Apparently Pittsburgh Penguin's center Evgeni Malkin is "more committed to hockey than ever before." At least that's what the Penguin's strength and conditioning coach, Mike Kadar, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in this article, entitled "Malkin more committed than ever." My reaction to that is, I sure as hell hope so!
Malkin, at times, can be the best player in the NHL. He's won a scoring title, the Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe trophy, all by the age of 23. Malkin has the size, talent and athleticism to be the best player in the NHL.
Now, I don't think he is. I think Sidney Crosby, his teammate, is by far the most complete player in the league, but Malkin is not far behind. After the 2008-2009 season, the year that Malkin won the Art Ross and Conn Smythe trophy, a lot of people suggested that Malkin was a better player than Crosby.
However, the last two seasons he's been, well, disappointing. Injuries withholding, Malkin has not lived up to expectations even when he's been healthy the last two years.
Last year Malkin had just 37 points in 43 games played. That's unacceptable for a player of his caliber and salary. Malkin should be a player that produces a little over a point per game. So if he plays 75 games, I'll expect at least 85 points.
Malkin gets paid like he's Crosby. I mean, right now Steven Stamkos is making a million dollars less than Geno, and his numbers the last two years blow Malkin's away.
Despite Crosby's injuries, he's continued to make strives when healthy. Crosby was crushing the competition before he was shutdown last year with a concussion.
Unlike Malkin, Crosby doesn't seem to go in as drastic droughts. Malkin often disappears in games and glides too much on the ice. Crosby, on the other hand, works for his points and the puck.
When Malkin turns it on he's often the best player on the ice, but most nights he takes way too long on shifts and often plays lethargic hockey. Unlike Malkin, Crosby works on his weaknesses, like face-offs for example.
I hear a lot of people defending Malkin, saying that people like myself are too hard on him. I say that my frustration with Geno is warranted, because his talent and skill set are not matching his effort and production. I also say it's warranted because Malkin makes the same amount of money as Crosby and doesn't give the Penguins the same production.
Right now Crosby's health is up in the air for the 2011-2012 season, as some believe he's still suffering from concussion symptoms. Some will expect Malkin to step up in Crosby's absence.
I expect Malkin to step up and play better, whether Crosby is healthy or not. Malkin is one of the highest paid players in the league and needs to play like it.
This article also appears on the very popular Pittsburgh blog 412sportstalk
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