Mark Recchi

Sidney Crosby Michael Jordan comparison The Last Dance
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How valid is a Sidney Crosby-Michael Jordan comparison?

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During this sports-starved pandemic, “The Last Dance” inspired a flood of Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls-related takes. For those of us who cover other sports, it’s almost inevitable to make comparisons to Michael Jordan, and Sidney Crosby ranks as a fairly obvious choice.

Just because it’s inevitable, and will leave some people rolling their eyes, doesn’t mean it isn’t … well, a lot of fun.

But is the Crosby – Jordan comparison valid?

Current Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi made the comparison on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central. When asked by David Amber, Recchi cites Crosby’s work ethic. He also states that while Crosby is competitive, he isn’t quite as confrontational as the apparently often-abrasive Jordan was:

Recchi estimates that new teammates take as much as a month to get used to the Penguins’ rigorous practices. Crosby’s competitiveness is a big part of that.

[More: Crosby’s preferred playoff format.]

The basics of Jordan – Crosby

When people compare stars across sports and eras, they often paint with a broad brush. Let’s zoom out before we zoom in, then.

In making a Crosby – Jordan comparison, scale is important:

  • Crosby’s hockey famous, while Jordan is and was a global icon. Also, if people aren’t saying a leader in a field is the “Michael Jordan of ____,” then they’d be using Wayne Gretzky’s name instead of Crosby. That’s not totally Sid’s fault, but it’s true.
  • Crosby piled up plenty of individual accolades, for sure. Jordan just piled up a lot more. (Crosby’s injuries surely had something to do with that.)
  • Both won multiple titles, including repeat championships. Sure, Jordan has more rings (six to three), but both paired individual dominance with team dominance.
  • They both experienced some handshake drama during their careers.
  • Each player created iconic moments, including winning Olympic gold.

“The Golden Goal” is Crosby’s answer to some of Jordan’s best buzzer-beaters:

As unfair as it’s always felt to Scottie Pippen and Evgeni Malkin, you could also say each “Batman” had their “Robin.”

Recchi stated that Crosby isn’t as “confrontational” as Jordan. That might be true, again, in a sense of scale. Even by the demanding standards star players often set, it seems like MJ was on another level.

Naturally, Crosby also hasn’t faced the off-ice drama that hounded the hyper-famous Jordan. (If Crosby made a midnight casino run, would we even find out?)

But there’s no doubt that Crosby can be a downright nasty competitor, yapping at opponents. During his earlier seasons, it made him especially polarizing to many hockey fans.

And, honestly, we only know so much about Crosby. Sure, it seems like he’s wholesome — consider the cheeky hotel room shenanigans from that HBO 24/7 series — but we aren’t witnessing hours of unaired footage of Crosby, behind the scenes.

You don’t need a documentary to see that Crosby is driven in many of the same ways Jordan was, though.

Sneaky strength

Stylistically, you can point to some key differences between Crosby and Jordan. For one thing, Crosby leans toward playmaking, while Jordan’s isolation shooting changed the NBA. (Don’t get me wrong, Crosby can shoot and Jordan most definitely could pass. I’m mainly talking about “first instincts.”)

When you drill down into what made/makes them great, one interesting thing is how they could exert their will.

In watching footage of Crosby and Jordan over the years, it’s striking how abundantly clear how hard they work. To be clear, each star produced some of the flashiest highlights we’ve seen in their sports. Yet, connoisseurs can dig into the details of their games to find even more to appreciate.

Some Jordan clips are secondhand exhausting. Crosby’s ability to possess the puck and overwhelm opponents can often be a delirious sight.

This wasn’t even the sequence I was initially searching for, yet …

Back in late April, P.K. Subban told Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean that strength is what separates Crosby. Subban would know, too, given his multiple playoff battles with Crosby.

Jordan possessed the strength to overpower opponents, particularly as his career went on. Part of that came down to adding 15 lbs. of muscle to combat the Pistons’ “Jordan Rules.” The other part boils down to doing whatever it took to win.

Crosby and Jordan evolve their games

Michael Jordan eventually needed to accept that he couldn’t always be “Air Jordan.” So, as he got bulkier and older, Jordan morphed into a dominant post player.

Much has been made about Crosby improving his face-off skills over the years, and it’s worth mentioning again. But that’s just a part of how Crosby’s found different ways to be dominant during his career.

