Team Canada names Sidney Crosby captain for Sochi Olympics

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By John Toperzer
@JohnToperzer

Sidney Crosby was named the team captain for Canada’s entry into the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday.

Crosby says he just recently heard the news.

“I found out a couple days ago,” Crosby said after Sunday’s practice. “It’s definitely a huge honor. I think, playing for Team Canada, playing in the Olympics is a great opportunity but being able to be captain is definitely an honor.”

It doesn’t sound as though he’s feeling any added pressure with the title.

“We’ve got lots of good leaders there, lots of experience,” he noted. With a short-term event like that you just want to come together as a team and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Crosby added that he doesn’t believe being named team captain will change how he approaches the winter games.

“I don’t know if you need a boost or extra motivation,” he said. “I don’t think it changes my mindset. As time gets closer to the Olympics we all get excited for it. There are so many leaders, guys leading by example. I don’t think it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot.”

Zdeno Chara recently received permission to leave early for the Olympics as a flag carrier. Crosby would be forced to miss at least one game with the Pens if he left early for Russia. It doesn’t sound as if it’s a likely scenario, however.

“It hasn’t been brought up,” Crosby said. “To be honest, I haven’t given anything thought to it. I don’t think it’s something they did in Vancouver so I doubt they’d be asking this time around.”

The Penguins center doesn’t believe chemistry will be a problem for Team Canada.

“I don’t think that it takes a lot of work,” he said. “I think most guys have played for Team Canada in the past. You might have a different role. The most important thing is that you come together quickly, no matter if you’ve played in three or one (Olympics).”

There have been at least two separate bombings not far from Sochi in recent weeks, but Crosby believes the security should be adequate for the Olympians and their families.

“The way it’s set up, everything takes place,” he noted. “Guys will be together a little bit more together than last time.

“Obviously, everybody watches the news and knows that they’ve been things happening fairly close to there. From what we’ve been told, they’re going to do everything they can to make sure it’s safe and secure. We’re going to play and focus. It’s not something we’re totally worried about, but I think it’s hard not to think about when things are happening close to there.”

A couple reporters tried to get Crosby to bite on a new nickname, but he was having none of it. One reporter asked if “Captain Canada” would be a better name than “Sid the Kid.”

“Ah, I’ll let you guys work with that, I’m not going to get into that,” Crosby said.

It’s clear that Crosby is no longer a kid but a leader willing to accept the challenge of leading a hockey-starved Canada into its quest for a second consecutive Olympic Gold Medal.

Courtesy Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Not only was Olympic captaincy a question with Crosby in 2006, he couldn’t even make the team.

Team Canada director Wayne Gretzky told Penguins owner, Mario Lemieux, Crosby was under consideration for the honor but decided to go in another direction.

To his credit, Crosby accepted the decision diplomatically.

“There are a lot of great hockey players from Canada and I realize that,” Crosby said at the time. “You’re not making an All-Star team, you’re not choosing the guys who are the best scorers or who have the most points or the top 20 point-getters in the NHL, you’re making a team to go and win.

“That includes guys who have to be defensive forwards, guys who have some different roles. Either I didn’t fit that role or I didn’t earn a place to be there.”

Crosby was just a rookie for the Pens when he was left off Team Canada.

“I knew there were a group of guys in the mix for so many spots — I don’t know how many it was, but I think I was right in there,” said Crosby, who had 31 points in 31 games. “It’s special to play in the Olympics and when you’re that close, it’s a little bit tough because you don’t know what’s going to happen when you’re 22 or 26.”

Lemieux, who was still Crosby’s landlord at the time discussed his bright future in the NHL and Olympics.

“He’s young and he’s going to have many opportunities,” Lemieux said. “I know he was disappointed last night, but there are so many good young players now with a little bit more experience. It’s unfortunate, but he’ll be there for the next one.”

For his part, Crosby was already looking past the Olympic break.

“It’s important for me to move on,” Crosby said. “I try to go out and give myself an opportunity to play there and if not, I’m not second-guessing any guy there because they all deserve to be there. It’s tough because I thought I had a chance, but it’s not tough because I think I should replace someone else, it’s not like that at all.”

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Here are some interesting tidbits from TSN’s James Duthie and the book “The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys … and Other Off-the-Wall Stories About Sports and Life.”

No. 1 on the list is that one of Sidney Crosby’s nicknames in the Penguins locker room is “Creature”, which Duthie writes is a nod to Crosby’s “freakish lower body.”

