The biggest news story in Penguin-land during these dog days of summer is Sidney Crosby's recent 21st birthday.
Oftentimes the success that Sid "The Kid" has enjoyed thus far in his professional career has overshadowed the fact that, in hockey terms, he still hasn't hit his prime.
Had Crosby been a "normal" person, he would likely be buying textbooks in preparation for another year of college this August. He might be compiling resumes or searching for job opportunities to pursue upon receiving his college degree. He might even hit the bar with his buddies to celebrate his coming-of-age, at least by American standards.
Instead, Crosby is poised to enter his second full season as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the NHL's hottest young teams. He is ready to once again take on any challengers in pursuit of another Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player. He is ready to lead the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Finals, with hopes of a different, more favorable outcome.
Crosby turned 21 this past Thursday, and now seems like as good of a time as ever to look back on just what "The Kid" has accomplished during his three-year tenure in the NHL.
As a rising star in the Canadian junior hockey leagues, Crosby's career points-per-game average of 2.51 was second in national history, falling behind only the 2.81 points-per-game average posted by Sid's eventual landlord, Mario Lemieux.
Crosby took the NHL by storm after being drafted first overall in 2005 by the Penguins. He hasn't looked back yet, and he shows no plans of slowing down.
Before his 21st birthday, Crosby's list of accomplishments include:
- Becoming the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season.
- Breaking Lemieux's team rookie scoring record with 102 points.
- Becoming the youngest player to ever lead the World Championships in scoring.
- Winning the Art Ross, Hart, and Lester B. Pearson trophies, and being named a First-Team All-Star in 2006-07, at the age of 19.
- Becoming the youngest player to ever win the Art Ross and Lester B. Pearson Trophies.
- Becoming the second-youngest player to ever win the Hart Trophy.
- Becoming the youngest player to ever start in an All-Star game since fan balloting began in 1986.
- Becoming the youngest team captain in NHL history.
- Leading his team to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
- Leading his team to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 16 years.
Though Crosby's list of accomplishments is something to be marveled by hockey fans around the world, he described the Penguins' loss in the Finals as "the greatest disappointment" of his young career, exceeding the ankle injury that sidelined him for a quarter of last season, and basically eliminated him from winning his second consecutive MVP.
The most amazing thing about Crosby is that, despite all the awards, records, money, and sponsorship deals, he is still not satisfied.
His mild-mannered nature in front of the press off of the ice, and his ferocious gamesmanship on the ice, combine to make Crosby one of the most passionate, recognizable, and successful young athletes in any major sport today.
He remains steadfastly focused on winning a championship, stating that "I thought I was motivated before. It's definitely more now. Being that close and not being able to do it-- it's just hard."
More famous, wealthy, and successful in his profession than most 21-year olds will ever be in their lifetime, Crosby has only just begun a career that should end in his name becoming synonymous with such legends as Lemieux, Gretzky, Orr, Roy, Howe, and Richard.
At 21 years old, Crosby's talents seem limitless. He has already become, along with Alexander Ovechkin, the face of the new NHL. He has proven himself worthy to be labeled as the best player in the world. He has enjoyed more success in his first three NHL seasons than many players enjoy in an entire career.
So, what will "The Kid" do for an encore? Only time will tell.
Source: Happy 21st, Sid
Posted in full at Experiencing the Evolution