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How Many Goals will Sidney Crosby score in 2010-11?

First things first: do not call me a Crosby-hater.  That's the last thing in the world that I am.  Here's my post-Olympic reaction, and here's where I advocated for him as Rookie of the Year.

Now, apparently there are some Pittsburgh fans out there who think Crosby is going to score 50 goals again this season.  Despite being a gifted playmaker, he has no track record of scoring like that.  Let's look as his three-year weighted projection:


Season GP G A P Sh
2007-08 53 24 48 72 173
2008-09 77 33 70 103 238
2009-10 81 51 58 109 298
3-2-1 Average 75 41 60 101 257


Now it's entirely possible that he stepped up his game and improved his scoring touch last season - he did take a lot more shots than in the past.  I found the 29 most-comparable seasons to Crosby's 2009-10 over the last 40 years.  Here's how those players did the next season, per 82 games:


Player GP G A P Sh Age
Crosby 2009-10 81 51 58 109 298 22.4
29 Comps 82 52 59 111 298 23
29 Comps Yr+1 82 42 57 99 274 24
Per 77 GP 77 39 54 93 257 23.4
Crosby 3-2-1 75 41 60 101 257 23.4


There were a lot more pure goalscorers in this group than playmakers, so both their goals and assists dropped in the year following their big year.  They also played, on average, four fewer games in that next season (hence Crosby's projection per 77 games - if he plays that much, I doubt he'll have as few as 54 assists.)  What's clear is that regardless of which projection method we follow, we expect Crosby to score around 40 goals next season.  Remember - when a player has a big season, particularly one that's out of line with what he's done before, it's because everything broke right for him.  In his next season, we shouldn't expect everything to go his way, and so he's unlikely to put up the same big numbers.

Of course, what we've got here is a mean projection.  20% of Crosby's comparables scored 50+ goals the following season, while half scored less than 40, which should give you an idea of the range of possible outcomes.  Sidney Crosby is an amazing player, but you shouldn't put your money on him repeating his 50 goal season.