Comparing Sidney Crosby with other legends at age 27

Matt Larkin
Sidney Crosby

Happy birthday, Sid the Kid.

Hard to believe Sidney Crosby turned 27 Thursday. It feels like we were just watching him light it up with the Rimouski Oceanic and pop the water bottle behind Jose Theodore as an 18-year-old rookie.

Crosby is now squarely in his prime, probably approaching the latter half of it. He already has a Hall of Fame resume and a safe perch among the most talented to ever play the game. But how does he measure up to the generational talents with whom he’s often compared, the Gretzkys and Lemieuxs of the world? It doesn’t make much sense to weigh them against each other in sheer point production and volume – though Sid is no slouch, with the fourth-best points per game in NHL history – because they belong to different eras. But we can have fun looking at team accomplishments and individual hardware. Here’s a look at what Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin had done at the same point of their careers: the season in which they were 27 for Game 1 in October.

(For clarity’s sake, we’ll call any goal-scoring title the Rocket Richard Trophy, including those that came before the award existed).

SIDNEY CROSBY (age 27 season: 2014-15)

Games played: 550
Seasons: 9
Stanley Cups: 1
Hart Trophies: 2
Ted Lindsay Awards: 3
Scoring titles: 2
Assists leader: 1
Rocket Richard Trophies: 1
First Team All-Star: 3

Other NHL awards: None
International: 2 Olympic gold medals

WAYNE GRETZKY (age 27 season: 1988-89)

Games played: 696
Seasons: 9
Stanley Cups: 4
Hart Trophies: 8
Ted Lindsay Awards: 5
Scoring titles: 8
Assists leader: 9
Rocket Richard Trophies: 5
First Team All-Star: 7

Other NHL awards: 1 Lady Byng, 2 Conn Smythe
International: 2 Canada Cup championships

MARIO LEMIEUX (age 27 season: 1992-93)

Games played: 517
Seasons: 8
Stanley Cups: 2
Hart Trophies: 1
Ted Lindsay Awards: 2
Scoring titles: 3
Assists leader: 1
Rocket Richard Trophies: 2
First Team All-Star: 2

Other NHL awards: 1 Calder, 2 Conn Smythe
International: 1 Canada Cup championship

GORDIE HOWE (age 27 season: 1955-56)

Games played: 572
Seasons: 9
Stanley Cups: 4
Hart Trophies: 2
Ted Lindsay Awards: N/A
Scoring titles: 4
Assists leader: 3
Rocket Richard Trophies: 3
First Team All-Star: 4

Other NHL awards: None

JAROMIR JAGR (age 27 season: 1999-00)

Games played: 662
Seasons: 9
Stanley Cups: 2
Hart Trophies: 1
Ted Lindsay Awards: 1
Scoring titles: 3
Assists leader: 2
Rocket Richard Trophies: 0
First Team All-Star: 4

Other NHL awards: None
International: 1 Olympic gold medal

ALEX OVECHKIN (age 27 season: 2012-13)

Games played: 553
Seasons: 7
Stanley Cups: 0
Hart Trophies: 2
Ted Lindsay Awards: 3
Scoring titles: 1
Assists leader: 0
Rocket Richard Trophies: 2
First Team All-Star: 5

Other NHL awards: 1 Calder

OBSERVATIONS

Gretzky stands head and shoulders above the competition in terms of what he’d done by age 27. Had he retired then, he’d be just as revered, if not more revered, as the best pure points machine of all-time.

I added Howe for fun, but it’s tough to compare him to the others. The Stanley Cup and scoring crown were a lot easier to win with the player pool one fifth the size of today’s. Still, it’s telling that Howe had still played more games after nine seasons than Crosby, despite the fact NHL teams played 70-game campaigns in Howe’s day. On top of the injuries, half a season lost to lockout hurts Crosby (factoring in the three lockouts since 1994-95, Gretzky lost 0.5 seasons, Jagr 2.0, Lemieux 1.0 – he sat out all of 1994-95 with an injury. Ovechkin 1.5, assuming he would’ve debuted in the league in 2004-05).

The big hole in Ovie’s resume is the championship category, of course. Through age 27, Crosby holds a candle to Lemieux and Jagr pretty well in terms of major individual NHL hardware and all-star appearances, and he’s just one Cup behind them. There’s a clear parallel between Sid and Mario in terms of games lost to injury.

Whereas Jagr’s post-27 career continued (continues. How crazy is that?) at a similar pace into his mid-30s, with scoring crowns and hardware sprinkled in, Lemieux wasn’t done ascending. In his age 27 season, he exploded into what some consider the greatest season ever played, returning from chemotherapy to notch 69 goals and 161 points in 60 games. The full-season pace (don’t forget, 84 games that year): 97 goals and 225 points.

Crosby has established a tremendously high floor, having won everything there is to win in the sport and with five 100-point seasons to his name. The question is: will the rest of his career follow a Mario trajectory or a Jagr trajectory?

It’s safe to say the Great One is out of reach.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin