One of these days the NHL might have to consider creating a new award for Sidney Crosby. Something like Most Valuable Asset would probably do because right now it looks like the Player thing won't be enough to fully recognize the impact of the young superstar.
|Lidstrom continues to anchor Detroit's defense. (Getty Images)|
But in the post-lockout world Crosby's value to the Penguins franchise as a player might actually take a back seat to his importance to the NHL. Crosby played a critical role in saving the team from moving by exciting fans enough to push local politicians into a franchise-saving arena deal last year. He is also telegenic and humbly admirable, the closest thing the league has had to an icon in the U.S. since Gretzky and Mario Lemieux left the scene.
In the digital media age being embraced so fervently by the league these days, Crosby has clearly become the focal point for the NHL's short- and long-term marketing plans, and the primary face the NHL uses as it tries to attract a new generation of fans necessary for growth.
Crosby has already transcended the sport with appearances on Jay Leno and award shows, and he has become a ubiquitous product endorser in Canada, not to mention the creator of a clothing line. His profile in the U.S. is not quite as high, although it is starting to grow. It doesn't hurt that he is on a great young team, one that has the potential to develop quickly into a dynasty.
Crosby is the biggest reason for that and an easy choice for us as the league's top player. Here's the rest of the list. Let the arguments begin.
1. Sidney Crosby, C: How many pro athletes do you know who actually managed to exceed the kind of hype Crosby has had for years right off the bat? The scary thing is that he just turned 20.
2. Alexander Ovechkin, LW: He "slumped" last season with 46 goals and 92 points when opponents always keyed on his one-man show. This season, there will be supporting talent in Washington.
3. Vincent Lecavalier, C: Lecavalier took his already-great game up another notch last season, standing out the way he did a decade ago as the first overall draft pick.
4. Nicklas Lidstrom, D: He keeps getting better with age, a good thing since Lidstrom is 37. But with five Norris Trophies in the last six seasons, he is the glue that has kept Detroit an elite team through its era change.
5. Jarome Iginla, RW: He is the quintessential power forward in the game today, playing the game with equal parts finesse and brute force.
6. Chris Pronger, D: If you're not going to have Scott Niedermayer, having Pronger anchor your defense is the next best thing. He's big, mean and a force at both ends of the ice, and always a Norris contender.
7. Joe Thornton, C: All the tools are there, and so is the fine regular-season resume, but Thornton needs to cure his A-Rod syndrome and come through in the playoffs for his greatness to be fully recognized.