Crosby still flying without wingman
TFP Columnist Paul Ladewski wonders when the Pittsburgh Penguins will supply Sidney Crosby with a pure-scoring winger.
[Chicago, IL] -- If history tells us anything, then it's that greatness works best with a partner. Bacall and Bogie. Simon and Garfunkel. Ren and Stimpy. Wayne and Garth.
So what did Sidney Crosby do to deserve Max Talbot and Miroslav Satan as linemates, Superman between kryptonite, the Roadrunner stuck in slow-mo among Wile E. Coyotes?
Sure, Talbot and Satan are NHL-caliber players, but neither is Jari Kurri, the Hall of Famer who rode shotgun to Wayne Gretzky for much of their careers. As pure goal-scorers go, Talbot is one heckuva role player. Satan still shows flashes every week or two, but he's closer to retirement than the first 40-goal season of his career. At 34, he's probably a one-year rental, anyway.
When I asked Crosby how crucial it was for someone other than Evgeni Malkin to bring out the best in him, and vice versa, he said, "You know what? We've won both ways, so no matter what the situation is, we're confident either way."
I could be wrong, but I think this is what El Sid meant to say: "Dang, I played with better dudes on weekends in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia!"
Penguins GM Ray Shero thought that he had solved the problem late last season, only to have Marian Hossa walk out the free-agent door. Smart guy that he is, Shero probably spends every day in search of the next Hossa, because more than Crosby and personal glory are at stake here. It's about the Penguins and the Stanley Cup. For this team to become the updated version of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, Crosby and Malkin will have to center their own dominant lines much like Gretzky and Mark Messier did in the glory days.
As Penguins television analyst Bob Errey told me the other night, "Unless the Penguins find a second line that can score without Crosby and Malkin, which is unlikely to happen, it makes it too easy for teams to match their big guns against the first unit. Satan is the guy they pegged in the off-season, but he's not a Marian Hossa. He's not a $6- or $7-million guy. He is what he is, and to expect more than that is not right."
It's not like the Penguins have little to offer in trade for a pair of talented, young legs. Soon-to-be free agent Jordan Staal is often mentioned as trade bait, but don't count on it. The center wants to stay in the 'Burgh, and he may accept a home team discount to make it happen. But what about defenseman Ryan Whitney, whose $4-million cap number is affordable? And back-up goaltender Dany Sabourin, another potential free agent who could start for a bunch of teams right now?
In the meantime, boys and girls, let's play Find a Linemate for Sidney. It's fun. It's easy. And who knows? If you pick the right candidate, then you might be able to brag that your name belongs on the Stanley Cup . . .
* Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks. It wasn't long ago when the one-time 56 goal-scorer and Joe Thornton formed one of the most potent combinations around. Their magic has disappeared this season, as the right wing has been in and out of the line-up because of an upper-body injury, but the Sharks have won without him. The right wing averaged 36 goals in the last four seasons, and there's no reason to believe that he and Crosby couldn't make the same beautiful music together. At 28, the Cheechoo Train hasn't made his last stop at the station.
* Alexander Frolov, Los Angeles Kings. His 103 goals and 137 assists in the last four seasons don't wow anybody. But remember, he has never played with anyone in the same zip code as Crosby in terms of skill level, either. The Kings have built a young core around the 26-year-old left wing, and it would take a lot for them to part with him.
* Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Wild. Not only is the potential Czech mate a natural goal-scorer -- he bagged at least 30 in five of the last six seasons -- but he is imminently available, as trade rumors have been audible for months now. A lower-body injury kept him out of the line-up for all except two games this season, and the Wild have survived just fine, thank you very much. He won't turn 27 until February.
* Martin Havlat, Chicago Blackhawks. The enigmatic right wing has never scored more than 31 goals in a season, but the mind boggles to think what he could do alongside Crosby for an entire season. In the last four seasons, he averaged .42 goals per game mostly on his own. Problem is, Havlat is made of balsa wood, and more than one teammate will tell you that refuses to play hurt. Would the grit of Crosby wear off on him? At 27, he might be worth a dice roll.
* Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators. The Senators would never part with the two-time 50-goal-scorer, right? Not so fast, Bronco. If general manager Bryan Murray wants to save his job -- hellooooo, Brian Burke -- then he may have no choice except to make a blockbuster deal soon. This team is desperate for an o-minded defenseman and a goaltender of the future, and in Whitney and Sabourin, Heatley could fetch that and possibly more in return.
* Jaromir Jagr, Avangard Omsk. The last time anybody checked, he was with the second-place team of the KHL, but we know how much he misses the NHL and how much Pittsburgh misses him and . . . Oh, never mind.
* Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers. If I'm Shero, then he's No. 1 and No. 1a on my list. Pure and simple, the left wing is the best combination of size (6-foot-1, 225 pounds), youth (25 years ago) and consistency (38-to-52 goals in each of the last five seasons) of the bunch. Hey, the Thrashers have four ex-Penguins on their roster already, so what's a couple or three more?
* Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets. Ideally, whoever rides shotgun to Crosby should be able to skate with him. Nash isn't a burner, but at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Phil Esposito Lite would be good for a couple dozen goals on rebounds alone with him. In the last four seasons, he averaged 34 goals for a bad team. The bigger question is, what would take take to pry away the Blue Jackets' only marquee name?
Um, you don't suppose Mario Lemieux would be interested, do you . . ?http://www.thefourthperiod.com/columnists/ladewski.html