“It is huge,” Duthie writes. “Gigantic. Hugantic. His caboose would make J-Lo jealous. His thighs are bigger than my torso. All his pants have to be custom made. And the scary part is, his upper body is starting to catch up.”

Among other items on Duthie’s top 10 list:

No. 2: Sid can fight. “He came to me last year after I’d shown a couple of the other guys how to defend themselves properly in a fight,” former teammate Georges Laraque told Duthie. “He wanted to learn. I was showing him some stuff and we were going at it, and I couldn’t move him, he’s so strong. He’d be really tough to fight.”

No. 3: Sid is superstitious. “When he eats, Maxime Talbot must sit on his left, Pascal Dupuis on his right.” (Talbot has since gone to the Philadelphia Flyers.)

No. 5: Sid is not a health-food freak. “You must have me mixed up with Robs (Gary Roberts),” Crosby told Duthie with a laugh. “I’m not picky. When I’m hungry, I eat.”

No. 6: Sid understands the media better than Marshall McLuhan. “It’s crazy how smart and savvy he is,” former teammate Hal Gill told Duthie. “Sometimes he’ll say to us, ‘The media is trying to write a certain story, so when they ask you this question, answer it this way.’”

Credit the Montreal Gazette blog for the above Sidney Crosby information.

If the You Tube footage hasn’t been disabled in the above link, take a look at the Crosby interview. A 13-year-old Sidney Crosby wonders what it would be like to play hockey and even get paid for it.

My how times change.

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Treasure Life!
JT

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The Impact Of Hybrid Icing: Faceoffs And Crosby And Wins, Oh My

Much has been made of the institution of hybrid icing into NHL hockey.

It’s thought that the flow of the game is suffering, with faceoffs on the rise. Pittsburgh is a team which benefits heavily from flow. Even on a 5-on-3 power play Friday night, the Pens’ best chance might have come when Sidney Crosby hit an on-rushing Brandon Sutter right in front of the crease.

If, in face, faceoffs become an even more important aspect of hockey, how does that impact Pittsburgh, and in particular, Sidney Crosby?

Through a small four-game sample size, the Penguins have the second-highest faceoff win rate (59.3 percent) behind Minnesota (60.6). Of course, playing three times at Consol Energy Center hasn’t hurt those numbers. Friday night in Florida, Pittsburgh won 37 of 58 draws, good for a 64 percent win rate.

If anything, the Pens have benefited from hybrid icing — at least in the circle. That said, the domination is likely unsustainable.

The Boston Bruins led the NHL in 2012-13 with a 56.4 faceoff win rate, and that was significantly better than second place San Jose (53.4). The Penguins won 51.5 percent of draws, good for seventh in the league.

Breaking down the numbers from a team basis to a player-by-play basis, it’s apparent the Pens rely on Crosby in a big way.

The captain has won 58.6 percent of draws, compiling a 61-43 mark thus far. Moreover, Crosby’s taken 104 of the team’s total of 258 faceoffs (40.3 percent).

In 2013-14, the center is averaging 26 draws per game. Here are his numbers from the last four campaigns.

2013-14: 26.00 faceoffs/game, 58.6 percent win rate, 4 games played

2012-13: 23.16 faceoffs/game, 54.3 percent win rate, 36 games played

2011-12: 20.59 faceoffs/game, 50.1 percent win rate, 22 games played

2010-11: 23.93 faceoffs/game, 55.7 percent win rate, 41 games played

Several questions arise, centered mostly around Crosby.

First, will the increased number of faceoffs impact the rest of his game in any way? So far he’s taking about three additional draws every game. He took 41 faceoffs against Buffalo on Tuesday. Forty-one!

Second, what happens if and when Crosby suffers some sort of injury, be it major or minor? If that happens, the team will have more to worry about than just faceoffs. Still, when one player accounts for more than 40 percent of all faceoffs, then there’d be a gaping hole left in his absence.

Finally, how does hybrid icing play into the faceoff factor? As it stands, there will be more drops in the dot and less action. Folks might be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the 2003 Stanley Cup-winning New Jersey Devils in favor of slowing the game down.

Sidney Crosby has come a long ways since averaging 45.5 percent in the circle as a rookie and 48 percent his first two seasons. Good thing, because it looks like the drops in the dot are becoming more important than ever.

Treasure Life!
JT @JohnToperzer

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