Saturday, December 16, 2006


Get out your posterboard and pink markers, Sidney Crosby is coming to town.

There are rumors that he wants to play for Montreal, the potential accuracy of which have been extensively cataloged over at Eyes on the Prize , and which seemed to have gained some traction. This is an idea which is capable of producing a momentary wave of misty-eyed anticipation in even the most cynical Habs fan. Even I am apt to be seduced by it, although the possibility remains many years off. Part of the appeal is the simple equation that to possess Sidney Crosby is to win more often than one strictly speaking deserves to. Another part of it is the selfish desire to be able to see that dark-chocolate-and-razor-blades game of his 82 times a year. And part of it is a sense of justice, the elitist feeling that such a being is wasted in Pittsburgh, as he would be virtually anywhere in the United States, and that only we would adore him as he deserves to be adored.

But the more I consider it, after that first instant of thinking he’d definitely look better in red, the more I think I’d be happier to see him stay where he is. I’m concerned about the costs, not only financial, incurred in the acquisition of The Venerable Sidney. I don’t want my team to be a one-man show, even if it is The Sidney Crosby Show. This is, in part, because my team happens to be a team which has a strong and distinctive identity of its own. The Montreal Canadiens, as a concept, should always be about more than any individual player, no matter how extraordinary, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that a lot of (all though by no means all) Montreal fans would be insulted to see the Canadiens referred to firstly by an individual player. The Penguins are never, ever just called the Penguins these days- the headlines are always ‘Sidney Crosby and the Penguins’, as if the rest of the team were his backup singers. The Habs, no matter who is playing, no matter how bad a year they’re having, should never be reduced to the status of sidekicks to a single talent.

My other problem is that I really love the collaborative nature of hockey play, the idea that the best team is that which becomes greater than the sum of its parts, that it is a creature unto itself, built both of the skills of individuals and the elusive, delicate counterbalancing of those skills against each other. There is a tendency for teams with star players to be characterized by bizarre imbalances- one or two phenomenal lines supplemented by others who barely even manage to take up space, dazzling offense supported by threadbare, colorless defense, players who have no function other than the service of the Hero. It’s as if great players distort the Tao of Hockey, as if the quantity of skill on a team was a zero-sum game, only so much energy to go around.

Moreover, as much as I hate to say it, because he is so fascinating to watch, but winning with Sidney Crosby somehow feels cheaper than winning with a bunch of ordinary mortal players. Do you play video games? Well, if you do, you know that in a survival-horror type game, like a Resident Evil or a Silent Hill, once you’ve beaten the game for the first time under particular conditions, you often get some sort of bonus prize weapon for your second play-through. This is generally something like a grenade launcher or machine gun with unlimited ammo, such that you can pretty much blast your way through the game in maybe 2 hours, whereas the first time with normal weapons takes 10 or 15. Now, it can be hella fun to blast zombies for 2 hours, absolutely, but somehow, it’s never quite as fulfilling as that first play-through, where you were constantly scrounging for enough ammunition and getting killed by the same boss over and over again and periodically running for the nearest save point like a little girl and hiding behind furniture and having to find a way to decapitate the demon-nurses with a letter opener and never knowing when you were going to get sucked into the Evil World where everything is made of rusty chain-link fence.

Sidney Crosby is hockey’s version of the magic grenade launcher with unlimited ammo.

But ahbabi can beat this thing with the letter opener.


Reality Check said...

E - Thanks for the tag! I've been having lots of fun with the Crosby Habs notion to the annoyance of some Pens fans.

While I can be accused of beating it like a dead horse, I must say I will only believe it, if and when it happens. In five and half years, a whole bunch of things can change, such as allegiances, the CBA, etc.

As for your theory of the Canadiens becoming perceived as all Crosby if it does happen, I mildly disagree.

One one hand, when past superstars Richard, Beliveau, and Lafleur dominated, the Habs, due to an enormous talent depth, were never perceived as one-man-shows.

However, this day and age, with media exploding into new and unknown spheres, it is quite possible that your take becomes the general opinion of the masses.