Despite a predilection for passing, Crosby’s been willing to be more of a sniper at times, too.

Another testament to their will and skill was how proficient both Jordan and Crosby became defensively. It’s unclear if Crosby will ever reach Jordan’s defensive level. Doc Rivers called Jordan “the best superstar defender in the history” of the NBA, after all.

That said, momentum has been building for a Crosby Selke Trophy nod for some time, especially last season.

Final thoughts

Crosby isn’t famous like Jordan. Any GOAT arguments involving Crosby might feel a bit bold considering Gretzky’s impact.

And while Crosby faced mid-career turmoil with his concussion issues, he didn’t face the drama, personal tragedy, and bizarre sojourns that Jordan experienced. In other words, don’t expect Crosby to chase Major League Baseball dreams anytime soon.

… Although:

Personally, I think it’s a fun exercise to explore similarities and differences. How do you feel about the Crosby – Jordan comparison? Is there a better NHL parallel for MJ?

More: PHT picks what could be a hockey documentary version of “The Last Dance.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ovechkin continues ascent up the NHL’s goal-scoring list

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Alex Ovechkin likes record books, presumably because he likes re-writing them with his name all over the place.

The Washington Capitals captain had two goals through two periods against the Toronto Maple Leafs, his 574rd and 575th, which moved Ovechkin from beside Mike Bossy in a tie for 21st place, into sole possession of the spot on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list.

Update: Ovechkin added an empty-net for his 20th career hat trick, tying him with Pavel Bure for most ever by a Russian-born player.

The goal to take sole possession was vintage Ovi, complete with booing fans as a soundtrack:

And here is his second goal of the game, also vintage Ovi:

With the hat trick, Ovechkin moved himself to within a goal of a tie for 20th with Mark Recchi, who sits in the 20th spot with 577 career goals.

The goal scoring is pretty incredible in its own right, Ovechkin has four markers in his past three games, and then this little nugget popped up on Twitter:

That’s insane.

But wait, there’s more:

Isn’t hockey fun?


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2017 grew the game in many ways

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The Hockey Hall of Fame will induct its 2017 class Monday night in Toronto. The seven individuals who will be enshrined include five players and two builders.

Clare Drake, Jeremy Jacobs, Dave Andreychuk, Danielle Goyette, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi and Teemu Selanne will join the many other legends inside the old bank building on Yonge Street forever. Their contributions as a whole, no matter their position in hockey, helped grow the game to what it’s known as today.

Builder

Clare Drake — The most successful coach in Canadian university hockey history won six national championships in 28 years at the University of Alberta. He retired in 1989 with a record of 697-296-37, which comes out to a .695 winning percentage. Drake not only contributed at the university level, he also spent time at the professional level with a year coaching the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA in 1975-76, working as a Winnipeg Jets assistant in 1989-90 and helping out the Dallas Stars during the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was also behind the bench for Canada’s entry at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Drake’s last legacy may be his role in developing players and educating coaches through his contributions to the Canadian Coaching Certification Program.

Jeremy Jacobs — Since purchasing the Boston Bruins since 1975, the franchise has made the Stanley Cup Final six times, winning once. He’s been Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors for the last 10 years was the recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2015 for his “outstanding service to hockey in the United States.”

Player

Dave Andreychuk — Only 13 players in NHL history have scored more goals than Andreychuk, who put up 640 in 1,639 NHL games. Of those 640 goals, 274 came on the power play, the most in NHL history. A two-time All-Star and 2004 Stanley Cup champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning, ‘Andy’ hit the 50-goal mark twice in his career. It also hard to imagine many of his goals that weren’t scored from around the blue paint.

Danielle Goyette — A two-time Olympic goal medalist and eight-time winner at the World Championship as part of Team Canada, Goyette hung up her skates with 113 goals and 105 assists in 171 games representing her country. During the 1998 Olympics, she led all players with eight goals. Four years later, in helping Canada win gold, she tied for the scoring lead with 10 points. In 2006, as she helped her country to a second straight gold, she was selected as flag bearer during the Opening Ceremonies. Currently, Goyette is the second-leading scorer in women’s Olympic history with 15 goals.

