We're on the cusp of rookie camp and the season that will be 2013-14, but instead of keying in on rookies to watch or expectations and predictions for camp, I've got a jumble of a question. This is intended as a ramble of an article, so bear with me as I work my way to the point.
Late last week, I was watching things on Twitter where I crossed Chad Schnarr of Bolt Prospects posting an image of Steven Stamkos as a kid:
This post, as innocent as it was, set off a debate with Washington Capitals fans over the "world's greatest goal scorer" title that Chad bestowed upon Steven "Spicoli" Stamkos. Of course, those Caps fans were standing up for their boy, Alex Ovechkin: Alex is better because he does it himself! Stamkos has had better players around him, that's the only reason he has more goals since 2009-2010!
Two great goal scorers on two very different teams, one that's been consistently reaching the playoffs because it's deeper and has had solid management (Washington) and the other has made the playoffs only once in the career of the player who scores many many goals (Tampa Bay). Then there's the fact Ovi's a wing, Stamkos is a center... There are differences here and...
Well, wait. Where's Sidney Crosby in this debate?
Usually when Ovechkin is brought up and compared to anyone at all, it's Crosby. It's the media-driven rivalry between the two. Crosby's got his name on the cup though, while Alex has never reached that pinnacle. Crosby has an Olympic gold medal, Ovi? Nyet.
Sidney Crosby is good, that can't be denied. Martin St. Louis may have won the Art Ross Trophy last season but he did so because Crosby went down with an injury. In fact, it's a running issue in Crosby's career: He has not played a full 82 game season in his nine years in the NHL. 470 games played - that's 131 games less than Ovechkin's 601 games played. Ovi, too, has missed a handful of games in his eight years in the league - but he's played a majority of them every season. All this while Steven Stamkos has played in 373 NHL games, or 99.2% of all Lightning games since the 2008-09 season when he entered the league.
If you're a Caps fan or a Penguins fan, please relax. My point here isn't to drum up a Crosby/Ovi/Stamkos war. I do have a point here that Penguins fans and perhaps all Canadian hockey fans need to worry about going forward. I'm trying to get to it.
Stamkos has played 373 of 376 games. Ovechkin has played 601 of 622 NHL contests in his career. That's 96 .6%. Crosby has been formidable on ice when he's been healthy, but Sid's only played in 470 Pittsburgh Penguins games out of 704 contests since he entered the league in 2005-2006, that's 66.7% of all games.
The lack of games played has sapped Crosby's career productivity which (of course) dropped his career totals. I'm not here to debate the injuries themselves, or even what Crosby could have done if he had played a higher percentage of games. That's easy enough math that you can do on your own.
I got a question, though (and this is what I've been working up to): Just what are the chances Crosby is healthy in February 2014 and participates in the Winter Olympics with Team Canada?
TSN made it a point to post their guesses at a Team Canada roster for Sochi following Canada's orientation camp in Calgary last week - the Golden Roar himself - penciled in as top-line center on that roster, with teammate Chris Kunitz on his left wing. They did include Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis from the Lightning on that team too, putting Stamkos out of position at right-wing while placing St. Louis in reserve.
While I could focus on the duo production comparables between Crosby/Kunitz and Stamkos/St. Louis, I'm still focused on the fact a guy who has only managed to play 66% of NHL games in his career is top-line center in an international competition. Yeah, when Crosby is on - he's on.
But when he's hurt, he's baggage... And he's served a third of his NHL career as baggage.
The Olympics are a very different animal, though. Where the NHL season is a marathon of 82 games over a 7 month span, the Olympics are all-or-nothing tournament over two weeks. A pro sport season is a game of attrition as much as it is a spectacle of feats of strength and ability, while ability under pressure/on the spot is what the Olympic Games are all about. Sidney Crosby's perchance to be injured shouldn't have a bearing during the sprint in the Olympics.
What does have a bearing, though, is the fact Crosby (and every other NHL player who will end up participating in the Olympics) has to survive the 59 games or so that will be played in the NHL before the league shuts down in February and players jet off to Sochi.
These thoughts came to me basically in the order that you've been reading (if you've read down this far); originally I had started thinking of the Twitter argument, then thought of Crosby and how his injuries likely have muted his goal scoring output over his nine seasons... And if injuries have plagued him - the concussions, the jaw issues, and more - how likely is it he actually misses Sochi? While Bovada recently posted odds regarding the 2013-14 NHL season, I'm surprised they didn't post odds about this.
I'm not an official odds maker or much of a gambler by any means, but if Crosby has played in only 2/3rds of the Penguins NHL games during the extent of his career, and the number of Penguins pre-Olympics games will be 59 games... I'm going to wager there's a better-than 3 in 5 chance Crosby plays in the Olympics, and a 3-in-13 chance he'll be out injured for Sochi. 3-in-13 comes from the fact 19.6 games equal 1/3rd of the 59 game pre-Olympic schedule. I then took that number and factored it against a full season (82 games) and came out with just over 23%.