One of the biggest story lines in the early going has been the slump that Sidney Crosby has found himself in to start the season. Through the first 12 games of the year, Crosby has 2 goals and 4 assists for a total of just 6 points, numbers that if extrapolated over the course of a full season would easily be career worst marks for him (14 goals, 27 assists, 41 points). He didn't record a point until the 6th game of the year and has only registered on the scoresheet in 3 games so far. Something must be seriously wrong, right? In addition to the points, he's posting the lowest number of shots on goal of his career so far this year with 33 through 12 games (2.75 SOG/gm), a number a good bit lower than the (at the time) career low he posted last season of 237 shots in 77 games (3.08 SOG/gm). Clearly significant, right?
Well, not really. For a player that's played 639 games in what's been a slam dunk, unanimous first ballot Hall of Fame career, it's more than a bit unwise to freak out over the latest 12 games of that sample. Especially since this is a player that has led the league in points per game each of the past FIVE seasons. That's right, the last season Sidney Crosby didn't lead the NHL in points per game was 2009-10 when he finished fourth in the league. These first 12 games have also seen him shuffle linemates and have to adapt to a blueline that, for the first time in years, isn't filled with competent puck movers who are more than capable of quickly getting the puck out of the zone and up the ice in transition. But to take a closer look at how small a sample this really is, let's put things in perspective a bit:
The slow start to the season currently has Sidney Crosby on pace to hit career lows in goals, assists, and points on the year. Everyone's favorite whipping boy from last season, Zach Sill, has put up 4 points in the 83 NHL games he's appeared in. Current favorite whipping boy and team anchor Rob Scuderi has put up 8 goals over 731 career games (Not what he's paid for, which is something, apparently. Gotchya). And everyone's favorite waiver claim, Bobby Farnham, has 1 assist in his 16 games played. To match those rates, Sidney Crosby would need to play 17,185 games (209.57 seasons) without a point to equal Sill's points per game average. He would need 27,139 games (330.96 seasons) to equal Scuderi's goal per game average, and 8,241 games (100.50 seasons) without an assist to match what Farnham has currently accomplished.
Comparing Sid to players more his peer than the three above, Crosby would need to go without scoring for 404 games (4.93 seasons) to match Claude Giroux's scoring average, 414 games without an assist (5.05 seasons) to match John Tavares' current assist/game average, and 89 pointless games to match Alexander Ovechkin's current career points/game average. Just to match the current averages that Crosby has so far on the season, he would need to play 1,185 more goalless games (14.45 seasons), 1,026 more games without an assist (12.51 seasons), and 1,079 more pointless games (13.16 seasons). Clearly at a single 12 game stretch any wondering about Sidney Crosby's play is extremely premature.
Crosby's possession numbers have been down to start the season as well, as his current 47.6 CF% would also be a career low since reliable tracking data began in 2007-08, but it's been a team wide problem that likely stems in the decrease in defensive depth from years past. Gone are players like Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, and Christian Ehrhoff who could be relied upon to make good first passes and clear the defensive zone. Even still, given the forward depth, there's likely a portion of the decline that is just a slump as well.
Just as with the scoring, Sidney Crosby has a solid history of controlling possession, and has posted a 53.4 CF% since the 2007-08 season. To bring his career average back to what he's posting through the first 12 games, Crosby would need to see the Penguins surrender 1,662 consecutive shot attempts with him on the ice. Putting things in the perspective of some of the possession anchors the team has had in recent years, Crosby would need 2,197 consecutive shot attempts against to reach Craig Adams' 46.0 CF%, 2,780 consecutive shot attempts against to reach Maxim Lapierre's 44.4 CF%, and an astounding 3,919 consecutive shot attempts against to reach Tanner Glass' abysmal 41.5 CF%. Just to reach even on his career Crosby would need to be on the ice for 923 consecutive shot attempts against the Pens.
Needless to say, but Sidney Crosby has been a damn good hockey player throughout his career, and while the numbers in the early going are lower than we might expect to see a player of his caliber post, there's absolutely no reason to find anything quite so alarming in such a small sample size. It'd be foolish to suggest the possibility that his game has fallen off this sharply this quickly doesn't exist, but it'd be even more foolish to point to that as the reason to explain his numbers at this juncture. Given the vast amount of information that points to not only an elite, but a generational talent, over the first 627 games of his career, it makes little sense to read too much into the most recent 12.