Sidney Crosby vs. Connor McDavid: Debating who’s best in world

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This is exactly the type of argument that makes Gary Bettman and the rest of the people in the NHL offices on Sixth Avenue smile.

Who is the best player in hockey: Is it still Sidney Crosby, or has Connor McDavid taken over the throne?

This is a legitimate question, a fun question, especially now that the 31-year-old Crosby and the 21-year-old McDavid both started the season so well, as have their respective teams — the Penguins and Oilers. There were some early-season rumblings about Toronto’s Auston Matthews closing the gap on McDavid in terms of the young guns, and that might be partially true. But it was sidelined when Matthews suffered yet another shoulder injury, set to keep him out at least four weeks.

But in terms of Crosby vs. McDavid, let’s break it down.

Speed

There is no question that McDavid is faster. He very well could be the fastest player in the league. And what is so jaw-dropping is not his straight-line acceleration — think Carl Hagelin or Chris Kreider — it’s that he is able to stick-handle and move laterally while going 100 mph.

Crosby isn’t exactly a plodder, but there is only one player in the world who could make a move like McDavid did Tuesday. He didn’t just toast Ryan Suter — one of the best defenseman in the league — he made him look foolish.

Edge: McDavid

Pure goal scoring

It’s very rare that McDavid gets a chance like that one against Minnesota and doesn’t finish it. The most amazing part is how slow the game seems to be in his head. Most other players — great players, world-class players — take a quick shot in that situation. McDavid seems to have this extra bit of time to think about it, and then lifts it with ease.

Through the first 12 games of this season, McDavid has nine goals, tied for seventh in the league. He has 96 career goals in 221 games, with an impressive 0.43 goals per game.

But know where Crosby ranks during that time? At 0.46 goals per game, having also played 27 more games. The Pittsburgh captain is hardly a slouch when it comes to putting the puck in the net, and he still dazzles — like this snipe from Tuesday.

He also still has the best backhand in the game, used on this goal from Oct. 25.

Edge: Even

Vision

The creativity from McDavid is fascinating to watch. He is often moving so fast that the opposition gets mesmerized, then he makes a quick little pass for a tap-in goal. Remember this gem from this past November? Watch how everyone follows McDavid and leaves Leon Draisaitl alone in front. The no-look backhand pass is pretty impressive, too.

Of course, Crosby has been doing this stuff for a decade. He can make something out of nothing better than anyone since Gretzky. Here’s a highlight reel to prove it.

Edge: Crosby

Intangibles

If this argument were strictly about skill, that would be one thing. But it’s not. It’s about who is the best player in the world. Crosby has his name on the Stanley Cup three times, and on the Conn Smythe Trophy twice — from both of the back-to-back victories in 2016 and 2017. Getting to the playoffs and succeeding is largely about the team as a whole, but Crosby has led his team as well as anyone. The NHL and its fans should hope McDavid gets that spotlight someday — and he sure does seem like a good, quiet leader — but that day is yet to come.

Edge: Crosby

Verdict

It takes a lot to knock somebody off their throne. McDavid is an all-time talent, and if he keeps it up, sometime in the next few years, he is going to pass Crosby as the best in the game.

That time just isn’t now. Crosby is still the best.

Hurricane of Fun

Hard to understand why anyone would be upset about how the Hurricanes are celebrating their home victories — which are far more common than most predicted. But they are really enjoying their 6-5-1 start, showing fan appreciation not with cliched raised sticks at center ice, but with sprints.

Just for good measure, Dougie Hamilton added a good floss dance after he was named a star of the game.

Pettersson’s perfection

It’s not hard to find a reason each week to repeat the fact that Elias Pettersson was my pick for the Calder Trophy. The Canucks’ terrific 19-year-old was named Rookie of the Month, returning from his concussion absence to make plays like this sweet breakaway goal Tuesday.

Stay tuned …

… to the Canadiens. The old Bleu, Blanc and Rouge weren’t supposed to be very good this season, but they have surprised many by getting out to a 7-3-2 record, including a comeback victory against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals on Thursday night. Max Domi scored his fourth goal in the past four games, and precocious 18-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi netted his first two NHL goals, the second a game-tying tally with just over three minutes to play in regulation.

Keep an eye out on the Habs in an Atlantic Division that is severely diminished with the stumbling getaway from the Panthers, plus the awful Red Wings and Senators.

Parting shot

Another sad day for the country with Saturday’s shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, when a madman killed 11 people. The Penguins put together a nice tribute, which ran on their scoreboard before Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders.

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