It's been a disappointing season for Sidney Crosby so far. On pace for just 18 goals and 36 assists, it's been by far the least productive stretch of hockey he's played during his career. The 47.1 CF% he's posted at even strength in the first 23 games is a far cry from the player that's dominated the possession game in recent seasons. He has just a 36 GF%, though a 96.7 PDO suggests that, to an extent, the early going has been a streak of bad luck that should see itself auto-correct as the season goes along.
Regardless, Crosby has certainly struggled through the first quarter of the season. It likely doesn't help that the coaching staff has consistently juggled his line. With 331:00 in even strength TOI, Crosby has already logged 100+ minutes with Pascal Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, and Chris Kunitz, in order of most frequent linemate. In the latest move, Mike Johnston is reuniting Crosby with Kunitz and Dupuis - a move that suggests he's flailing wildly while in over his head at the NHL level.
Pascal Dupuis has been Crosby's most frequent linemate this season, but the duo has been terrible together, and Dupuis has been even worse when not with Crosby. Despite this, Dupuis has spent 83.9% of his even strength minutes serving as an anchor to Sidney Crosby. A 45.0 CF% together is completely unacceptable, and the 42.9 CF% that Dupuis has posted apart from Crosby suggests more that he should be viewed as a healthy scratch than a potential first line player. Though the 48.3 CF% Crosby has posted apart from Dupuis isn't stellar, it's a clear indication that Johnston shouldn't even be entertaining having these two players together. Pascal Dupuis has fought through a lot in recent years, from tearing his ACL to the blood clot issues, but at a certain point it needs to be acknowledged that he is not the same player he has been. So far Mike Johnston has been either incapable of seeing that or unwilling to make the necessary changes in the lineup.
Probably even more of an issue that playing Crosby with a player who is clearly dragging him down has been Johnston's reluctance to play Crosby with a player he's been able to have success with. Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz have posted a 52.1 CF% so far this season with a long history of doing well in the possession game. While Kunitz maintains the high level of possession apart from Crosby (52.6 CF%), Crosby hasn't been able to do the same away from Kunitz (44.1 CF%). The biggest issue has been production. The duo's 94.5 PDO this season suggests that more minutes together should help fix the issue even considering Chris Kunitz's slump dating back to last season. Kunitz has just 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 49 regular season games, with 4 of those points coming on the power play. Just 27.9% of his even strength TOI during that stretch has been with Sidney Crosby. Clearly splitting up the two has been a problem for Kunitz, and it's been an issue for Crosby as well.
Continuing to play Pascal Dupuis with Sidney Crosby despite all signs pointing towards it being an awful idea is simply bad coaching and needs to stop. Dupuis can't be blamed for all of Crosby's struggles so far this year, but clearly needing to prop up a far inferior teammate while also working through troubles with his own game isn't helping. Despite the struggles of everyone involved in the early going, the top line needs to be Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist, a trio that has seen the ice for just 10:05 this season. While the Crosby/Hornqvist duo appears to have struggled as well with a 45.9 CF%, 72.7% of their even strength TOI has been with Pascal Dupuis as their LW. Hornqvist has been much better (51.1 CF%) when not subjected to that anchor. Pascal Dupuis is the root of the problem. I repeat, Pascal Dupuis is the root of the problem, and continuing to treat him as a top 6 option is a super duper bad idea.