Vikes, More Vikes!

Peter Griffith

(Brent Schwert)

Recently I was reading an article about how good the Phoenix Suns are (which, by the way, is undeniably true: the Suns are the real deal) and why they are so good – as of this writing they’ve won 26 of their last 28. The article dealt with the fact that Phoenix was winning without a superduperstar, although Steve Nash would clearly be the best player on the court in most NBA games this season. It mentioned that the sports world is currently in an era in which there are very few such superduperstars – guys who are without question the greatest players in their sport. In fact, since Michael Jordan retired for the second time in 1998 and Wayne Gretzky retired (for the only time) in 1999, none of the four major U.S. sports have had such a player, and only golf (Tiger) and tennis (Federer) are in superduperstar ages.
Now you can argue all you want about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols, Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, or Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson, but the fact is all are legitimate arguments. This got me to thinking: Who is currently playing that has the most potential to become the next Jordan/Gretzky/Ryan/Elway? For my money, I’ll take Sydney Crosby of the Pittsburg Penguins.
Crosby came into the NHL two years ago with LeBron-esque hype and was referred to as “Next One,” a play on Gretzky’s “Great One” nickname. In his rookie season he set the Penguins franchise record for points in a season (102) and was the youngest player ever to make the NHL all-star game.
This year, he’s off to an incredible start. Only 41 games into the season he already has a league-best 68 points. That includes a league-best (which I will hence forth refer to as LB to avoid redundancy) 45 assists and is finding the back of the net on over 20 percent of the shots he gets on goal. He received a LB 825,783 votes for this year’s all-star game, nearly 200,000 more than the next highest vote getter. Oh yeah, and he’s 19.
Crosby brings more to the table than just his numbers. He’s as quick as Gretzky and is possibly as smart, but can effectively play more of the ice than Gretzky could. He’s a bit bigger than the Great One and is developing as a goal scorer and team leader in a much more physical and skilled NHL than Gretzky ever saw. And he’s 19 years old.
The truth is Sydney Crosby is better than his hype. Barring an injury he could challenge Gretzky’s single-season points record of 215, a stat often considered as untouchable as Lou Gehrig’s hit streak. But that won’t be for a few years. After all, he’s only 19.