- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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Changes in the front office and behind the bench have shaken up a normally stable, powerhouse franchise.
"Yeah, it's a new situation for us," Crosby told ESPN.com on Monday, in town with other Canadian Olympic teammates to receive their championship gold medal rings.
"We haven't had a big change like that since going back to the year we won when you think about it. It's never something you want to see happen, Crosby said. "Obviously with the expectations being so high like they are in Pittsburgh, we understand that it comes with it. The unfortunate part is, most times the coach or the GM pays the price. It's definitely not something you want to be dealing with every year. We didn't do a good enough job. Personally, it wasn't the playoff I wanted to have. It's something I have to learn from and definitely be better for it."
Crosby, off to Las Vegas on Tuesday where he's favored to win his second career Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, said he's spoken with both Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma since their firings. The Penguins hired Jim Rutherford to replace Shero, but remain in the market for a new head coach.
"Yeah, I mean we won a Stanley Cup together. You feel like you let them down," Crosby said. "As a player you have to get the job done. You feel a sense of responsibility for that and like I said, the coach and the GMs are usually the ones that pay the price. We had some good years together. You know that they'll be working pretty soon and be part of another team. But it's still not easy."
Flash back to June 2009 when Crosby and a young Penguins team won its first Cup together under his watch, and one left Joe Louis Arena in Detroit that night with the distinct feeling that this was just the start of having a real shot at other NHL championships when you looked at the young rising core.
"We were all thinking the same thing," said Crosby. "The reality is, there are only two teams that have won two Cups since then and they're pretty good teams, too. I think they have a pretty good core group of guys. We were in a pretty good position last year, we played Boston in the conference final; we had a 3-1 lead against New York this year to get back to the conference final and let that slip. We've given ourselves opportunities but haven't found a way to get back there and win. It's something that we all want to be part of again as much as possible."
From the outside looking in, we asked Crosby, this looked like Penguins team this past season that lost its identity, that didn't know what it wanted to be. Crosby thought about that question for a moment before answering it.
"I think as far as finding that identity, and don't get me wrong I think in the regular season it's important to have success and we've proven that, but we have to find a way in the playoffs to elevate our game," said Crosby. "It doesn't mean change our identity, but we have to elevate it. We haven't done quite as good a job at doing that. Me personally, I'm not taking myself out of that mix either, going pointless against Boston (in the 2013 conference finals) and not really doing a whole lot in the New York series, it's not easy to deal with that in the off-season. You don't like having memories like that.
"That being said, you have to find a way to elevate your game. I think for us, each round it gets tougher and tougher, there's less space, it's more physical, maybe we got away with a bit too much on skill during the regular season and weren't able to grind teams down and play the way you see some teams have success in the playoffs. Keeping that in the back of our mind should help us going into next year. It's always easy looking back, but I would agree with that, that we definitely have to find a way to elevate our game and be a little bit more gritty and make sure we're on the right side of those 2-1 games. We have to improve there. But that's hockey, and that's the exciting part about playing, you have those challenges every year."
Being here in Vancouver on Monday, re-kindling Sochi golden memories with other Team Canada stars, it's a reminder of Crosby's sparkling international resume: two Olympic gold medals and a world junior gold.
For Crosby, it's a question of blending that high level of international success with the frustration his Penguins have had over the past few years. Somewhere in that lies some important lessons.
"It's great to have experience and you want to use that as much as you can," said Crosby. "But it doesn't guarantee anything. You still have to find a way to make those big plays and make the difference when your team needs it the most. Part of it is understanding those moments and the other is making the most of them.
"Yeah, I think you try to blend the two, your experience from winning and from losing, especially this year with the way things happened. It was really disappointing. It's tough when you have a team 3-1 and that team ends up goes the Cup finals and has a pretty good final series, plays a couple of overtime games and it could have gone either way. Those are opportunities that don't always happen. And as much as the expectations are that they happen every year, they don't. I think understanding that, and maybe enjoying the process a little bit more, having gone through last year, I think that'll be something that we try to do a bit more."
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