Q: I was wondering, when did "Sid the Kid" become "Sid the Man?" I see no more young fiery kid in him, just a veteran who makes the standard NHL moves. What is going on here? Maybe Mario Lemieux can pull out some old tapes and show him how a 21-years-young superstar plays.
Chris Costa, Warwick N.Y.
MOLINARI: There's no question that Crosby's performance through the first 14 games of the season has not met the expectations of many, if not most, observers. It also says something when a 21-year-old can be viewed as a disappointment even though he's averaging better than a point per game. Still, it's unlikely that even Crosby's most staunch supporters would argue that he has been pulling fans out of their seats quite as often as he did earlier in his career.
As has been noted countless times here and elsewhere, the Penguins -- with the conspicuous exception of Marian Hossa -- have not been able to find linemates capable of taking full advantage of Crosby's abilities. Because he is, first and foremost, a playmaker, he isn't likely to manufacture many goals singlehandedly, aside from those stemming from the occasional spectacular rush or dazzling move.
It also is unclear how much Crosby's lingering injury, the nature and severity of which have not been divulged by the team, is affecting him, although he had had some relatively ordinary games before he was hurt during a 4-1 loss in Phoenix Oct. 30.
Still, Crosby's commitment to his craft -- as intense as any the moderator of this forum has seen in a quarter-century of covering the NHL -- and ferociously competitive nature make it reasonable to believe that he will, at some point, regain whatever edge on his game has been dulled.
No one, however, should judge Crosby -- or Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin or any other of the league's brilliant young talents -- by the standards Lemieux set. All of the guys mentioned in the previous sentence are extraordinary talents, but they are not in Lemieux's class. Not yet and, quite possibly, not ever.
Q: Am I correct in assuming that Max Talbot is the best seventh-round draft pick in franchise history?
Mike Clibbens, Richmond, Va.
MOLINARI: Absolutely not. No way.
Mostly because Talbot was an eighth-round selection, not a seventh-rounder, when the Penguins grabbed him with the 234th choice in 2002.
Talbot is, however, no worse that the second-best player the Penguins got out of his draft class, which was headlined by Ryan Whitney, the fifth-overall selection.
The players claimed ahead of Talbot, in rounds 2-7, were Ondrej Nemec, Erik Christensen, Daniel Fernholm, Andrew Sertich. Cam Paddock, Bobby Goepfert and Patrik Bartschi.
No one in that group still shows up on the Penguins' organizational depth chart and Christensen, who was sent to Atlanta in the Marian Hossa trade in February, is the only one playing in the NHL.
And, truth be told, the Penguins have had a bit more more luck with eighth-round choices than those taken in the seventh. Their most prominent No. 7 behind Talbot is winger Tom Kostopoulos, now with Montreal, while prospects selected by the Penguins in the eighth round include Andrew Ference (1997), Paul Stanton (1985), Ryan Lannon (five picks after Talbot), Mitch Lamoureux (1981) and David Brown (2004).