Originally posted on Bleed Black & Gold  |  Last updated 12/1/11

Since Penguins captain Sidney Crosby returned from his 10 month absence due to concussion related symptoms, he has taken the NHL by storm, again.  After just 5 games Crosby has 11 points (2G, 9A) and a +6 rating as he lead the Penguins to a 3-1-1 record.  It’s almost like he he never missed a game, let alone 60.  He’s averaging over 2 points per game, and his vision and puck possession are just as good now as they were while he was running away with the scoring race last year.   But Crosby is always going to put up numbers.  That’s just what good players do.  What’s more important than Crosby being on the score sheet though is the other aspects of the game he brings to the rink every day.  It’s the little things that really set him apart from the rest of the league and they are precisely what makes Sidney Crosby so good.

When I refer to the “little things” it’s a pretty lengthy/random kind of list but there are certain intangibles that you look for in a hockey player to determine their worth.  Different requirements, whether it be an enforcer, sniper, lockdown defenseman, etc. require a different set of intangibles.  For instance just look at your 4 center positions.  You want

a your 4th line center to be a tough, gritty, grind it out kind of player who gives max effort all the time and isn’t afraid to do some dirty work.  Well, Crosby has that.  A third line center, you want to be versatile and reasonably consistent on  both ends of the ice.  Crosby is that too.  The second line center is generally good on the attack and provides the team with a viable scoring option.  Sid definitely is that.  And your top line center is a game changer and a leader and anyone that has seen Crosby play knows he is most certainly that.

But what does that really mean?  Well, it means that Sid has the innate ability to play on any line, with any players and make them better.  Just look at what a few of his teammates have done while playing with Sid the last 5 games.  Whether it be even strength or on the PP or whatever, when players are on the ice with Crosby, their game is elevated.  Pascal Dupuis 3G, 3A, +5.  Malkin 4G, 5A,+3 and excelled on the PP and those are just a couple of the players that have benefited.  Pretty much everyone on that bench has been affected in a positive way as a result of the return, whether it be by directly playing with him or just from a motivation standpoint.  Top to bottom, he really does make a difference.

It doesn’t stop there though.  Sure his greatest asset is the ability to raise the level of play of his teamates but he also is bringing much more to the table than that.  Just look at his faceoff percentages.  Just a couple of years ago he was only winning maybe 40% of his draws but last year and this year since his return that average is almost up to 60%.  Why is that? Because he has spent countless hours improving his weaknesses.  He knows that winning draws has become more important with the recent rule changes.  That holds especially true after penalties.  Any time you have a chance to win an offensive zone draw, its important to take it because those can quickly turn into scoring chances.  Crosby understands this far too well which is why he has put in the extra time to try to be the best.

With that kind of work ethic, it makes you kind of wonder why so many casual hockey fans hate Crosby.  Sure, true hockey fans may not be pro-Crosby but they at least respect him as one of the world’s best, but most casual hometown fans (especially in the East) really don’t like him.  It’s probably for the same reasons that people hate the Patriots or the Yankess, but it still has to be a little frustrating for Crosby.  He never shows it though, and that’s also part of being a leader.  He was the youngest captain ever in the NHL when he f

irst wore the C on his sweater just before his 20th birthday, and it wasn’t because of his talent.  The C is worn by a leader.  Somebody that leads by example.  Someone that sets the standards and then fights to exceed them.  Even though Sid was 19 years old and only had a year of experience, his teamates and coaches could see those leadership qualities in him and to this day it has remained probably his most recognizable skill.

Consider some of the things he has done to show leadership.  Just recently against Ottawa, after his goalie was getting banged up, Crosby, fresh off his year long fight with concussion symptoms, showed his team he would stick up for his teamates with out any fear of injury.  Was it necessary for Crosby himself to do it?  Probably not.  In fact it was probably a bad idea given the aftermath, but I can guarantee you that his teamates respect what he did and he inspired them as well.  Any time you see a skill player in the NHL, they often shy away from physical confrontation, but Crosby isn’t affraid to play with that little extra edge.  He isn’t affraid to drop his gloves or trade some blows after the whistle in front of that net, and that inspires people.  It’s leading by example.

Anyone can see that Crosby is one of the more skilled players in the world, let alone the NHL, but it’s not just natural ability that sets him apart from the rest of the NHL’s stars.  What makes Sidney Crosby so good is that ability to make his teamates better, that drive to compete and improve every day, and perhaps above all else, his leadership.  Sid “The Kid” Crosby came in to this league at 18 and was a star from the get go, but after watching his evolution over the last half decade, it’s plain to see that he may be a once in a generation type of talent, but it’s those little things; those intangibles, that really set him apart from the competetion.

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