He likes to flop. He beat the U.S. in the Olympics. He’s not Wayne Gretzky. And your girlfriend probably has a secret crush on him. Well, get over it. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL and (if the season ended today) he would win his second Hart Trophy (NHL MVP).

Presenting the case for Crosby
Love him or hate him, “The Kid” is making the best case to date for being the “The Next One.”
Despite playing in six fewer games than the NHL’s top scorer, Steven Stamkos (67 points), Crosby sits just one point behind him.

And consider this: Crosby’s 25-game scoring streak, which included 26 goals and 24 assists, was the best stretch of the post-lockout era.

But statistics don’t tell the whole story. Crosby, once deemed a crybaby by his peers, is finally earning respect. His leadership skills are drawing comparisons to Hall of Famers like Steve Yzerman and even Mark Messier. Last year, Crosby won the coveted Mark Messier Leadership Award.

“I’m a big fan myself,” Messier said after presenting Crosby with the award. “He’s been the face of the NHL since he came into the league [at age 18]. A lot of pressure was put on Sidney to carry the league through the lockout season. ... Not only did he do a tremendous job of doing that, but also, at the same time, leading his own team to a Stanley Cup.”

When Messier endorses you, you must be doing something right.

Midseason hardware

Vezina Trophy (best goaltender)
Left for dead after offseason surgery, Boston’s Tim Thomas has been the Berlin Wall. The 36-year-old leads the NHL with 1.81 goals-against (seven shutouts) and a .945 save percentage.

Norris Trophy (best defenseman)
We’re going old school with six-time winner Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s a more complete defender than our other two finalists: Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien and Boston’s Zdeno Chara.

Calder Trophy (best rookie)
San Jose’s Logan Couture is a more all-around threat, but Carolina’s Jeff Skinner leads all rookies by a full seven points (40). More impressive, he’s only 18 years old.

Jack Adams award (best coach)
Given a full year to integrate players into his system, Peter Laviolette’s Flyers own the best record in hockey. And he’s doing it with a rookie and career backup in net.

Biggest bust
New Jersey Devils. The dynasty is over, as they rank dead last in points (35). Plus, Martin Brodeur is a shell of himself.

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