12:10 AM EDT, April 18, 2012
When he first came up, they used to call him "Sid the Kid."
His skills helped him eventually become the face of the NHL, but his childish act began to wear thin for non-Pittsburgh hockey enthusiasts. They began bestowing Sidney Crosby with derogatory nicknames like Cindy Crosby. Cry-baby Crosby. And now, he has been described with an adjective made memorable by former NHL coach and current broadcast analyst Mike Milbury: gutless.
Yes, Crosby is one of the most talented forwards to ever play the game, but he is also one of its biggest cowards. In Game 3 of the best-of-seven opening-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Crosby's cheap shots and poor sportsmanship set off three different sets of fights.
Pittsburgh's Craig Adams and James Neal both got one-game suspensions and Arron Asham received a four-game penalty for their actions in Game 3. Crosby was allowed to skate away without so much as a review or verbal warning from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
Neal took out Flyers rookie Sean Couturier and star Claude Giroux with checks to the head, and Asham wiped out rookie Brayden Schenn with another shot to the head. And still the league protects the concussion-prone Crosby while his teammates openly and dangerously assault opponents.
Hey, we all remember former Buffalo Sabre Matthew Barnaby's antagonizing and instigation, but at least he stood accountable for it about half the time. Crosby starts up trouble with one player and then either hides behind his teammates or starts up with another unsuspecting player like he did on Sunday, first going after Kimmo Timonen, then jumping on the back of Scott Hartnell before a teammate intervened. And for that, the Penguins call him captain.
Two weeks ago, in the penultimate regular-season game between the two teams, Crosby delivered a vicious elbow behind the play to Schenn, who retaliated with a deliberate — yet within reason — use of force with a crosscheck to Crosby's back.
After Pittsburgh was humiliated in Game 3 with an 8-4 loss at the Wells Fargo Center, Crosby sat relatively emotionless in the locker room. Instead of challenging himself and his teammates to improve their play, or decrying the poor play of his goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the lack of production from NHL leading scorer Evgeni Malkin and himself, he whined.
"I don't like them," he said. "... I don't like any guy on their team."
It's the playoffs Sid, maybe you should hire a script writer. One who can do a better job of giving you lines to follow than what coach Dan Bylsma has provided your team, which is on the brink of elimination.
Crosby, the face of the NHL, a player who is protected by the league and game officials because of his propensity for concussions, who has demonstrated on national television that he is allowed to get away with minor penalties, had no strong statements to make after the Stanley Cup-favorite Penguins fell behind the Flyers 3-0 in the series. Two losses at home, humiliation in Philly, and Crosby responds with, "I don't like them."
Gen. George S. Patton he is not.
As a team captain, Crosby will never be mistaken for Mark Messier, who guaranteed a playoff win when the Rangers were facing elimination, and not only delivered that, but in the end, a Stanley Cup championship.
Hartnell, the Flyers' leading goal scorer during the regular season who has yet to score a goal in this high-scoring series, has seen Crosby's cowardly antics before, but it reached an intolerable level in Game 3.
"I think after every scrum," Hartnell said, "we made it a point to walk away every time and I think Crosby started almost every scrum. You know, the fight that he had with [Claude] Giroux, the last one he came and grabbed me from behind, and for almost every thing [that happened], he was out there."
That Crosby didn't earn a fine or suspension is appalling. He was the single biggest instigator in Game 3, and a national television audience on NBC was treated to his gutless actions.
To be fair, calling him a cry baby isn't accurate because he doesn't cry. What he does do mostly is hide; hide behind Adams or Neal or anyone else who will protect him from deserved retribution. Hide behind the referees. Hide behind the NHL powers-that-be.
To call his altercation with Giroux a fight is an insult to guys like Dave Brown and Craig Berube and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren — former Flyers who could scrap with the best of them — and former Pittsburgh brawler and Lansdale native Jay Caufield.
Crosby won't check you in open ice like a Scott Stevens or Eric Lindros in their heyday. He'll give you the Keith "Woody" Acton stick jab, the Barnaby elbow or the sneaky-but-captured-on-video collar pull from behind. Not exactly the kind of behavior you'd expect from a team captain or role model, or the so-called face of the NHL.
Because of Crosby's antagonistic, non-accountable ways, his shenanigans need to be addressed by the NHL.
If the NHL had any real concern for its game, the league should make Crosby accountable via bank account or suspension before the players get sick of seeing the preferential star treatment and finally make him accountable for it on the ice. It's an avoidable situation, but the NHL isn't doing anything to avoid it.
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