If you ever find yourself around Pattison Ave. in Philadelphia, go up to a Philly sports fan and ask them which athlete the city hates the most. It could be at a Philadelphia Eagles game. I don’t care. I guarantee you that the name coming out of their mouth will be Sidney Crosby. No questions asked, they’re going to say the Pittsburgh Penguins captain. The number of reasons you’ll get as to why will seem endless. Crosby has done his fair share to earn the reputation, but quite frankly, it’s another story for another time.
The infamous debate on who the better player is, Crosby or the Philadelphia Flyers‘ Claude Giroux, is one that has been going on for quite a few seasons. If you ask me, it’s a pretty tired discussion. Fans will be loyal and stick to their guy. That’s just the way it is and there’s no changing that. It brings up another good topic, though. Who’s been the better captain this season?
Now before I move on, let me just clarify that in no way, shape or form is this being brought up to debate on who the better player is. So set those angry thoughts aside. It’s solely based on the statistical facts that prove Giroux is a better captain than Crosby is this season, not an overall player. Although, Giroux has been a better overall player than Crosby over the past few months, but again, another story for another time. Anyway, here we go.
I don’t know about you, but to me, nothing speaks volumes more about a captain than his clutch play. Giroux and Crosby have both tallied five game-winners this season. Both have also netted a goal in overtime. So where’s the argument you ask? Well, it’s in the competition of each player. Both players have scored against 18 different teams this season. Again, another even stat. However, if you break down the numbers, Giroux has faced harder competition and performed better. Of the 18 teams Crosby scored against, the average number of shots given up per game by them is 30.4. Giroux’s competition has given up 29.8 shots per game. Giroux has also scored against slightly better goaltending than Crosby has. His opponents’ goals against average is 2.67. Crosby’s is 2.70. Microscopic differences, but the numbers don’t lie.
A captain is supposed to lead their team as well, yes? Well, part of that leading is winning when it matters most. Sorry Pittsburgh fans, but Giroux has your boy beat there as well. Going into the Olympic break, Pittsburgh was the top team in the Eastern Conference with 83 points. Philly sat all the way back at seventh with 66 points. Since resuming play, though, Philly has gone 8-2-1 to earn 17 points. Pittsburgh has gone 6-5-2 to earn only 14 points. Currently, Pittsburgh has fallen back to second place with 97 points while the Flyers have climbed up to fifth with 83 points.
It’s not just Flyers fans noticing the difference. Philadelphia overtook the Penguins in csnwashington.com‘s NHL power rankings this week. Philly climbed to five while Pittsburgh fell back to ninth. According to csnwshington.com‘s JJ Regan, he’s not intimidated by the current play of Pittsburgh either saying, “I’d rather meet the Penguins in the playoffs right now than the Flyers.”
Lastly, it’s important to look at the supporting casts of each player. Crosby is paired up with Chris Kunitz and Lee Stempniak on Pittsburgh’s top line. Kunitz and Stempniak have combined for 42 goals. Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, who are paired up with Giroux, have only combined for 38 goals. The power play is no different. Crosby’s power play help combines for 88 goals and 139 assists. Giroux’s has combined for only 66 goals and 114 assists. The fact that Giroux’s leadership is climbing while Crosby’s is dropping despite having less talent speaks wonders about his play as a captain.
You can bicker back and forth all you want, but Giroux’s character is speaking louder than Crosby’s. Philly owns the season series 3-1. The two teams will meet for one last regular season showdown on Apr. 12 before the playoffs begin.