Crosby versus Ovechkin: who’s better, 10 years later?

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)

It will be 10 years this week since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin debuted in the NHL. The 2004-05 lockout produced the happy accident of two No. 1 overall picks commencing their careers simultaneously and, fair or not, they were destined for constant comparison. It didn’t matter that they played different positions, Crosby center and Ovechkin left wing. They were the most exciting young forces in a league desperate for new flag bearers, and they’ve delivered on that hype time and again.

Who’s better? The pendulum seems to swing back and forth year to year:

It’s Ovechkin, the big, fast, energetic man-child who helps Russia to world junior gold and goes first overall in the 2004 draft.

No, it’s Crosby, the generational talent who torches major junior like no player since Eric Lindros and goes first overall in 2005.

No, it’s ‘Ovie,’ the 2005-06 Calder Trophy winner. He outscores Crosby with 52 goals, many of them with jaw-dropping beauty.

No, damn it, it’s ‘Sid the Kid.’ He explodes for 120 points as a 19-year-old sophomore to win the Art Ross and Hart Trophies in 2006-07. Youngest MVP in league history. Youngest scoring champion in major professional sports history.

Come on. It’s Ovechkin. Sid sits out with a bum ankle for a large chunk of 2007-08 while ‘Alexander the GR8’ becomes the first player to score 65 goals in 12 years. He wins two straight MVPs.

Crosby’s turn. The pair face off in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal between Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals. Both stars notch hat tricks in Game 2. The best player torch passes back to Crosby, whose Penguins play for the Stanley Cup for the second straight year and this time take it home. He’s the youngest captain in league history to hoist the chalice. A year later? Golden goal in overtime at the Vancouver Games to crown Canada Olympic champion.

Then it’s Ovechkin again, by default. His game slips under coach Dale Hunter, but at least Ovechkin is on the ice. Crosby misses bushels of games with concussion woes. He plays just 63 times from 2010-11 to 2011-12. His career is in jeopardy. Ovechkin scores 32 goals in an abbreviated 48-game season, and 2012-13 yields his third MVP.

Surprise: it’s Crosby again. He’s back healthy. He wins the 2013-14 scoring crown by 17 points. Another MVP. Ovechkin answers in 2014-15 with his second straight 50-goal campaign and fifth Rocket Richard Trophy.

And on it goes.

After a decade of constantly mentioning them in the same breath, where does the debate rest? Does one finally have an edge over the other? And is the answer still relevant as they approach the end of their primes?

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Re-drafting the entire NHL. Who goes in the top 10?

Ryan Kennedy
Steven Stamkos & Carey Price (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

If the Chicago Blackhawks proved anything last season, it’s that a workhorse defenseman like Duncan Keith can cover up a lack of depth – all the way to a title.

Keith is a franchise player, and it’s funny to think the Hawks drafted him in the second round. He’d go much higher if we re-drafted the entire league right now, but how high? After all, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and if we’re looking toward the future, younger bucks must come into play.

Here are the top-10 picks for a completely new NHL. Players must have skated in 2014-15 to be eligible. Read more

Top 10 women’s players from last season

Jared Clinton
Brianna Decker (Harry How/Getty Images)

The entire landscape of women’s hockey changed this off-season with the creation of the NWHL and now the women’s game is growing in North America — at least on a professional level — at a pace that has never been seen before.

With new opportunities and more competition for jobs in the women’s pro game, there might now be a struggle between the CWHL and NWHL to keep top-tier talent. Consider this: of the top-three women’s players on our list, all three played in the CWHL in 2014-15. This upcoming season, however, the top two have jumped ship to play in the NWHL.

Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight signed contracts with the NWHL’s Boston Pride after suiting up in 2014-15 for the CWHL’s Boston Blades.

