I’m looking forward to Sidney Crosby’s 1,169th game as the Penguins play in Washington on Tuesday night.
I’m sure you’re wondering how I came up with that number, as we just witnessed Crosby’s 1,000th game on Saturday against the New York Islanders.
I just think recognition is overdue, as he also played in 168 playoff games. And based on how many NHL players talk about postseason games being “twice as intense” as the regular season, maybe that number is actually 336.
So if you want to give Crosby credit for 1,336 games played, I’m not going to stop you.
But before we turn this into a theoretical numerical exercise like we haven’t seen since Stanley Tucci’s bridge monologue in “Margin Call,” let’s get down to business.
In a year without a pandemic (if we ever see one of those again), the league plays 82 games.
Thus, Crosby has essentially played two extra NHL hockey seasons in postseason games alone. That is in addition to completing 15 regular seasons (plus 16 games so far this year).
So, let’s find out how much that extra mileage will weigh on Crosby’s longevity.
If you don’t like numbers, just skip to the part where you see Crosby’s stats in bold and italic, and we’ll bring you up to speed. If you want to see how we got to the other side of the bridge, stay with me.
Here are some comparisons to other NHL greats with whom Crosby is often linked.
• Steve Yzerman (22 seasons) skated in 1,514 regular season games, 196 in the playoffs.
• Wayne Gretzky (20 seasons) played 1,487 regular season games, 208 in the playoffs.
• Mario Lemieux (17 seasons) scored 915 regular season games, 107 in the playoffs.
In terms of hockey acumen, skill level and achievement, many draw parallels between those players and Crosby. Then there’s Jaromir Jagr (24 seasons) who bears similarities to No. 87 when it comes to hockey mania and dedication to training.
Jagr totaled 1,733 regular season games and 208 in the postseason. And God knows how many in the KHL, the Czech league, international competition, and the European pick-up leagues he tried during various off-seasons.
Crosby has only missed the postseason twice. Once in his rookie season. Once due to his concussions that knocked him out in 2011. Gretzky reached the playoffs in 16 of 20 attempts. Jagr 18 of 24. Yzerman 20 of 22. Lemieux 8 of 17.
These are all difficult compositions to make due to pandemic pauses and work stoppages, not to mention Lemieux’s injuries and illnesses, Jagr’s outings to Europe, and Crosby’s concussion issues.
However, now that we’re halfway up the Tucci bridge, the picture is becoming clear enough that despite significant additional wear and tear from his postseason heavy lifting, it’s not beyond the possibility that Crosby can play a few years after his current contract expires in late 2025.
Sid “the Kid” would be almost 38 years old at the time. Gretzky retired at 38. Yzerman was 40 years old. Mario was also 40 when he left the game for good. Jagr finished his final NHL season in 2018 at age 45.
With the exception of Lemieux, those three other guys played 28 to 40 more playoff games than Crosby so far.
This is when the projections get a little confusing because we don’t know how many games Crosby will play in the regular season and how often or how deep the Penguins will go in the playoffs. So we will use averages.
In his 13 playoff seasons, Crosby has averaged nearly 13 games per playoff season. Or roughly a six-game series and a seven-game series.
Since Crosby returned from concussions and the lockout, the Penguins captain has played, on average, 79 games per season. That begins with the 2013-14 campaign and runs through the end of 2019, as the 2020 disaster that was truncated by the pandemic and Crosby’s central muscle injury is eliminated.
Counting Tuesday’s contest in Washington, the Pens have 40 games left this year. Let’s be optimistic and say the NHL squeezes them all and Crosby misses none.
Take 79 regular season games and multiply them for the remaining four years after the conclusion of 2021, that’s 316 more regular season games. Also add the remaining 40 games from this year.
Now take the average of 13 postseason games per year over five postseason games (including this one, fingers crossed). That equates to 65 more playoff games before Crosby’s contract is completed.
That gives us 421 more projected games in the Penguins uniform before Crosby’s contract ends.
With those 421 games added to Crosby’s stats, the total number of regular season and playoff games played would look like this by the summer of 2025 when his contract expires.
Jagr (45) – 1,941 (24 seasons)
Yzerman (40) – 1,710 (22 seasons)
Gretzky (38) – 1,686 (20 seasons)
Crosby (38) – 1,589 (20 seasons)
Lemieux (40) – 1,022 (17 seasons)
Those projections are very optimistic for Crosby. They assume some playoff success for the Pens and that Crosby has no major injuries. That said, when it comes to how much hockey he could have left after this contract expires, they show he’s in the same ballpark as some of those historic teammates.
So what is the goal of this exercise?
Watch “Margin Call”. That is the point. It is a very underrated movie. Timely now too. Enjoy it. Thank me later.
Beyond that, though, the point is that Crosby will likely still have some hockey in his tank by the time this contract ends. And it will be up to the Penguins and Crosby to decide whether he wants to play another two or three years here or elsewhere.
“I think as long as it feels good, I think I would love to play as long as I can,” Crosby said Friday. “I really have no idea what that age or number is. But I think I’m just concentrating on fulfilling my contract and seeing where I am at the moment, but I feel really good.
“I want to play for as long as I can, so I guess we’ll have to see.”
Another competition? Two of those guys stayed in a city (Lemieux, Yzerman). Two did not (Gretzky, Jagr). But Gretzky and Jagr left their first teams at 28. Crosby is already 33 years old.
“I love playing here and this is where I would love to play for the rest of my career,” added Crosby.
So perhaps the Penguins can hire Tucci to figure out how to work out another $ 8.7 million hit against the cap by 2026 … and beyond.
Brian Metzer from Penguins Radio Network joins me for Tuesday’s “Breakfast with Benz” podcast. We examine Sidney Crosby’s 1000th game milestone, his long-term future, Evgeni Malkin’s struggles, and the state of the East Division.
Tim Benz is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets can be republished. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.
Penguins / NHL | Sports Breakfast With Benz