A message for all you Crosby-haters:
Call him soft, call him a whiner, even call him a baby, just as long as you call him a champion! He is the youngest captain to ever hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, and led his team to a clinching game on the road in all four series.
Sure, he scored only one goal and two assists in the Finals, but that does not make him a choker. That one goal was more than Tomas Holmstrom, Jiri Hudler, and Pavel Datsyuk combined for in the last two series, and they have seven rings between them.
And throughout this year's playoffs, no one scored more goals. Only teammate (and Conn Smythe winner) Evgeni Malkin had more assists and points than Sid the Kid.
And he did it all as the most-scrutinized player in the game. No one is more revered and reviled at the same time. He is blamed for being the face of the league by more than just Flyers fans.
Opposing coach Mike Babcock said that after seeing all the video of Sid in the 2008 Finals, "I thought they'd won it". Bleacher Report NHL Community Leader Ken Armer who suggested he would rather have a guy the same age who scored 15 fewer points than Sid's worst season (2007-08) when he missed almost 30 games.
While parity is what makes a league strong—witness the NFL, where there has been only one repeat champion in the last ten years—dynasties are what people remember. I still think about all the NBA Championship Series between the Celts (say that with a hard "C" like it's supposed to be!!!) and Lakers, or the MLB World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers when I was growing up.
The 2009 Stanley Cup Finals may have featured two more dynasties, as the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in a rematch of last year's finals. It was a clear vision of the past and future.
Detroit came in not only as the defending champions, but winners of four of the last 12 Cups. Considering that only one in 30 NHL seasons (one team in a 30-team league) result in a title, the Wings were an impressive ten times the normal success rate (one in every three).
What's more, they were able to continue that success rate after the lockout, when the salary cap was supposed to level the playing field, winning exactly one of the three Cups awarded in that span. By winning more games in both the last 12 years and post-lockout, they clearly had earned the moniker "dynasty."
Pittsburgh looks to be next.
Sure, the Penguins have only one Stanley Cup and it is premature to elevate them to dynasty status. But with three straight playoff appearances and two straight Eastern Conference Championships to go with that Cup, they are a team that has already arrived, and no team has a brighter future.
Pittsburgh has four stars under 25 locked up for the next four seasons, including two of the biggest stars in the game. Those players assure them a solid netminder and someone to centre three lines, and it is deep teams that show they can play on the biggest stage that are the hardest to beat.
Have we seen the torch pass in a way we had not since Wayne Gretzky's Oilers ripped the Cup from the New York Islanders and never gave it back? The Cup called Edmonton home for five of the next seven years, a feat not accomplished in a U.S. sport since the 1960's when the Packers and Celts did it.
Will we see the Next One accomplish what the Great One did? Only time will tell, but I am willing to bet that he will still have his detractors if he does.