Two of the best players in the game face off with something to prove in 2013.
The puck has finally dropped, and the offseason speculation has given way to on-ice production.
But one question that never seems to go away surrounds two of the best players in the league—Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby.
Will 2013 be the season that Stamkos passes Crosby as the best in the league?
The first few days of the 2013 NHL season started off with a bang thanks to outstanding ratings for the contests between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. ProHockeyTalk.com reports that opening-day ratings were the highest since 2002.
That means all eyes were on the superstars of the NHL, who have no time to waste if they are going to lead their team to the playoffs. The 48-game season means every slump, point and shift will be magnified.
No one will face more scrutiny than a now-healthy Crosby and Stamkos, the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
There is little proof to dispute that, when healthy, the Penguins captain is one of the best players in the league. His absence from the spotlight allowed other plays to steal the show.
Rarely does the casual observer consider sunny Tampa, Florida to be a center of the hockey world, but a 60-goal season from Stammer—one of just 20 players in NHL history to reach the mark— has brought attention to the tropics.
No one wanted the lockout to end more than No. 91, as it only slowed his momentum after his milestone season.
Meanwhile, Crosby—though he didn’t want the extended break either—benefited from the additional time off. He is healthy and ready to take back the spotlight from Stamkos.
The best hockey players in the world are back and aiming to stake their claim to greatness.
There is no one more lovable—or hateable—than Crosby, but his talent cannot be debated.
In four of his first five seasons, No. 87 recorded more than 100 points per season. Meanwhile, Stamkos hasn’t broken the 100-point mark in any of his first four campaigns.
Is the best player in the league really even an argument? Of course it is. Just ask Flyers fans about Crosby or Washington Capitals fans about Stamkos.
To be the “best” is subjectively objective. You can’t be the best without production. But, even if you aren’t the top producer, you can still be considered the best.
Consider Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and the widely accepted notion that he has the best hands in the league. Few could argue against that fact despite him not being a top-five producer.
Crosby and Stamkos jockey for the title of the best in the league, and the numbers don’t lie.
Crosby supporters have to look no further than the 100-point seasons and his Stanley Cup ring. Even if he didn’t return to form—though it appears he has—all he had to do was be healthy and average.
Crosby has already cemented himself as one of the greatest to ever play the game, and it has taken him just over seven seasons to do so.
Stamkos supporters have their valid arguments as well. While Crosby has only scored 50 goals in a campaign once, Stammer has already hit the mark twice in four years.
The 22-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning star is on the verge of becoming the best player in the NHL today, but it all comes down to how far he takes the Bolts this year.
Why this season? Because Crosby is back in his usual form.
Even if both players have just average seasons, Stamkos would steal the spotlight and the title if the Lightning outperform the Penguins. If they each finish with 60 points this season, it would all come down to the team.
Will 2013 be the season that Stamkos overtakes Crosby as the best player in the league? We have less than 47 games left to find out.
Who is the best player in the NHL?
One thing is for sure—there will be plenty of highlights to support both sides of the argument.