Paul Kariya — Kariya’s hockey accomplishments didn’t just come while part of the NHL. Before he was drafted fourth overall by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, he won the World Junior Championship with Canada and later the NCAA title with Maine in 1993. A year later he would win gold at the World Championship and in 2002 was part of the Olympic winning Canadian side at the Salt Lake Games. Eleven games shy of 1,000 games for his career, he finished with 402 goals and 989 points — on the dot to be a point per game player over his career. A two-time Lady Byng winner and seven-time All-Star, Kariya is well-remembered for his goal during the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, which came 10 minutes after a vicious hit from Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5QEVPWfxcY%5D

Mark Recchi —One of four players in NHL history to play more than 1,700 games, Recchi enters the Hall as a five-time Stanley Cup champion, three of which came during his playing career. He’s one of 10 players in history to win a title on three different NHL teams, and his career ended with 577 goals and 1,533 points. Outside of a 15-game first NHL year, he scored double digit goals in 21 straight seasons.

Teemu Selanne —Selanne introduced himself to the NHL world in spectacular fashion with a 76-goal, Calder Trophy winning rookie season in 1992-93. The goals continued over the next 22 years as the “Finnish Flash” scored 684 of them, good for 11th all-time. He’s also the all-time leading scorer in Olympic history with 43 points in 37 games. His trophy case is filled with one Stanley Cup, a Masterton Trophy, Rocket Richard Trophy, four bronze and one silver Olympic medals, and silver and bronze from the World Championship, among many other honors. We all, of course, remember the goal and celebration that helped him break the rookie goal scoring record in 1993:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vtk6yVqDy3Q%5D

Also being honored in Toronto are Cam Cole, winner of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey” as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, and late NHL play-by-play man Dave Strader, who is this year’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award honoree for his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

What are you favorite memories from this year’s inductees?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Chris Phillips thinks Mark Recchi is “uninformed” about labor situation

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Mark Recchi speaking his mind about the players needing to settle with the NHL now and take their most recent offer isn’t sitting well.

Ken Warren from Senators Extra hears it from Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips that Recchi doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.

“I guess I would say it’s an uninformed answer, unless he’s now tied in with ownership somewhere or wants to get involved with ownership and trying to take that side,” said Phillips, the Senators player representative. “Unless you’re on the calls and know what’s going on all the time, I don’t know what those comments are based on. Because he’s not involved.”

First it was Recchi being criticized for his take on concussions and now this. Going from a doctor to a lawyer is rough.

For what it’s worth, Phillips has had an active role in CBA negotiations and he’s clearly protective over what the players are trying to do, but Recchi isn’t the only former player encouraging the current players to get a deal done ASAP.

Recchi on lockout: Time for players “to think like businessmen”

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Mark Recchi has a message for locked-out NHL players — get a deal done now, because the owner’s offers won’t get any better.

That’s what the former Bruin told the Boston Globe, explaining that players need to “think like businessmen” as the lockout approaches Day 60.

“The longer it goes, the worse [the offer] is going to get [for the players],” he said. “Hey, I’m an owner, too, so I see both sides. We lose money on our team, and obviously that’s not the same, the money’s not nearly as significant as in the NHL, but the business dynamics are similar. We’ve lost money every year we’ve owned it.’’

Recchi is a part owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. That, along with his lengthy playing career, gives him a unique perspective regarding work stoppages.

He was in Philadelphia for the strike of 1992, in Montreal for the 1995 lockout and signed with Pittsburgh out of the 2004-05 lost season (he was eventually traded to Carolina that year, and won the Cup with the ‘Canes.)

Recchi says that, based solely on the numbers, it makes sense for players to resume playing.

“The longer they’re out, the revenues are going to go down and down,’’ he said. “Corporate sponsors aren’t going to be lining up . . . so there goes that money. The schedule isn’t going to be 82 games, I don’t think, at this point. That’s more money lost.

“So, how are you going to get a better deal? Personally, I think the best time is now.”

Recchi also made a salient point about the perception of “winning” and “losing” negotiations.

The NHLPA was largely considered to be the latter after the last CBA, yet eventually emerged with a number of massive salaries and a 57 percent share of record revenues.

“Look at that last deal,” he said. “We ended up with the cap and everyone thought it was a bad deal. But it ended up great, right?

“No matter what the system is, or has been, the players get their money.”