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Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: Turns out, Sidney Crosby does have 'something to prove'

| Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 6:45 a.m.
Sidney Crosby recently suggested that he still has 'something to prove' this coming season. While odd to hear from a Hall of Famer, there's some truth there.
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Sidney Crosby recently suggested that he still has 'something to prove' this coming season. While odd to hear from a Hall of Famer, there's some truth there.

Ten days ago, when Sidney Crosby was taking a few pre-training camp skates to get in shape for the upcoming season, he met with the local media.

"You've still got something to prove when you come into the next year," Crosby said.

As our Jonathan Bombulie suggested , that's equal parts hilarious and utterly predictable.

The notion that Crosby still has something to prove makes me laugh. The fact he believes he does is woven into his DNA. Crosby saying he has something left to prove on the ice is like Jimmy Page saying he has something left to prove on the guitar.

If Crosby had been swallowed alive by a megalodon while fishing off the coast of Nova Scotia this summer, his legacy as a Hall of Famer and the second best player in team history is firmly entrenched.

In the grand scheme of things, the only thing Crosby needs to prove is that he can find his way to Yonge Street in Toronto for his induction.

But in the present, Crosby is right. There are some things he can prove to make the Pittsburgh Penguins better in 2018-19.

They were pretty good last year, but not good enough to beat the Capitals — something they normally do. Crosby can help prove they can do so again.

It was Crosby who blamed himself for failing to secure that pass from Kris Letang that led to the eventual series-winning goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Also, even though he hung with Kuznetsov and Alexander Ovechkin in the points department during the series (he and Kuznetsov had six, Ovechkin had seven), those two were more impactful than Crosby was in the six-game slugfest.

Crosby can also prove that he can maintain his goal-scoring touch for a full season.

The 2017-18 campaign was the first year in which he failed to crack the 30-goal plateau in a season when he played at least 80 games. His shooting percentage of 11.7 was a low-water mark aside from the 2011-12 season, when he came back from his concussion. The captain's power-play goal total of nine was the first time he failed to crack double-digits in that category for a full year since 2009.

Perhaps most importantly is that Crosby can prove he can make it easier on his coaches to form lines. He must show he can consistently and effectively play with a right wing of Mike Sullivan's choosing so that the rest of the lines can be stacked accordingly.

In other words, help make Daniel Sprong the scoring right winger he is envisioned to be. Or if you are given Patric Hornqvist, make it work at even strength the way it does on the power play. Or if you really are requesting Dominik Simon, pay that off and make him the next Conor Sheary.

Or let Sullivan give you another try with Phil Kess…

OK, I'm not going to get crazy.

The more continuity Crosby allows on his line, the more it helps everyone else. Phil Kessel could stay with Evgeni Malkin, Derick Brassard can either get the grit and net-front presence of Hornqvist, or the skilled shot of Sprong.

But instead of spinning the roulette wheel of whoever is going to play on Crosby's line with him and Jake Guentzel, maybe Crosby can quickly validate whatever decision is made for his line, and let the dominoes fall elsewhere.

Those who insist Crosby is always beyond reproach and never to be questioned will bristle at these suggestions. They shouldn't. Part of the reason we all shower Crosby with praise incessantly is that he always finds an aspect of his game that he feels needs work in the offseason and addresses it.

For 2018, maybe these are some of the things he tried to perfect.

From a career standpoint, Crosby doesn't need to prove anything to anybody. Although, Crosby may need to reconfirm these aspects of his game to prove that the Penguins are good enough to win a fourth Stanley Cup with him as captain in June of 2019.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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