Sidney Crosby and the quest to catch Mario

With the first weekend of August fast approaching, it’s of course time for Sidney Crosby. It’s the time of year that Sid and Nathan MacKinnon are busy with their promotional shots (he hasn’t said yet if Crosby enthusiastically celebrates his bud achievement) and it’s also his birthday.

Dating back to 2014 and 2017 and possibly beyond, Crosby’s chase for Mario Lemieux’s total of 1,723 points has always captivated me. Both stars’ careers have had so many ups and downs and unfortunate derailments that you never know what could have happened to either of them.

Crosby’s 1118 current NHL games have long overtaken the Lemieux 915’s career. No matter how many times you see it or realize you understand the statistic, it still gets annoying every time to see Mario Lemieux’s career add up to just over 11 full seasons in its entirety. This was his injury, illness, and other limiting circumstances.

In that sense, these two run different races. Lemieux’s skill, strength and productivity in the ’80s and early ’90s wide open against goalkeepers who looked like your little brother will always be second to none. I mean Mario scored 690 goals in 915 games, numbers that mean nothing to the modern mind.

Anyway, it seems more than ever (wood ways) that Crosby will shut down and eventually overtake Lemieux’s professional leagues as well. I made a chart, with the player’s age and total points at the bottom. With ease, they both have off-season birthdays, which makes it easy to keep track of each season.

Crosby’s career started a year early by age, but by the end of each season’s 22-year-old, Mario had slightly advanced on aggregate points (516-506). If you really sharpen that blue streak, Lemieux’s angle from age 21 to 23 is pretty scary, it’s almost vertical with the average number of points he was collecting in this time period. And so, in the blink of an eye in four seasons, Lemieux almost doubled it up to 1,014 points and Crosby’s career ran into trouble.

By the end of each season from the age of 27, Lemieux had scored 321 more points than Crosby at the same stage of his career (1,174-853). Even at the end of age 31, the gap was 278 in Mario’s favor (1,494-1,216).

However, this was the turning point, as Lemieux retired from 1997-2000, remaining at the age of 31-34 seasons. Perhaps those idle years (along with his 29-year-old in 1994-1995, in which Lemieux missed the entire campaign) is the only reason Crosby will one day take first place in the franchise book.

To put things into perspective, Mario Lemio was 35 years old when in December 2000 he returned to the ice. Sidney Crosby turns 35 on Sunday. This is a distortion of my mind, isn’t it?

At this point, during both stars’ 34 age seasons, Crosby had a total of 1,409 points. Lemieux was at this point in his career at 1494, which gave him an additional 85 points over the current captain.

From now on, Lemieux only scored 229 points during the rest of his NHL career, giving him a total of just 313 points for Sid to go on until Mario hooked.

Lemieux continues to have an impressive season aged 35 in half a year (scoring 76 points in 43 games) and was one of the league’s best players at age 37 with 91 points in 67 games (good enough for a second) points/match in the entire league that season ).

Reading the above makes one hopeful about the closing days of Evgeny Malkin (who celebrated his 36th birthday last week) and Crosby. Lemieux was still a dominant player until the age of 37, then a buildup of thigh and back injuries deprived him of the ability to curl around the ice into a shell of his former self.

For Crosby specifically, this should be good news and also a potential path to follow. If Crosby is skiing the Lemieux trails, he has to be one of the league’s top offensive players of the season and two more. Coincidentally or not, that also aligns with the time remaining in his contract.

Crosby has given tentative signals, especially with the re-signs of Malkin and Chris Letang, that he is likely to play hockey for longer than his current contract. It will be the next decade for Crosby who is 38 and up and it will also be when he is on his way to passing Lemieux as the all-time points scorer with the Penguins.

More than ever, it looks like Crosby is getting there and slowly but surely catching up with the staggering historical points tally that Lemieux has amassed so quickly.

Today’s totals:

points
Better: 1,723
Crosby: 1409

Objectives
Lemio: 690
Crosby: 517

helps
Lemio: 1033
Crosby: 892

Does Crosby have 173 more goals in him to catch Lemieux? This is the only record Penguin has at this point under the tight control of number 66. Crosby had to play six more seasons and averages 29 goals each year to pass Lemieux. A big ask at this point, though, has been averaging that number lately (31 last season in just 69 games).

The assist mark will be the first to fall, with Mario currently sitting at 141 above Crosby. In a good or normal, non-pandemic year, Crosby would collect 50-60 assistants per season, and it’s not hard to see this Lemieux major fall to Crosby in three seasons.

The point score is good in Crosby’s eyes at this point, if he is able and continues to score the games needed to get there. At 314 points to overtake Mario, Crosby will “only” have to average 63 points over the next five seasons to outperform Lemieux in points. If Crosby played for another six seasons as he suggested casually and somewhat informally, it would be so much more that he would be Penguin’s all-time leading scorer.

Many thought Lemieux’s franchise scoring record would never go down, and he’s ranked eighth overall in the NHL scoring, after all. It just shows how crazy and special Crosby’s career has been, especially after overcoming all the adversity that robbed him of so many matches and points in his prime.

However, if Crosby plays in the other six seasons, and if he can average 65 points a year to go in his career, that puts him on a path to get 1,800 points in his career. That would narrowly pass Ron Francis (1798) and get Sid to fifth place in NHL scoring of all time behind Gretzky, Jagr, Messier and Howe.

Crosby’s playing career is closer to the end than to the beginning when he saw 35 candles on his cake this weekend, but over the next few years he will likely continue to set up his legacy as one of the small handful of greatest players of any generation. I have seen sports.

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