2016: Another year that saw Sidney Crosby rule the sport of hockey
Statistically speaking, 2016 was not the most dominant calendar year in Sidney Crosby's storied career.
There was 2010, in which Crosby scored the "golden goal" for Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics and amassed an astounding 60 goals and 126 points in 80 regular season games. There was also 2009 when the Pittsburgh Penguins captain posted 41 goals and 101 points in 80 games, before tallying another 15 goals and 31 points in the playoffs en route to his first Stanley Cup.
In fact, on a points per-game basis (regular season only), 2016 wasn't even in Crosby's top-five:
2006: 1.51 (37 goals, 118 points in 78 games)
2013: 1.48 (37, 114 in 77)
2007: 1.37 (35, 114 in 83)
2008: 1.35 (23, 70 in 52)
The year was remarkable no less for Crosby, who has accumulated 60 goals and 125 points across 103 games (entering Tuesday's play) spanning the regular season and playoffs as well as the recently revived World Cup of Hockey.
At every point Crosby was just another a notch or two better than the rest, his place atop the sport cemented once more.
Crosby was actually lost in the waning months of 2015.
He got off to the worst start of his NHL career, point-less in the first five games of the regular season and held without a point in eight of the first nine. Never before had the Cole Harbour, N.S., native had so few points (five) in the season's first month. Even the puck possession numbers looked askew.
For one of those rare times in his hockey life, Crosby was struggling to make a difference and unable to find answers.
"You'd go through times where it wouldn't go in and that's one thing, but I hadn't really gone through something where you weren't really feeling like you had much of an impact on the game," said Crosby in late March.
By late November he was back and come the start of 2016, he was blowing past all comers.
He led the league with 27 goals and 58 points in 44 games from Jan. 1 until the end of the regular season, his 45 even-strength points nine up on the next closest challenger.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Crosby didn't stop when the playoffs began.
He scored a goal and set up two others in Game 1 against the New York Rangers, adding five more points (for eight total) in a clinical first round win. Quieter, at least in terms of tangible production against the Capitals in the second round â€” underlying numbers remained strong â€” Crosby surged again in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa.
Set up nicely in the slot by Bryan Rust, Crosby scored the overtime winner from one knee in Game 2, following that up with two more game-winning goals in Games 3 and 6. Even-strength shot attempts were 117-85 for Pittsburgh when he was on the ice against the Lightning (58 per cent possession); scoring chances one-sided at 50-33.
In the Stanley Cup final San Jose's Crosby containment tool, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, actually managed to hold his own, but the Penguins captain still made a huge dent on the series. He set up goals in Games 1 and 2, the latter a perfectly executed design of Conor Sheary's game-winner.
If not finding the scoreboard, Crosby was still a wrecking ball in a Game 5 loss (shot attempts were 25-8) and then in Game 6 he set up Letang's go-ahead goal and game-winner as well as well as Patric Hornqvist's empty-net Cup clincher.
Pittsburgh had an incredible 67 per cent of even-strength scoring chances when Crosby was on the ice in the final, also winning the possession battle handily.
Crosby drew his second Stanley Cup for those efforts and first Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
Crosby once again asserted himself as better than the rest at the (near) best-on-best of the World Cup.
Team Canada's captain led the tourney with three goals and 10 points in six games, the engine of a mostly unstoppable top line that also included Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. He was rightly named tournament MVP. Perhaps most memorable though was the reverence he instilled from even the top players in the sport.
"He really is the best player in the world," Logan Couture said at the time. "It's fun just to be able to watch him every day."
A concussion forced Crosby to start his season almost two weeks late. It didn't matter. He scored in each of his first three games, four of the first five, and 11 of the first 17. The 29-year-old raced to 20 goals faster than he ever had before, needing just 22 games to do so.
Crosby entered Tuesday's game against New Jersey with 38 points in 29 games, including an NHL-leading 24 goals which had him on pace to break the career-high 51 goals he managed in 2009-10. All this despite the late start. He tops the league with a bullet in regular season goals (51) and points (96) since Jan. 1.
"He might be at the highest level he's ever been," Mike Babcock, the head coach of the Maple Leafs and Team Canada, said recently.
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press