Sidney Crosby. Image by: Getty Images
Kid no more, Sid is 30. He already has one of hockey’s all-time greatest lists of accomplishments. What had the other legends of the game done by their 30th birthdays?
We knew Sidney Crosby’s resume was Hall-of-Fame-caliber by the time he reached his mid-20s. But who knew Crosby at 30 would differ so much from Crosby at, say, 28? He’s really ratcheted up his accomplishments over the past couple seasons, adding two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe trophies, a Rocket Richard, a World Cup and a World Cup MVP.
“Top 10” no longer feels like the tier Crosby will settle into by the time his illustrious career ends. Now we’re talking top-five. And if we accept the other all-timer contenders as Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard…where does Sid’s resume rank compared to what each man had accomplished by his 30th birthday?
ACCOMPLISHMENTS BY 30TH BIRTHDAY
Crosby keeps pace and then some here, which is especially impressive given Crosby has won three Stanley Cups in a 30-team league during the salary cap era. Howe won his four by age 30 in a six-team league, Richard two in a six-team league, Orr in 12- and 14-team leagues, Gretzky in a 21-team league and Lemieux in 21- and 22-team leagues. Given Crosby is just one championship behind Gretzky and Howe, Crosby’s championships stand out the most. It’s never been harder to win the Cup than it is today.
Gretzky: 9 regular season, 2 playoffs
Howe: 4 regular season
Orr: 3 regular season, 2 playoffs
Crosby: 2 regular season, 2 playoffs
Lemieux: 2 regular season, 2 playoffs
Richard: 1 regular season
First off – a reminder that the Conn Smythe Trophy only arrived in 1964-65, putting Howe and Richard at a disadvantage here.
Naturally, every member of the legends group had most of his monster years before turning 30, with the only exception possibly Richard, who won two of his goal-scoring crowns and six Cups in his 30s. Orr’s entire career ended at 30. Crosby’s still playing elite hockey, but his peak as an MVP-caliber talent may have passed him by. That’s not a knock on him at all – it’s just that younger stars like Connor McDavid are just approaching their peak years and will start hoarding awards, as McDavid did last season. So it’s unlikely Crosby piles up too many more MVPs and especially scoring titles in his 30s. That said, it’s not impossible by any means. He’s been the MVP runner-up two straight years...
…and a top-three scorer five straight years. Crosby will never come close to catching the points-scoring titles amassed by Gretzky, Howe and Lemieux, especially with McDavid going supernova, but we can’t rule out any further wins for Sid just yet. Gretzky won two more scoring titles after 30, as did Lemieux, and Howe snagged one more in his 30s, too.
Orr, of course, is at a disadvantage here as a defenseman. He did, however, lead the league in assists five times before turning 30. Crosby just led the league in goals at 29 and should remain a threat to win the Richard again this coming season. It’s as if Crosby “decided” to be a goal scorer last season. It’s doubtful Crosby ever catches Gretzky at the top. Gretzky floats above everyone else. The “Orr’s career ended early” argument doesn’t hurt Gretzky, as he’d done most of his damage by the age at which Orr’s knee woes got the better of him.
Crosby: 2 Olympic gold medals, 1 World Championship, 1 World Cup, 1 World Cup MVP
Gretzky: 2 Canada Cups, 1 Canada Cup MVP
Orr: 1 Canada Cup, 1 Canada Cup MVP
Lemieux: 1 Canada Cup
Crosby gets a huge edge here simply because he’s had far more opportunities to compete for international glory. Gretzky’s lone crack at the Olympics was Canada’s ill-fated 1998 Nagano run, and Lemieux won gold with Canada in 2002 and a World Cup in 2004 well into his 30s during his post-retirement comeback years. The interesting question now is whether Crosby will add any more international accomplishments or if that resume is closed with NHLers no longer participating in the Olympics and no future World Cup planned as of now.
Lemieux: 1 Calder Trophy, 1 Masterton Trophy
Orr: 1 Calder Trophy
Gretzky: 1 Lady Byng Trophy
Crosby missed out on the Calder in his rookie year thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s presence. If there’s one alternative award Sid could win in his 30s, bet on the Selke Trophy. Crosby has long been one of the league’s better two-way forwards. His highest two finishes in the voting, seventh and 10th, came in the past two seasons. Defense is a much bigger part of his game these days, and that trend should continue.
Crosby’s age-30 resume doesn’t look remotely out of place alongside those of the sport’s other giants, which is remarkable given the hyper-competitive state of the game today. It’s thus a pretty safe bet we’ll look back on him as a legit top-fiver someday, ahead of Richard, if we don’t already. But it’s clear Gretzky is safe. No one will ever match what ‘The Great One’ did.