In this scoring-deprived era in the NHL, reaching 1,000 points is an impressive milestone. It signifies a player has been at least very productive for a long time. Many times, like with Henrik Sedin last month, it happens when a player is reaching the end of his career. Sometimes, like with Alex Ovechkin last month or Joe Thornton a few years back, a player has a good amount left in the tank upon reaching 1,000 points.
Sidney Crosby has now reached 1,000 points. At age 29. In this era. Having missed more than two seasons’ worth of games to injury. It’s one of the great accomplishments in league history.
Crosby only needed 757 games to reach the plateau. Just about a month ago, I marveled at how fast Ovechkin got to 1,000 points. Crosby got there when he was two years younger having played 123 fewer games. If Ovi’s accomplishment was amazing, I’m not sure what words I have to describe Crosby’s.
It’s impossible to look back on Crosby’s career without thinking of what could have been had injuries not taken such a toll. As of now, he has two Art Ross and two Hart Trophies. He’d certainly have at least five of the former and potentially five of the latter without the slew of injuries.
Crosby had 72 points in 53 games in 2007-08, a season in which he missed two months due to an ankle injury. He was leading the league with an astounding 32 goals and 66 points in only 41 games before suffering his infamous concussion at the Winter Classic in 2011. He had 37 points in just 22 games the following season. He was again leading the league with 56 points in 36 during the lockout season before having his jaw broken by a Brooks Orpik slapshot. He finally played a full season again in 2013-14, leading the league by an astounding 17 points while winning his second Hart and Art Ross Trophies.
Between Crosby’s age-22 and age-26 seasons – the traditional scoring prime – he averaged 117 points per 82 games. Needless to say, that blows away every other player from this era.
We don’t know what Crosby’s point totals could look like if it wasn’t for injuries. It’s entirely possible he could be sitting around 1,200 points by now — in the top-50 of all-time — at age 29 in an era which isn’t known for its offense. But we’ll never know.
What we do know is that Crosby’s career has featured more ups and downs than one would expect from someone with his talent and track record. He was great right away – 100 points in his rookie year, 122 points and a Hart Trophy at age 19, a Stanley Cup appearance at 20, and a title the next year. Eight months later, he scored the Golden Goal to lift Canada to victory in the Olympics. When the NHL season resumed, he finished up his first 50-goal campaign and appeared to be on his way to a 60-goal season the next year.
Then the concussion happened. And it didn’t get better for a long time. He sat almost an entire year and played just 22 games in a 16-month period. But he came back as good as he left.
He was at full-strength upon returning, but the Penguins lost in the first round to the Flyers. The next season, when he missed 12 games due to a broken jaw, the Penguins advanced to the Conference Final, but were swept by the Bruins. And so the narrative grew with losses to the Rangers the following two seasons: Crosby’s lost his touch. He’s not a playoff performer. He “chokes”. This despite him being the active leader in playoff points per game.
Even with the trade for Phil Kessel, things further deteriorated. About 14 months ago at this time, the hockey world wondered whether Crosby and the Penguins were done. But one fired coach, a couple key trades, a furious second-half run, a Cup run, a Conn Smythe and an MVP-level first half later, here we are.
Now, at age 29, Crosby is battling for the league-lead in goals and in points despite missing the first six games of the season thanks to another concussion.
Crosby has withstood injuries, bad management and poorly-thought-out narratives. In his 12th season, he’s still dominant, as productive as anyone in the world.
Unlike most who reach 1,000 points, Crosby’s still as good as he ever was. He’s still here and he will be for a long time. Barring injuries, he should move into the top-75 all-time by the end of the season and top-50 by the end of next year. He has a legitimate chance to be top-10 all time. That’s remarkable given his injuries and the era he’s skating in.
Those qualifiers are important in understanding Crosby. But, if he keeps going at the rate he’s at, they’re the last things anyone will ever think about.