Who knows?

Fun dreaming, though, Isn't it?

Julian said...

If Sidney Crosby becomes available to your team, you want him.

You may be attached to your current team, the current group, but few if any of those players will still be around in six years, and the players who replaced them may be alot crappier.

You do have a bit of a point, Oilers fans from the dynasty years say the 1990 Cup win is generally considered the sweetest because they showed they could do it without Gretzky.
But I don't think any of them were happy to see the trade go down two years earlier.

The only reason I'd worry about Crosby in Montreal is because of the media and city attention, that it'd distract him from his game, that people wouldn't leave him alone.

An aside : I think we'll know Crosby has truly reached the immortal level when people begin to bar his selection in hockey pools in order to keep everything else fair. I'd bet it happens after his win the art ross by fifty points in 2007-08.

Reality Check said...

It's all fun and speculation for now.

The Canadiens roster will surely evolve, but they are stacked with lots of great prospects and younsters for years to come.

As I see it, they'll only be better come 2012.

E said...


i don't think i'm convinced. i mean, sure, if someone left TVS on our doorstep, wrapped in a blanket with a note pinned to it saying "please give this hockey player a good home", then yeah, why not take him?

but generally speaking, you never get something for nothing, and to acquire something of significant value one usually has to offer quite a bit in exchange. for a team without much going for it, this doesn't matter- do whatever you have to in order to get the big talent. but i think that, all other things being equal, better to have three very good players who can play different roles than one great player. this is what i was trying to get at with the balance thing- given the salary cap, i don't know if it's possible to have both TVS (post-UFA) and significant depth on your roster at the same time, unless you've found a lot of generous guys willing to play for less than they could get on the open market.

as to whether montreal would crush his soul, i suppose it is possible, though my guess is that TVS isn't likely to get badly thrown by media scrutiny.


you're right, it's a fun thing to speculate about, and it's also pretty silly. 5 years from now TVS will likely be a very different player, in a very different league... still, it remains kind of fascinating as an abstract queston- what is the worth of the best player in the nhl, and what would be worth doing to get him?

Reality Check said...

Anytime you speculate on the future, it does tend to get silly.

I took this trivial bit on Crosby to another level simply because of the Crosby background and tie-ins.

In regards to the Habs getting him, I don't think it would ever come down to a trade. The July 1, 2012 date is his first day of UFA status.

It would all play itself out (or not) then.

I've had fun with it because the Penguins organization is the most underserving and futile fanchise in history.

In the last twenty years they've won a pair of Cup and had likely the games three most phenomonal talents (Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby) in their rink, yet stability remains elusive to them.

What bingling incompetance!

Die Pens, damn flightless birds!

Julian said...

better to have three very good players who can play different roles than one great player.

See, I agree with this, for the most part. I also think it's very important with the salary cap.

That said, in six years, Crosby will be more than a great player. He'll be at the level where he makes everyone around him on the team better. He'll improve his linemates points totals (the Rob Brown effect). He'll play against the other team's best players and destroy them. He'll be such a force that he'll certainly be worth 20% of your cap space. You may indeed have to skimp elsewhere, it's true, but Crosby will make up for that, he'll improve the players you skimped on.

It's true, you probably can't have significan depth unless you have a bevy of young players on their entry level contracts who are making a huge impact, along with some other astute moves. But Crosby... he'll make up for a hell of alot of depth issues elsewhere.

It depends on alot, it really does. For the Habs right now, supposing SC were a UFA this summer, adding him might not make that much sense really. But who knows what stage they'll be at in seven or eight or nine years.

Erik said...

Late to the party maybe, but:

It depends on alot, it really does. For the Habs right now, supposing SC were a UFA this summer, adding him might not make that much sense really. But who knows what stage they'll be at in seven or eight or nine years.

You're clearly a number of lines short of a team. If Crosby were to be a free agent this year, or indeed any other year, the concept of a team looking at him and deciding "Nope. We don't want him." is laughable. LAUGHABLE.

That is all.