If you were questioning what was wrong with Sidney Crosby during the first half of 2015-16, you weren’t alone.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was wondering the same thing about himself as he stumbled out of the gates to start his 11th season playing professional hockey.
“Almost a quarter of the way through the 2015–16 season, I only had a handful of points and wherever I was on the list of NHL scoring leaders, it wasn’t high,” Crosby wrote in an article for SI.com’s The Cauldron on Thursday. “I wasn’t playing up to my expectations, but even worse, my failures meant that the team wasn’t winning. Nothing we did seemed to work. Offensively we struggled and with each frustrating loss, we fell further and further behind the competition.”
Of course, he and his teammates turned things around pretty quickly, and eventually claimed the Stanley Cup.
So, what changed? For Crosby, it was “just playing.”
“That’s what ultimately helped me break out of the funk I was in,” he wrote. “Going out onto the ice and playing instinctively.”
In the article, Crosby addresses the season—which included a coaching change, a few trade rumours and plenty of questions—and the doubts he had throughout that tumultuous campaign, as well as the fast climb to the top once everything clicked.
“Winning the Stanley Cup was amazing (obviously), but it was made all the more sweet on account of how we started the season,” he wrote. “We were an afterthought, a punchline — and then we weren’t.”
Here are a few excerpts:
Truthfully, I have never been one to seek out what is being written and said in the media — good or bad. I’m pretty motivated as it is without needing extra fuel for the fire. The most diehard fan or angry columnist doesn’t expect more out of me than I do of myself. No matter how much pressure anyone else heaps upon me, I still put more pressure on myself.
On the power of self-evaluation:
I knew the game hadn’t passed me by. Deep down inside, athletes know what they are capable of, and we know what we need to do in order to meet and exceed our own expectations. And sure, I know there are ups and downs in a season, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have to look in the mirror and answer some hard questions about my game — if only to evaluate where I was and truly understand what I needed to improve on. Honest self-evaluation comes with the territory — no matter how well or poorly you’re playing at any given moment.
On the slow climb back to success:
Over time, we slowly developed an identity as a team based on how we wanted to play. Undeniably, that happened a lot slower than everyone wanted it to happen. As a result, a coaching change was made (which is difficult as a player to have rest on your shoulders), but the wins finally started to come.
On winning that second Stanley Cup
If I am being honest, winning it all for the second time was partly a relief, too. Making it to the Finals, taking that incredible journey together, you want to come out on top. It wasn’t just about overcoming the struggles of last season, but also what happened between the two cups, falling short in other years when expectations were high and my injuries prevented me from being on the ice. Everything we had been through made this one so incredibly special.
On striving to find his best game—and staying ahead of the curve:
As if outrunning the downside of my career wasn’t motivation enough, the new guys coming into the league will surely have my attention, too. These are the young and hungry guys. The guys that want to be where you are. They’re fast. They’re strong. And with all the young talent throughout the league, it just makes you want to get better yourself. That’s such a fun (and underrated) part of the game to me. I love having to adjust and adapt my game year-to-year to find ways to be my best.
Read the SI.com article in its entirety here.