LAS VEGAS — Sidney Crosby craves stability like most people crave air.
The Penguins center and captain has seen more chaos with the club over the past couple of months than he ever has.
The hiring Wednesday of a coach, Mike Johnston, by new general manager Jim Rutherford settled one question, but more upheaval is expected. Crosby is braced for it.
“There’s definitely a lot of change,” Crosby said late Tuesday after the NHL awards show but before Johnston’s hiring was finalized. “For me, just the way I am, I’m not a person who usually likes change. I’m pretty [reliant on] routine.
“That being said, when things have changed in the past, and in past experiences, it always has kind of figured itself out at some point. I think you just have to have that confidence [and ride] the momentum that will, hopefully, carry from all the changes and a new perspective.”
The team that reports to training camp in September will look different in the wake of a long list of potential free agents and a string of five disappointing postseasons since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
As a result, players will need to adjust not only to each other but also to Johnston’s coaching style, which likely will include tweaked systems, new practice routines, different terminology, and at least one new assistant coach, former Penguins winger Rick Tocchet.
“All those things are things that I think guys will look forward to,” Crosby said. “Some fresh faces are something that’s kind of inevitable at this point. There are things I think we can look forward to and, hopefully, allow us to kind of turn the page on last year.”
The Penguins cruised to the Metropolitan Division title but blew a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.
Tuesday, Crosby won the Hart Trophy (MVP), the Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player) and formally accepted the Art Ross Trophy (league scoring championship). The league gala was light and upbeat.
More of that sort of atmosphere and a little less stress, Crosby said, might help the Penguins bridge the gap between success in the regular season and bowing to pressure in the playoffs.
“I think we’ve got to enjoy the whole process a little bit more than we have in the past year or two,” Crosby said. “I think that’s important. There are high expectations, and I think you lose sight of just enjoying winning and not necessarily looking at the playoffs so far away.
“I think it’s about building things each game and having the playoffs in mind, but not looking to race to Game 82 and thinking about the expectations that come with the playoffs. You build more and you appreciate things a little more when you enjoy that stuff a little bit.”
So how do players instill more joy into their game?
“I don’t think you have to manufacture it,” Crosby said. “I think you just have to evaluate everything for what it is and not get caught looking too far ahead. You don’t have to start planning a parade in January when you have a run of wins, but I think you also have to understand how hard it is to win and appreciate that.”
Crosby led the NHL with 104 points, including an NHL-best 68 assists, but he doesn’t feel his game has fully rebounded from a series of injuries that caused him to miss long chunks of time. In particular, a concussion in January 2011 that, along with a neck injury, plagued him for a couple of years.
Before the concussion, Crosby was a dominant force, leading the NHL with 66 points in 41 games, including a 25-game points streak. That stretch set a standard for him that he’s still trying to achieve again.
“I feel like I can create more,” he said. “There’s still a level I can get to. I feel like before I got hurt, that’s probably the best I’ve felt. I’d like to get back to that point. I don’t feel like I got to that point this year. I feel like I was consistent, and I think that was a product of our team and the guys around me, but I still feel like I can improve and learn a lot more. That’s exciting.”
That helps him put this tumultuous offseason in perspective.
“When [training] camp comes, I think we’re going to be ready,” he said. “I think it will be a regular camp, with some learning to do with whatever happens.”
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @ pgshelly.