When ranking the current best players in the NHL, Sidney Crosby ranks pretty high. But just where would we rank Sid in terms of top players you’d want to have on your team to win a Stanley Cup in 2023-24? This isn’t a list of who’d you want to start a franchise, because at 36, he will slow down, right? Also, this isn’t about the best players in the NHL, that’s flooded with snipers, Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. This list is purely a list for if you had to choose a player to select in a fantasy draft type pick who would help you win the 2024 Cup. We shall lay out reasons why Sid is higher than you probably think.

Sid the Kid as a Pick for NHL Best Players to Help Win the Stanley Cup in 2024

To get started, the team factor for Crosby cannot be undervalued. He makes everybody better and has done so throughout his entire career, and continues to do so. Look at his linemates, guys that were by no means stars before playing with Crosby. Some of those players he turned into successful top-liners. But perhaps more impressive still was the lesser lights of which Sid did the lion’s share of the work. Guys that you would make the argument, he allowed for money to be spent elsewhere. Rather than having to fork out major dollars for a top-line winger, Crosby elevated their performances and maximized their output.

Crosby Has Made the People Around Him Great

We will spare you the names from the latter category, but what about his long-time linemates? Take for example the greatness that has become of Chris Kunitz, Jake Guentzel, or Bryan Rust. If we focus on Rust, he has developed into a reliable NHL goal scorer. He is quietly in the midst of a string of four consecutive 20-goal seasons, with a career GPG of 0.29. With 10 through 22 games thus far in 2023-24, playing with Crosby, the pair continues to produce. Furthermore, Guentzel has played almost all of his eight-year career on Sid’s flank. Over that time, he has 207 goals, including three seasons of 36 or more. Sid is basically the Penguins own player development on-ice personnel.

Sid Still Gets It Done on the Stat Sheet

The greatness of Crosby carries over if we take a look at it through individual statistics. At the ripe old age of 36, he is still getting the job done and impressively. In 26 games thus far, Crosby has 15 goals and 12 assists. That puts him on pace for 47 goals and 85 points. As a baseline, Auston Matthews finished 22nd with 85 points last year. Furthermore, only once Crosby scored 50 goals. We are witnessing truly amazement if he can accomplish the feat at 36.

Around the league, we will likely continue the trend with 100-point scorers. Last year we had 11. Hence, this can be beneficial for consideration of maintaining the current pace. Alternatively, we will set our sights on the intangibles. Sid the Kid. The man with a career 52.9% faceoff-winning rate. His CF% Rel is a steady 18.8 in 2023-24. Essentially, any way you slice Sid’s statistics, he continues to produce at a top level.

Looking at the Rest of the NHL Best Players

Ok, that is all fine and good, but how does he compare to other candidates? Let’s look at the other GOATs as scorers right now. Names like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews come to mind. First, let’s take a look at even strength point leaders. Crosby has 24 and is fifth in the league. And who leads? Jake Guentzel with 26. He is tied with Nathan MacKinnon. Other notable superstars near the top of the leaderboard include Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, Artemi Panarin, and Elias Pettersson. McDavid is 19th with 19. Meanwhile, Matthews has 18. Somehow Crosby comes out looking pretty strong when going head-to-head with these snipers.

Even in expected goals per 60 minutes, Crosby is eighth at 1.69. Matthews checks in up to fourth, but McDavid is way down at 129th. Now, players like Matthews are well-suited to do the majority of their damage on the power play. However, normally power play opportunities are pretty even, especially when it comes down to the playoffs. So, we must concede that Crosby isn’t among the top-tier scorers when he struggles to get to 90, and McDavid puts up 150+. For this year, we could discuss Jack Hughes who is on pace for around 127. But in terms of being a gifted point producer, and being a value add to your team’s offence, Crosby still ranks very highly.

The Great Team Players of the NHL Best

Now that we have compared Sid to some of the best scorers in the league, what about compared to the winners? A worthy group of names for this category includes Nikita Kucherov, Anze Kopitar, and Nathan MacKinnon. In the group, they have combined for five Stanley Cup championships, including three of the last four. Crosby’s pedigree as a winner establishes his dominance over a significant span. He made his first finals in 2008 and won his first the following year. Then it was a lucky number seven years until Sid would claim another cup, as well as the next year. Compared to the other three names, Sid has more cups than any of them. He won when he was younger, as he was still only 21 in 2009.

Players in today’s game who are great players and leaders are few and far between. When you compare these great leaders against Crosby, the case for Crosby appears pretty strong. MacKinnon’s team success took some development, such as the team’s poor performance in Jared Bednar’s first season at the helm, they were 22-56-4. Nowadays, yes, MacKinnon is one of the great all-around players and top playoff performers, but it took patience in the process. Crosby always has and continues to hold himself and more importantly his team to a higher standard. A standard that leads to success, game in, game out, year after year.

Look at the Individual Performers

Thus far, we showed Sid still compares favourably against point getters and winners alike, now to another categorization. This next attribute is players chasing the GOAT status. A few members of such a distinction would sound like Leon Draisaitl, Cale Makar, or Igor Shesterkin. It is difficult to quantify how exactly these players can compare. If we think about individual accolades, Draisaitl has received three awards, Makar three as well, and Sheshterkin one. Over his career, Crosby has captured 12 such awards, including twice as the league’s playoff MVP, the Conn Smythe. Crosby is unlikely to challenge for these types of awards at this point. Conversely, with such a high ceiling, he shows it was sustainable all along for him. Also, if Sid were to put together a magical playoff run for a Conn Smythe if that were to happen.

Best Season Ever for a 36-Year-Old

One final comparison to make is with the all-time greats. If we glance at a list of top-five seasons by a 36-year-old NHLer. Accordingly, as we see, it is a great collection of all-time great players. Sid is going to find himself right in the mix. An interesting point is a few of the players in this top-five didn’t come in the league as 18-year-olds. Each of Selanne, Ratelle, and Ovechkin was a bit older. This is a fact that would have allowed them to be more effective at an older age. Either way. Gretzky is there, so the list does serve as a suitable comparable.

Of course, other notable players would contend for the current crown. Just how would we quantify the others that qualify for the top selections to help you win the cup in 2024? Names that come to mind, complete players, include the likes of Mikko Rantanen, a couple of the Vancouver Canucks, Aleksander Barkov, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Patrick Kane. In terms of completeness, Crosby would still rank high compared to any of this group. If you look offensively, or as a two-way player, Sid might trail slightly to one or another. However, when you consider Sid’s playoff performance, locker room leadership, and winning pedigree, he would edge these types of players out.

Final Thoughts of Who’s on Top

At the end of the day, it is clear. Sidney Crosby is still a top-five player, league-wide, in who you want to have in order to win the 2024 Stanley Cup. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention one young sniper, in Jack Hughes. Hence, Hughes would be an example of a player topping Crosby. Someone scoring at his rate, similar to McDavid, easily secures a high pick. Other names probably leaning towards Kucherov and MacKinnon. But now, Sid the kid, for the city of Pittsburgh, over his career, has turned into the ultimate performer. We have witnessed the way newcomers to the league, whether it be McDavid or Connor Bedard, respect his abilities and what he has done for the game. His work ethic always was, and is today, at another level. Hats off to one of the NHL’s best players to ever do it.

Main photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.