After the heart wrenching loss to the Flyers in the opening series of the 2012 NHL playoffs, many short-term questions were asked. What happened to Fleury? Did Asham deserve four games? Can Jordan Staal put an entire year together like he played those six playoff games? Where was the lack of discipline in Game 3?
But thinking long term, is it possible that Crosby and Malkin will ever be separated? Will upper management make a move to try and make room for a player like Staal to see the ice more than he does as a third line center?
These questions are honestly hard to fathom, and the truth is this is something that won't be dealt with for quite a while. At least until next season, when Crosby's $8.7 million contract expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Who is to say however, that if another postseason goes like this one, that Crosby will not get fed up with sharing the spotlight with another Hart Trophy winning all-star and make a move west?
Especially if his injuries continue to build up and another concussion costs him part or most of next season. Will arguably the best player in the world be worth such a hefty contract when he can only play 40ish games a season?
In my mind, Malkin has proven himself as an elite player and is a much larger asset to the Penguins organization then Crosby. You can state that Crosby is the "face of the league," but after his antics in this year's playoffs, one has to ask: Does he really deserve the C?
As a captain, the most important thing to do is to lead by example, and that is something that Crosby failed to do in the first-round series against Philadelphia. Sure his eight points were just one behind Jordan Staal for the team lead, but his attitude and antics proved otherwise.
Who Would You Rather Have Stay in Pittsburgh?
When you watch the film, it is not even a question as to who wanted it more between Crosby and Malkin. Gino fought for every lose puck in the defensive end, and his aggression on the bench toward linemate James Neal in Game 6 showed the intensity and the will to win that he possesses.
Crosby failed to register a point in Games 5 and 6, and in the deciding Game 6, where Crosby led the team in ice time with over 26 minutes, he had a minus-3 rating. If things don't change next year and a weak playoff run happens once again, change should be in order.
Do I think that Crosby and Malkin will ever be separated? Realistically, no. We've seen guys with character take pay cuts in order to stay in one city for their career (Super Mario and Steve Yzerman come to mind). And I don't see Sid or Gino wanting an enormous contract that would boot the other one out of town.
As a Penguins fan however, If this year repeats itself in 2012-13, I am all on board to send Crosby elsewhere and let Malkin lead the team. He earned the chance.
But for now, we have other things to worry about, mainly the contracts of James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Steve Sullivan.
But what do you guys think? If this year repeats itself in 2012-13, do we send either Crosby or Malkin packing? And if so, who?