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Tim Benz: Pittsburgh’s confidence in Sidney Crosby

August 20, 2018

The Penguins' Sidney Crosby fights for the puck with the Jets' Toby Engstrom and Mark Scheifele (55) in the third period Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.

Take 500-plus Pittsburgh sports fans. Put them in a room together.

Now pose a bunch of sports-related topics for debate.

How many of those topics do you think would result in nine out of 10 people agreeing?

Keep in mind, this is a city that had some people suggesting a trade of Ben Roethlisberger was a good idea after his bad 2006 season following the motorcycle accident.

I remember. I was on the other end of the phone calls on the network postgame show that year.

Here a few topics that I came up with that may — may — result in 90-percent Yinzer sports fan agreement.

• Did Terry Bradshaw have a better Steeler career than Bubby Brister?

• Should Bob Nutting spend more on payroll?

• Do you hate Capitals forward Tom Wilson?

Aside from that, I’m not sure how many more I can imagine.

As a group of sports fans, we aren’t the most agreeable lot.

But I created nearly universal agreement by accident earlier this week. With Roethlisberger’s 15th season about to begin, and Sidney Crosby turning 31 Tuesday, I posed this question on Twitter before going on 105.9 the X.

https://twitter.com/TimBenzPGH/status/1027173009457594368

Wow.

So, if you combine the results of people who think both men will win another title with those that think only Crosby will win a title, that’s almost 90 percent of respondents predicting that Sid-no-longer-a-Kid is going to win another Stanley Cup.

His fourth. Twice as many as Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. A number Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe had achieved before they turned 30.

Had I proposed this question sometime in the summer of 2009 after a 21-year old Crosby had just collected his first championship, I could’ve presumed results such as these.

But assuming — and at 89 percent that’s basically what we are doing — Crosby grabs one more ring at this age, that’s no small task.

I get it. Crosby-confidence is sky-high in Pittsburgh these days. He’s recently off two Conn Smythe Trophies. He was good again in the playoffs this year even though the Penguins lost to Washington. Age doesn’t appear to be catching up to Crosby yet.

Furthermore, the Penguins have a good group around Crosby as his prime continues. Phil Kessel, Matt Murray, Patric Hornqvist, and, of course, Evgeni Malkin have the talent, blend, pedigree, contracts, and remaining years to buoy another Crosby Cup-run.

Because of that, if I had voted on my own question I would’ve voted “just Crosby,” too.

So, I would’ve been with you 89-percenters here as well. I’m just surprised the opinion is this close to being universal.

Crosby could get another concussion, or some other injury. Malkin could leave the team before Crosby does. Or they could have another six-year stretch of underachievement and bad luck as they did from 2010-15.

One of the most amazing things about the run of success in the Crosby-era is that both the build, and the rebuild, have yielded Stanley Cups.

Kris Letang became an incarnation of Sergei Gonchar as a two-way blueline star. Murray became an incarnation of Marc-Andre Fleury in goal. Nick Bonino became a different version of Jordan Staal as a third-line center. And Matt Cullen became Bill Guerin as an acquired veteran leader who could still also actually play.

Imagine trying a third construction of a perfect team during the span of one captain’s career. That’s not easy to do. Eventually, no matter how good you are, or how much talent currently surrounds you, you are going to wind up on bad team at some point.

Look at Chris Kunitz. It’s no wonder there is no other current player besides him to win four rings.

There are only a few rules in Pittsburgh. You don’t switch lanes in the tunnels. You only use Heinz ketchup. The cookie table must be the most extravagant thing at your wedding. You always blame the offensive coordinator for “being too predictable on 3rd downs.”

And you never bet against Sidney Crosby.

I won’t here either. I do think No. 87 gets Cup number four before he leaves Pittsburgh.

I’m just not 89 percent sure of it.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH.

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