Starkey: Crosby led Penguins down drain
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Don't let that little front-office earthquake distract you from the primary reason the Penguins are not participating in the Eastern Conference final.
The primary reason is Sidney Crosby, whose leadership never has been more in question.
If you didn't know better, you'd be looking for blood on Crosby's hands in the wake of Ray Shero's beheading and the pending demise of Dan Bylsma. You'd think he tried to orchestrate the palace coup.
Set aside, for a moment, Crosby's paltry playoff numbers. This is bigger than that. It's about the way he comported himself.
It's about the mysteriously early exits from power plays, the drifting to the bench in the middle of shifts, the uncharacteristic snapping at the coach and the perpetually blank look on his face.
If we find out he was badly injured, different story. But there is no evidence of that. The evidence suggests Crosby was unhappy and wanted the world to know it.
There are some who can't help but make excuses for Crosby. Sid's Sycophants. They have pitted him against Evgeni Malkin since the latter arrived, always favoring Sid.
You know what you'll get every night from Sid, they'd say. But Geno? Geno's too unpredictable. Geno at his worst evokes the shadowy side of Jaromir Jagr.
Yeah, that's it: Sid is Mario; Geno is Jagr.
Well, who looked like the moody, easily frustrated, coach-killer version of Jagr in these playoffs? And who looked more like Lemieux, laying it on the line in Game 7 and putting up a conference-leading point total through two series?
Imagine if Crosby were leading the conference in scoring and Malkin had one goal in his past 18 playoff games. Do you think the Sycophants would be finding excuses for Malkin?
More likely they'd be hanging him in effigy in Market Square.
One thing we never heard from Crosby during these playoffs was an unprompted, unqualified statement of personal responsibility.
A leader's first commandment is to personally and publicly accept blame even when he is not at fault but especially when he is. It tends to play well in locker rooms.
But in the midst of his hideous playoff, Crosby never said anything like this: “Put it on me. I'm the captain. I'm not getting it done.”
Instead, the best he could muster after his wretched Game 2 against Columbus was, “We've got to be better.”
On locker clean-out day, a defensive Crosby said, “Obviously, I would have liked to score more and contribute more. But it wasn't from a lack of effort.”
OK. But when I watched Game 7, I couldn't help but notice that Malkin practically poured his soul onto the ice while Crosby often skirted the perimeter.
Did it look to you like Crosby brought every ounce of his hockey being to Game 7?
The captain also said, “I'd love to tear it up every series, but it doesn't always happen.”
Nobody's demanding that Crosby “tear it up every series.” How about just showing up as a leader of men?
The Sycophants' excuses never end. They'll tell you the Penguins have wasted the past four years of Crosby's career.
That's a lie. The Penguins had Cup-capable rosters in 2010, '12 and '13 and were certainly as good as the Rangers or Canadiens this year. If their best player hadn't failed them, they'd be playing another flawed team in the Canadiens right now.
The weak-wingers complaint needs to die, too. The Penguins offered Marian Hossa $50 million and a guaranteed spot next to Crosby for the prime of his career. Hossa couldn't get out of town fast enough. They brought in Jarome Iginla. Crosby preferred Pascal Dupuis.
The line of Crosby, Dupuis and Chris Kunitz was highly productive. Crosby enjoyed playing with them. So the Penguins shelled out $26.5 million to keep both.
Yeah, poor Sid.
In these playoffs, Bylsma often had Kunitz and Malkin on the top line. That's not a bad set of wingers. True, Brian Gibbons played there, too, and while he's far from an ideal choice, it's worth noting that he had twice as many goals in 54 seconds as Crosby has in his past 18 playoff games.
Crosby had one power-play shot in the entire Rangers series (a weak perimeter wrister in Game 6). How is that possible? He has one third-period goal in his past 41 playoff games (the one that made it 6-2 in a blowout of Ottawa last season).
Feel free to hide your eyes before we look at how Crosby has fared in his past four season-ending games” Montreal Game 7 in 2010, Philly Game 6 in '12, Boston Game 4 in '13 and Rangers Game 7.
In those four games, the Penguins' best player totaled zero goals, zero assists and a minus-6 (still checking on his Corsi rating).
So go ahead and be distracted by the ongoing palace coup at 1001 Fifth Ave. It's pretty riveting stuff.
Just know that the Penguins should still be playing.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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