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By Joe Huss
On paper the Pittsburgh Penguins have one of the most potent offenses in the league. Superstar Sidney Crosby was supposed to lead the charge, with newly acquired Phil Kessel on his wing. However, a slow start to the season began to raise the question: Is Crosby past his prime?
Some thought Crosby needed a change of scenery after rumors of there being problems with team owner and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux. This was interesting because before the season Lemieux was listening to offers about selling the team. They both stated the rumors were false and there was no distress between the two.
Another factor people tried to contribute was there could be problems with former head coach Mike Johnston. Crosby is a prototypical two-way forward, but has a strong offensive upside. He has always been towards the top of the scoring race, which is why everyone was shocked to see him struggle offensively in the early part of the season. Johnston was known to be a defensive-minded coach and when you have such a strong offensive team with players like Crosby, Kessel, and Russian superstar Evgeni Malkin who are struggling to score in your system, you should try and change it. Johnston refused to change his style and it cost him his job. However, both refute those rumors and say they had no problems with each other.
The head coach of the Penguins, minor league affiliate Mike Sullivan, was named Johnston’s replacement. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were off to a hot start to their season under Sullivan before the Penguins named him the coach. They were atop the standings and had one of the strongest offenses in the American Hockey League. This gave a lot of Pittsburgh fans hope for the season to be turned around.
The change seemed to benefit Crosby the most as he has skyrocketed up the scoring leaders chart. In the months of January and February he scored 15 goals, which is more than he scored from October through December. In fact, in a four game span he had amassed 12 points and recorded a hat trick. He currently sits on 53 points on the year, which has put him into the top 10 for the scoring race.
This sudden flurry of points is no shock to anyone because he is still regarded as the best player in the world. Now he has a coach who is letting him do what he does best: Play hockey. The league should be on lookout for the Penguins because when Crosby is playing like he is, they are tough to beat no matter who they are playing.