The Inevitable Decline of Crosby and Ovechkin

by | Feb 19, 2017 | Soapbox | 15 comments

NHL fans may have already seen the best of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

It’s been a milestone season for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Both reached the iconic 1,000 point plateau, an achievement only 84 others reached before them.

Crosby and Ovechkin will be forever remembered as the top NHL players of this generation, just as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were in the 1980s and 1990s, and Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard were in the 1950s. Both are certain first-ballot Hall of Famers, their legacies secure among hockey’s all-time greats.

Sadly, we’ve also already seen Crosby and Ovechkin at their best.

At first glance, that seems a premature assessment. As of Feb, 18, 2017, Crosby’s jockeying with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid for the points lead and on pace to win his second Richard Trophy as the leading goal scorer. Ovechkin, winner of six Richard Trophies, is only four goals back and capable of overtaking his long-time rival to win it again.

But time and the long grind of many NHL seasons will inevitably catch up with them. Crosby turns 30 in August and Ovechkin 32 in September. They are approaching the period when performance starts to decline. Even the very best, no matter how well-conditions and determined, cannot escape the effects of aging.

In the NHL, a players makes the jump from fresh-faced kid to elder stateman within 10 years. After 11 NHL seasons, that’s where Crosby and Ovechkin now find themselves.

It wasn’t that long ago when an 18-year-old Crosby and a 20-year-old Ovechkin made their NHL debuts. They helped the league quickly overcome the bad aftertaste of a bitter season-killing labor dispute. Thanks to their contributions, plodding defensive-trap hockey was out, replaced by a more exciting mix of speed and all-around skills.

Today, Crosby is recognized as one of hockey’s great all-around players and Ovechkin as one of the scorers. While there is no notable decline in their respective performances this season, the downturn will become apparent in the near future.

At some point within the next five seasons, Crosby’s pinpoint passes will lose some of their accuracy and Ovechkin’s blistering one-timer won’t be as potent. They will become slower, their shifts will get shorter, their playing time will be reduced and they will no longer challenge for scoring titles and most-valuable player awards.

When they string together a few good games, commentators will remind us that they haven’t fully lost the skills that once made them the best of their generation. Should Crosby make a slick passing play or Ovechkin rival home a goal, fans will nudge each other and murmur how they’ve still got it.

Those moments, however, will become less frequent. In the near future, Crosby and Ovechkin will be overtaken by McDavid, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Toronto’s Auston Matthews. McDavid, in fact, is already establishing himself as the future face of the NHL.

Over the last 11 years, NHL fans were fortunate to see two of hockey’s greats in the prime of their career. Crosby and Ovechkin have given us wonderful moments and memories that made them the standouts of this generation. They’ve been so dominant for so long that it’s easy to take them for granted.

All too soon, however, we’ll be talking about their greatness in the past tense. Their special moments will be relegated to memory, their highlights part of retrospective videos.

Appreciate “Sid the Kid” and “The Great 8” while they’re still at the peak of their powers. It won’t be long before they’re no longer capable of reaching those heights again.


  1. 2-3 more years yet for Crosby.

    • Maybe he has 5 good years but he’s not going to win another cup unless they make wise trades, keep draft picks let them develop. Before trade deadline they have to consider trading Marc Andre Fleury,you don’t want to lose him for nothing.

  2. what a bitter jaded pile of crap of an article. the author might as well suggest they retire and go ahead and do the same.

    • I fail to see where anything I wrote in this piece was bitter or jaded. Nowhere am I suggesting they retire right now, but merely pointing out we may have already seen their best. Like it or not, no player is immune from the inevitable decline of performance.

    • I dunno about anyone else but I felt that this article was more of a homage and appreciation for what they’ve brought to the game.

      I think calling it for what it is and appreciating all the years of entertaining hockey is quite respectable actually.

      • Cheers, NYFNR. That’s exactly what I was going for with this piece. Sadly, some folks misinterpreted it as criticism.

  3. Ah…they are far from done and the “near future” or “neat” as you state it, isn’t as close as you think. 30 and 32 has them at their optimal prime…ask Jagr

    • First, Jagr is a rare exception. Second, if you look at his performance from his early-30s onward, he underwent an inevitable decline, particularly when he reached his late-30s. While it’s remarkable that Jagr’s playing as well as he is at 45, he’s nowhere near the dominant force he was in his youth. Crosby and Ovechkin face the same fate. No matter how well-conditioned or well-motivated, their performance will be eventually become affected by age.

  4. There’s certainly a decent chance that Sid and Ovi follow in the foot steps of Selanne, Jagr and Thornton an stay productive into their late 30s and early 40s. That said, every NHL player is just one injury away from their career being diminished if not over. Hopefully Sid’s concussion history stays in the past as well.

  5. This is just a bunch of wasted commentary No revelation here. This happens to every superstar in every support. You can save this article to use again in another 10 years, just substitute Crosby and Ovi for McDavid and whoever is the next pure goal scorer over the next decade and republish it.

    About the only thing I found interesting about the 587 word article is that it includes both Crosby’s and Ovi’s numbers. Now if that was done purposely, I’m impressed.

    • Thanks for reading and for taking the time to count the words.

  6. Crosby will be a force until the day he retires. His work ethic alone is what makes him great. That will never change. Ovechkin.. well he isn’t great. He has mastered one move. One shot. I fail to see the greatness in standing in one spot, watching your team do all of the hard work and finishing it off to take the glory.

    • Sean, I couldn’t agree more with that Ovi statement. As well as his physical presence on the ice can crush some opponents, his big move is to stand at the top of the circle when nobody is looking and take his usual shot. A+ for accuracy but still…could he be more predictable. He did it in the Rangers-Caps game just this Sunday. He gets away with it because he has just enough people on his team that play well enough to cause a distraction so he can “set-up”. Crosby can score from most anywhere.

      • Ovi is great and was quite a rival for the first few seasons but he dropped off. Malkin has been the second top producing player over the last 11 seasons. But definitely Crosby, Malkin, Ovi and Backstrom are the best top 4 producing players over the last 10 to 12 seasons. These are the last of the big time better than a point a game duos.

  7. Don’t know why so many are upset with this article it is the facts that’s what happens great read