It looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins – and the NHL – will be without their main star player, Sidney Crosby, for an extended length of time due to a recurrence of concussion symptoms.
Crosby missed the last half of last season and a good chunk of this season because of being knocked into another area code in back-to-back games last season. He survived only eight games this season before experiencing the symptoms again.
A lot of people who barely watch the NHL are now saying the league will take a hit because it’s biggest star isn’t playing, while it’s second-biggest star, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, is mired in a scoring slump (nine goals in 29 games played).
Granted, I understand why the NHL is heavily marketing those two players. They are both dynamic goal-scorers who can light the lamp at any time they are on the ice.
But the loss of Crosby and Ovechkin’s slump is proving the NHL can’t put all their marketing eggs in those two baskets and hope the casual fan will tune in to see them.
The NHL needs to have other players they can market that will draw fans to their TV screens and arenas. Like the NBA, there are other players deserving of getting top billing when they are playing.
Here’s a few of the players I would recommend the NHL start giving Crosby-like pushes to:
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit: Datsyuk has been a mainstay in Detroit for a reason. He can make opponents look silly with his puck-handling ability. He does with a puck what Michael Jordan used to do with a basketball in his heyday. And he can score with the best of them, having been in the top 20 in points scored in four of the last six years. Plus he is a four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner for gentlemanly play, which greatly contrasts to the image most people have of hockey as brutal and violent.
Patrick Kane, Chicago: Talk about a dynamic scorer. Kane has put the league on notice he is a threat to score every time he touches the puck. His stats are insane since joining the league five years ago: (an average of 25 goals and 50 assists a season for 75 points per season). Kane was a big reason the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two season ago. And when he teams with Jonathan Toews, look out.
Tim Thomas, Boston: Yeah, he’s a goalie – a 37-year-old goalie. But the Davison native gets the job done, as proven by his backstopping the Bruins to the Stanley Cup last season. Some would say his unorthodox style will get him in trouble, but the stats beg to differ: a 2.15 GAA and a .931 save percentage after the 2007-08 season (including this season) and two Vezina trophies as the league’s best goalie. Also, there was another unorthodox goalie in Dominik Hasek. How’d that work out for him? Thomas can make the big save, and some of those are highlight-reel stuff.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo: Another goalie, sure. But remember, the former Michigan State netminder was the guy who helped Team USA to the silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics. Miller is as solid as a goalie gets (his .914 career save percentage is ninth all-time) and the Sabres are always a threat in the always-unpredictable Eastern Conference as long as he is healthy – something that has been an issue for him since getting ran into twice this season.
Tyler Seguin, Boston: This is Bruce Bentley’s boy, since he played his junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Seguin put himself on the map with his play in the playoffs last season as a rookie, earning a roster spot with his ability to set up other players for goals. Maturity issues aside, Seguin leads the Bruins this season in goals (13) and points (26). Dude is gifted.
If the NHL were to give serious pub to guys like this, they wouldn’t have to be relying on Crosby and Ovechkin to move the needle when it comes to hockey coverage.