Evgeni Malkin: The Forgotten Superstar
Pittsburgh has been blessed to have had more than our fair share of star athletes over the years. Not just Hall of Famers, but the types of generational talents that few fan bases get to experience once let alone in each of the major sports. You can go as far back as 1900 when Honus Wagner stepped on the diamond for the Pittsburgh Pirates or even look to present times and appreciate Antonio Brown and Sidney Crosby.
Here’s the thing with Pittsburgh though, we’re never satisfied. Ben Roethlisberger, personal life aside, has brought two Super Bowl rings to the Steel City and is almost always the first person to be thrown under the bus when the Steelers underachieve. Andrew McCutchen, MVP and face of the Pittsburgh Pirates most recent success didn’t win a World Series, so it wasn’t good enough. Antonio Brown is a diva. Even in the 1970s, Terry Bradshaw had a well-documented hard time with then coach Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh fanbase despite leading the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships, a feat that at the time had never been done and has still only been done by two QBs in NFL history.
For all of the underappreciated stars that this city has seen in its long and storied sports history, I would argue that none has been more undervalued and looked over than Evgeni Malkin. Malkin is a shoe in for the Professional Hockey Hall of Fame (we’ll dig into the stats in a little bit), but is constantly looked at as the Robin to Sidney Crosby’s Batman. And before we go any further, make no mistake; I am in no way, shape or form using this article as “Geno is better than Sid” argument. Sid is one of the top five hockey players of all time in my book, but I am saying that Geno deserves his own spotlight.
Where did this all start? For me, it was about four years ago when a certain unnamed sports shock jock threw the idea out that the only way for the Penguins to reach the pinnacle of the sport again would be to trade away Evgeni Malkin. Let’s put that into context. Trade away the type of player that franchises spend decades searching for. But it’s par for the course here. Then, in 2017 when the NHL released its Greatest 100 Players list, there was one name nowhere to be found. That’s right, Evgeni Malkin. Now at first, the casual hockey fan might say something like “he wasn’t even the best player on his own team”, but I assure you, Jonathan Toews wasn’t even the 2nd best player on the Chicago Blackhawks teams of late and he made the list. Again, its just a continuing trend with Malkin, undervalued and underappreciated.
So with all of that in mind, lets look at the numbers.
There are three current NHL players in the top 20 all time in PPG (points per game). Obviously Sidney Crosby is, he sits at 6th with 1.29 PPG, but the number two current player may surprise you, well if you’ve read this far it probably won’t. But yes, its Evgeni Malkin (12th) with 1.19 PPG. That’s tied with Joe Sakic and better than Steve Yzerman, Alexander Ovechkin, both Brett and Bobby Hull, Jari Kurri, and Mark Messier just to name a few (all of whom did crack the NHL 100 list).
Malkin also has 942 career points (373 goals and 569 assists). Its safe to assume that he’ll come close to if not hit the 400 goal mark, the 600 assist mark and because of that math the 1,000 point mark.
Assuming he does hit those marks this year, he’ll be just the 40th player in NHL history to average at least 1 PPG and have 1,000 career points. Of the thousands of people that have played in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin has himself in the rarified air of just 40 players.
Not enough? Ok. Evgeni Malkin is one of four players in NHL history to win a Hart Trophy (MVP), Art Ross (season points leader), Conn Smythe (playoff MVP), Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) and Ted Lindsay (best player in NHL as voted by the players). Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Mario Lemieux, and Evgeni Malkin. Now, I realize that’s a very weird and specific stat, but it does tell me something, Malkin was a great player young (Calder), he reached the top of the sport (Lindsay and Ross), he at one point led his team (Hart), and showed up in the biggest moment the sport provides (Conn Smythe). What more can you ask for?
Finally lets talk about what Evgeni Malkin has meant to the Penguins franchise. Starting with the obvious, he’s been a huge part of three Stanley Cup Championships and four Eastern Conference Championships. He’s one of three key players that are still left over from this current team’s beginning (Sid and Kris Letang being the other two). When Sidney Crosby faced his concussion issues and was out for the better part of two seasons, Evgeni Malkin was the anchor of a Penguins team that still managed to make the playoffs despite losing the consensus best player in the world. Also, despite playing on the same team as Sidney Crosby, he’s still managed to lead the Penguins in points four times and goals 5 times during his career.
I get it. Evgeni Malkin may be the victim of bad timing. It’s likely that his entire career will overlap the greatest player of his generation (Sidney Crosby) who also happens to be his teammate and the only other player that can make the argument for greatest born Russian player (Alex Ovechkin). With those two factors in mind, its pretty easy to understand why Malkin might get overlooked. But with that knowledge, I would encourage Pittsburgh to appreciate what we have in Malkin. Even though its early in the season, he currently leads the team in points with 12 and is picking up right where he left off last year.
Pittsburgh has been home to the greatest player in hockey for the better part of the last 30 years and right now two of the players who belong in that conversation call Pittsburgh home. There is no doubt that Crosby will go down as one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of hockey skates, but the numbers, the awards, and the play just doesn’t lie, Evgeni Malkin is right behind him and its time he’s treated that way.
- Eddie Provident
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