And Now, the World?
Sidney Crosby's NHL season is over, one in which he asserted himself as the league's No. 1 drawing card and, quite probably, it's most valuable player.
Most impressively, there really wasn't a mis-step along the way. The Kid comports himself with class at every turn, even when being baited by Don Cherry or the fans of Montreal.
Now, with his sophomore season in the bag, Crosby faces a tricky decision.
Should he join Team Canada for the upcoming world championships in Moscow?
You can bet as soon as the moment feels right Canadian GM Steve Yzerman - boy, doesn't that title make a lot of us suddenly feel old? - will be on the phone to Crosby and his agent, Pat Brisson, to ask if he's willing to go for a second straight year.
Yzerman, needless to say, knows exactly how Crosby feels today, for he was in his position many times in the late 1980s and early 1990s before the Detroit Red Wings annually started going so deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Exhausted and disappointed, it's not easy for these athletes to quickly change their mindset, pack their bags and head overseas for what is a long, grinding international tournament of ambiguous importance in the modern international hockey world.
Crosby, however, isn't just any player. He has become the face of Canadian hockey and most believe that when Vancouver 2010 rolls around, he'll be the captain of Team Canada as it goes for its second gold in 58 years.
Many see this as a national duty, and there will be many who would expect Crosby to go to Moscow and join a team that as of this morning has named two goalies, three defenceman and eight forwards to its roster, along with six other players - including top Chicago draft Jonathan Toews - to a practice roster for the training sessions and preliminary games.
More to the point, international competition is very different from the NHL, and while Crosby did well with 16 points in nine games last year, only repeated exposure to the bigger ice results in the experience necessary to succeed in the big tournaments, like the Olympics.
There's a little Canadian pride on the line here. Already, Canadians felt screwed last weekend when NBC took the Pittsburgh-Ottawa game for an afternoon broadcast, keeping Crosby off Hockey Night in Canada for, as it turns out, the one game for which he would have been available.
Now, you can bet the Pens aren't going to be crazy about Crosby playing in the worlds. GM Ray Shero would love for No. 87 just to go home and rest his 19-year-old bones for a few months, particularly with the team looking at possibly doing a new contract for Crosby this summer. Pittsburgh owner Mario Lemieux warmed to international competition in his final years as a pro, but there were many more years in which he turned down Canada or wasn't available for the worlds, Canada Cup or World Cup.
Making this decision even more interesting is that the New York Islanders might be eliminated as early as tonight. Imagine the optics if Ryan Smyth, Captain Canada, were to agree to play for Canada one more time and Crosby opted to stay home?
Crosby, by now, has already learned that the political landmines just get more complex and difficult to avoid as a star becomes a superstar.