Decker and Knight are, without a doubt, the two premier players in the women’s game right now and have immediately become the faces of the NWHL. They’ll make the Pride top contenders for the first NWHL championship, too. Read more

The Metropolit Brothers: one pro hockey player, one convicted felon

Glen Metropolit (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s a sunny summer morning in Toronto and Glen Metropolit is back home. Well, not exactly. Home is actually a little west of the Starbucks where he’s sitting. To be in an upscale coffee shop at all has to be considered a triumph for him. That’s because Glen grew up in a neighborhood called Regent Park, which was one of the most notorious and densely populated projects in Canada.

Constructed in the late 1940s, it was established to narrow the divide between the poor and the well off. The social experiment ended in disaster. Just a stone’s throw from the financial district where billions of dollars flow every day, Regent Park was once described by a local newspaper this way: “Living here is like getting kicked in the teeth.” The area has been gentrified in recent years and now includes mixed income housing, but back in the day it epitomized the dead end street for the disenfranchised. Glen’s 83-year-old grandmother still lives in Regent Park, but when he comes back to visit in the summer he couch surfs at the homes and apartments of his old friends in the area. He’s used to that, since he moved about 50 times when he was a kid, by his estimation, including foster homes.

Glen’s cellphone rings as he sips his coffee. It’s his younger half-brother, Troy Metropolit. As the two make plans, Glen says his brother’s name at the end of every sentence. “So, what time are you free, Troy?” “Should I pick you up at your girlfriend’s place, Troy?” The name sounds foreign coming from his mouth, given Glen just saw his brother in June for the first time in 16 years, when he was 25 and Troy 22.

“I can’t believe I can just pick up the phone and talk to him whenever I want to,” he says. Read more

How hockey cards led to the NHL players strike 25 years ago

Sal Barry
Fans look at hockey cards. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

It is hard to imagine a time when people would line up outside a store to buy new hockey cards, especially to those who have never been collectors. It’s also hard to fathom something seemingly as trivial as trading cards would become one of the main factors in a players’ strike.

Hockey cards hit the big-time by 1990, evolving from fun collectible keepsake to valuable investment commodity. In 1982, Dale Weselowski, owner of Ab D. Cards in Calgary, sold Wayne Gretzky’s 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee rookie cards for $1.50 each. By 1990, he was getting $500.

“Everybody and his dog started collecting hockey cards,” Weselowski said. “When Upper Deck hockey cards first came out in 1990, we had people lined up outside our door, waiting for our store to open.” Read more

Speed kills, and that’s why Phil Kessel is now with the Penguins

The Hockey News
Phil Kessel (Head: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images; Kessel; Body: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Shelly Anderson

Given his scholarly demeanor, Mike Johnston didn’t get caught up in the shock wave of Pittsburgh’s big off-season trade. That doesn’t mean the Penguins coach was unmoved by the acquisition of sniper Phil Kessel from Toronto.

While some had stars – or maybe question marks – in their eyes, Johnston had goals on the brain. Pittsburgh acquired a world-class winger to play with one of its star centers, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Not a prospect with unlimited potential, not an aging star hoping to catch fire once more, but an established finisher with five 30-goal seasons still in his prime at 27, two months younger than Crosby.

“That was a need we had as a team,” Johnston said. “I just know his speed, his shot. His speed, whether it’s off the rush, in the offensive zone or on the power play, all three of those he has an ability to help us. Today’s game is all about speed.” Read more

Top 10 No. 1-2 Draft Duos of all-time. Where will McDavid & Eichel finish?

Ken Campbell
Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

As it turns out, we may have to alter the definition of the term “generational player.” It used to be that generational players came around only once in, well, a generation. But two in the same draft year? We’re getting a little spoiled here, aren’t we?

In the history of the NHL draft, which started modestly 52 years ago, only once have the No. 1 and No. 2 picks had careers that ended with induction into the Hall of Fame. That was in 1971 when Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne embarked on their NHL careers with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. We’re not about to suggest the Hall of Fame start working on plaques for Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel just yet, but the possibilities are tempting.

McDavid has been carrying the burden of future NHL stardom since his early teenage years. Eichel closed the gap going into this season when it came to the race for No. 1 overall, but as the season went on, McDavid widened it. By the time the Edmonton Oilers picked first overall in the draft, it was a fait accompli. Read more