The city of Pittsburgh has been blessed by having some of the best players in the modern NHL. Players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, James Neal and Paul Martin have all played a large portion, or their entire career, with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve had more than their fair share of stars within the last decade, but there’s still a debate that rages on.
Crosby and Malkin are two of the top centers in the entire NHL and there are few who would challenge that, but who’s more important to the franchise?
There have always been two crowds of people, one side supports Crosby and the other, Malkin. From a business standpoint, there isn’t a more important player in the league than Crosby. He’s the face of the Penguins franchise and has been a symbol for the league, but he’s struggled in recent seasons. Malkin has always been a reserved person, especially when he was still learning to speak English.
There’s also the value of a connection between team owner Mario Lemieux and Crosby. When he entered the league, Lemiuex opened up his home to the young and rising star. He guided him throughout his early career and was a major reason why Crosby developed such a strong work ethic.
It’s safe to say, as an asset to a franchise, Crosby is far more important than Malkin is. But, is that all that counts, as hockey players are mainly judged on their performance on the ice?
Who’s the better player Crosby or Malkin? Statistics overwhelmingly favor Crosby and this is no surprise. Crosby has produced over three points per sixty minutes played five times in his career, while Malkin has only accomplished that feat once.
During 2011-12, Malkin scored 3.3 points per sixty played, which is .7 above his career average of 2.6. Malkin is, and always has been, at his best when Crosby isn’t in the lineup or is in a slump. He finds another gear and is willing and capable of carrying the Penguins. Take a look at the current season, Pittsburgh has been struggling to score, but not Malkin. He leads the Penguins with 22 points in 23 games. But over the last six games he’s found a different level, scoring 10 points in that span.
Here’s a look at one of his recent goals during the Penguins 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Takeaway. Spin-o-rama. Backhand. Bar Down. https://t.co/zFTl5N6f8i
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 29, 2015
On the other hand, Crosby only has 15 points in 23 games, is a minus -10 skater and has six points in the last six games played.
Crosby’s game has changed over the last few seasons. He’s less willing to shoot, less willing to plant himself in front of the net and has become almost exclusively a playmaker rather than a goal scorer. Malkin has always played a balanced game and while he is a streaky player, his overall numbers have been extremely consistent. He’s finished only one of his ten NHL seasons with less than a point-per-game and this is why he will continue to be successful.
We took to Twitter to see what Penguins fans thought about their two superstar centers and here are the results.
Which #Pens player has more talent? Not dealing with consistency, but pure talent.
— Michael Pityk (@MPityk) November 29, 2015
When you look at these two players based on talent, there’s almost no comparison. Malkin is the more talented player, but when he’s frustrated or injured, that talent rarely shows. He’s a player who can take over the league when he wants to, but sometimes falls into Crosby’s shadow. However, that shadow is diminishing rapidly and there are some who wonder if he will ever regain his 100 point form.
Crosby is not the most talented player in the league, but he compensates with his incredible hard work, both on and off the ice. His vision, speed through the neutral zone and stick work are the some of the best in the league and this is why Crosby is faltering this season.
The NHL is trending away from scoring and players like Crosby are paying the price. There has been much less power play time and that means less ice-time for players who excel by seeing the ice. However, this decline in scoring and lack of power plays has not affected players like Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn and Malkin. All of them use their talent and creativity to score, in addition to their work ethic.
Until the NHL reverses its current trend, players that have an enormous amount of talent (Malkin) will continue to thrive. The Penguins are lucky to have both Crosby and Malkin on the same team, but the combination of concussions, a lack of power play time and other various factors have caused Crosby to be a much less effective player. Malkin might not be a more consistent player, but right now he’s the most valuable forward that the Penguins have.