CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — A month. That’s it. That’s all the down time Sidney Crosby afforded himself following one of the more dominant runs in hockey history.
At the end of an equal parts thrilling and draining two-year stretch that included over 200 games, a World Cup of hockey gold medal for Team Canada and a pair of Stanley Cup parades through downtown Pittsburgh, the Penguins captain managed to squeeze — or maybe tolerate is the better word — four weeks off during another abbreviated summer.
More than enough, Crosby insists, for the fire that burns within to start anew.
“It’s a pretty short offseason, but short offseasons are good,” Crosby said Friday as the Penguins began training camp. “Having that type of hockey fresh in your mind isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.”
Not when the prospect of history beckons. Pittsburgh became the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as champions when they ended Nashville’s stunning run to the Cup final last spring. No club since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s has captured three consecutive Cups.
Not Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Not Crosby’s boss, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, who came up short in Pittsburgh’s bid for a three-peat in 1993. Not Crosby’s idol, Hall of Fame center Steve Yzerman, who couldn’t get out of the conference semifinals with Detroit in 1999.
Crosby, who turned 30 in August, welcomes the opportunity but also didn’t spend July and August pondering what another raucous Cup victory would mean to his own burgeoning legacy.
“You’ve got a window to be a professional hockey player and you just want to enjoy that and give my absolute best in that time frame,” Crosby said. “And I think just being able to be on a winning team last year, coming back and see a lot of the same faces and have that fresh in your mind and want that again, that’s enough motivation.”
Not every face is the same. While Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford deftly kept the group that won it all in 2016 largely intact, no amount of creative accounting could help the Penguins avoid the reality that success comes at a substantial cost in the salary-cap era.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was sent to expansion Las Vegas…