoulders of the league's top playmaker.
Number 87 then displayed one of the grittiest performances of his career en route to another championship in 2017. This Penguins’ team battled through injuries all season and were forced to compete for a Cup with a depleted defensive core. Sid took a beating, survived questionable hits, and came out victorious. And once again, a playoff MVP, recording 27 points in 24 playoff contests.
After a few bumps in the road, Crosby is firmly in the discussion of best players to ever lace up the skates. Just a half season from breaking into the league’s top-50 all-time scorers, Crosby currently ranks third in points among active players. The 12th year pro may leave his biggest legacy behind in one of the game’s most important statistics. Crosby is fifth all-time in points per game, trailing only Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Orr. He has amassed a total of 1,027 points, and oh by the way, he’s only 29 years-old.
When Crosby finally calls it a career, his numbers won’t tell the whole story. He could easily retire inside the top ten all-time scorers even after spending the majority of his career in the dead puck era. He only needs one more title to tie Gretzky with four Stanley Cups to his name. Another Conn Smythe Award would tie him with Patrick Roy as the all-time leader. But, his grit and strength to battle through adversity and injuries will forever be his most memorable traits.