Looking ahead: Where will Crosby's point total land by career's end?

by 3d ago
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After what became an unexpectedly arduous wait, Sidney Crosby finally reached - and quickly surpassed - the 1,000-point plateau.

The Pittsburgh Penguins pivot achieved the feat in dominant fashion Thursday night, doing so in about as signature a performance as one would hope for - elite puck protection, even better vision, and a tag-team effort with old linemate Chris Kunitz.

Now that Crosby has moved on from the historic moment - he posted two more points in the Penguins' win to move his total to 1,002 - the next slew of milestones sit waiting for his approach.

It's clear the Nova Scotian phenom isn't anywhere close to hanging up his skates. So where exactly does that point total project to finish by the end of his career? Let's break down the determining factors.

Hanging around

The central factor will obviously be how long Crosby stays in the NHL.

Jaromir Jagr, the league's current elder statesman, is 45 years old and still years away from his final game in the league. However Jagr's also 6-3 and 230 pounds, easily able to handle the physicality of the big leagues. The same can be said for 40-year-old Shane Doan.

Crosby's own teammate Matt Cullen is a fresh 40 years old as well though, and still making an impact without that physical presence.

Given Crosby's oft praised work ethic and his irreplaceable understanding of the game, playing until 40 doesn't seem out of the question. He's 29 at the moment, so sticking around after his 30s would give him another 11 seasons to do work.

How many of those campaigns are going to see the captain score at the pace he's currently on?

There's going to be an undeniable decline at some point. That's simply the reality of players' career arcs, whether they're on the fringe or in the record books.

But Crosby found new life in 2016. Since the installation of Mike Sullivan as the Penguins' head coach last season, Crosby's looked as good as he ever has, tallying points at a dizzying pace. With 64 points through 50 games, he's on track for just under 100 points by season's end.

Even with the legs getting slower over the coming years, it's safe to assume he has at least another few seasons at this level. Especially with the key components of his supporting cast set to remain in Pittsburgh - Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel are all signed long term in the Steel City.

(Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports)

The numbers

Let's give Crosby three more years at his league-leading level, before things begin to tailor off. He's been in the 85-point range for two consecutive seasons, and will likely finish well above that this year, so let's allot 90 points per season for those next three years.

After that, it's possible he dips down into the 70-point range. A look at the career arcs of other all-time greats suggests as much, and given the fact that the league is trending more and more towards speed, keeping up isn't going to get any easier for older players.

Pinning him at 70 points is being generous to Crosby's decline, as the former 'Kid' has enough competitive drive and pure skill to do far better for far longer. But let's wind it all the way down to 70, just to account for the inevitable slow-down.

It's tough to imagine him finishing any lower than that, even into his late 30s and early 40s. Playmaking wizard Joe Thornton is fresh off posting an 82-point season at age 36. Jagr is still in that range well into his 40's.

If Crosby's supporting cast remains productive and talented enough to feed his skill set, he isn't falling below that 70-point level.

Health is undoubtedly an issue, especially given the significant amount of time the captain has spent on the shelf with an assortments of injuries and ailments. But all signs point to him being past the worst of it. He's missed no more than a handful of games in each of the past four seasons, and looks to be in line for another nearly full campaign in 2016-17.

Adding it all up

Where does all of that leave the Canadian scoring king?

If everything lines up as stated, Crosby would amass another 270 points over the next three years, and 560 points over the subsequent eight campaigns - assuming he hangs up the skates at 40.

That would give him 1,832 career points, cementing his place among the all-time best. With 1,832 in the bag, the Cole Harbour product would climb to fifth all-time, sandwiched between legends Gordie Howe and Ron Francis.

The Penguins star would become only the fifth player in history to top 1,800 points, joining Wayne Gretzky (2,857), Jagr (1,900), Mark Messier (1,887), and Howe (1,850).

Of course, that's all assuming Crosby calls it quits at 40. What if he doesn't?

Assuming he stays in that 70-point range, remaining for even one more season past age 40 would deliver him to the 1,900-point plateau. He would rank third all-time, bested by only Gretzky and Jagr.

Undoubtedly appropriate company for Crosby, who's already proven himself as one of the best to ever take the ice.