Sidney Crosby Matures as a Player and Captain

R LSenior Analyst IApril 2, 2009

He had 102 points as a rookie. A 120-point sophomore season, which saw him capture the Art Ross, Hart Memorial Trophy, and the Lester B. Pearson Award.

How does one come to despise a player of such merit? Attitude is the answer—a factor which can elevate your status, or drag it down with equal ease.

Sidney Crosby entered the NHL with much excitement surrounding him in 2005/2006 as the first overall pick. Owners believed this was their new face for the league.

Although his abilities met everyone's expectations, there were two elements preventing him from being seen as the very best in the eyes of all.

First, he had Russian phenomenon Alexander Ovechkin, who won the Calder Trophy ahead of him as the league's top rookie. Not only that, Ovechkin's style was viewed as more entertaining and encouraging than Crosby's.

Ovechkin was a more physical player who wasn't afraid to go after anyone. Crosby, on the other hand, had an aggressive nature as noticeable as his playoff beard.

Second, many coaches, players and fans saw the Pittsburgh center as a diver who constantly complained to the officials. This reputation has stuck with Crosby throughout his young career and forgetting it may prove challenging with a nickname like Sid the Kid.

Fast track to last season. The Penguins took on the Boston Bruins in late December and Crosby achieved his first Gordie Howe hat trick. Statistics may not have been as relevant as the fact that the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native was fighting Andrew Ference.

Considered a rare spectacle, the fight was handled properly, as both combatants threw good punches and competed fairly.

Now, let's have a look at our current season. Crosby was involved in two skirmishes. An early January meeting with the Florida Panthers concluded with a 6-1 defeat and the captain jumping Brett McLean from the face-off circle.

Negative one. McLean wasn't prepared to square off. He had his jersey interfering with his vision, while Crosby had a visor protecting half of his face (not that he needed it with McLean blindsided).

Prior to that, he had punched Atlanta Thrasher's defenseman Boris Valabik numerous times in the sensitive area in a December matchup. If that wasn't humorous enough, Crosby received only a two-minute minor for roughing.

Negative two. Never do you aim for the undercarriage. To make matters worse, Valabik was engaged in a scuffle with Kris Letang when Crosby decided to take matters into his own hands—literally.

Actions like these made it all the more easier to choose Ovechkin as the NHL's premier superstar.

Side note: Isn't it ironic that the 2004/2005 season was cancelled and as a result, Ovechkin was forced to wait for his rookie campaign to occur the following year along with Crosby's? It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that these two game-breakers were meant to go head-to-head.

Many made the argument that Crosby was finally embracing his role as team leader and finally getting involved in the rough business. Life is full of variety and Sid chose to get involved in each affair the wrong way.

Is there really an excuse for swinging at someone's genitals?

As time shows, you learn from your mistakes. Last month, Pittsburgh and Boston squared off at the Mellon Arena. The following incident somehow managed to get away from the cameras, but plenty of sources have revealed its authenticity.

Boston's center Marc Savard taunted Crosby after scoring a goal. When the 21-year-old approached the Bruins' playmaker to fight, he insisted that it would be his pleasure, once the visor was removed.

Crosby handed his helmet to equipment manager Dana Heinze and told him to unscrew the shield. Having called his bluff, Savard continued to back down from a visorless Sid.

Positive one. Crosby did the right thing by getting rid of the visor, indicating that he is courageous and willing to fight properly. He didn't attack Savard when he was looking the other way or test the strength of his cup.

It's good to see No. 87 finding an edge to his game because it shows his ability to be an agitator, which suits him better than the golden boy label. I know I would prefer the recent Crosby over his rookie self.

This also poses a question: If Sid continues to display this newly-found attitude, will Ovechkin remain superior to him? You'll always get more goals from the Russian and plenty of playmaking from Crosby.

However, now both have a bit of a combative nature to their competitiveness. Alexander Ovechkin will never cease throwing body checks.

Will Sidney Crosby get into the faces of opposing players on a regular basis?

Only time will tell.

One thing is certain: He would be the most talented agitator in NHL history.