There are a few absolutes we need to get out of the way.
For starters, there's no question that Sidney Crosby is the biggest name in the NHL today. He might not be in the LeBron-osphere. He's certainly not as famous as Tom Brady, and I'm not here to say he should be.
But when it comes to the NHL, there's Sid, and there's everyone else.
Because of this, the Pittsburgh Penguins have risen to become one of the "it" teams of the league. They are clearly one of the six or seven NBC cares to bother with when it comes to covering the league. Time and time again, the ratings NBC garners for Penguins games justify that kind of attention, whether the rest of us like it or not.
When Crosby was out ten months with a concussion, the league's ratings growth continued, but wasn't quite as emphatic without him as it could have been with him.
In case you didn't hear, Crosby came back on Monday. His return was a success for the Penguins, and it worked out well for local television outlet Root Sports Pittsburgh (a 15.3 is really good for a regular season game in any local market). Versus, however, didn't taste the same kind of success.
As noted by Puck the Media, the game drew fewer than 200,000 viewers on Versus Monday night. Now, it's worth noting that the game aired locally in Pittsburgh and New York. Because Versus picked up the game on such short notice, it was not an exclusive broadcast. It's not unusual for non-exclusive games to take a dive in the TV ratings, which is why NBC worked hard to get more exclusive games for its cable outlet in the new NHL television contract.
I'm not a big reactionary, so I'm not about to proclaim that the NHL is dying again. I'm also sick and tired of hearing the "Nobody can find Versus on their TV" garbage. If you're a hockey fan, you actually have Versus on your television, and you "can't find it," you're not much of a hockey fan.
I was honestly surprised to see this low of a number, even taking into account Versus' non-exclusivity. Once I saw it, my brain started churning about what it could have meant.
My wife is biased (can't stand Crosby, and has never really liked him), but she has been steadfast in her stance that "Joe hockey fan" -- for lack of a better term -- is just sick and tired of hearing about Crosby.
What if she's right?
What if Jeremy Roenick was right?
Remember Roenick? Back in the season's first week, he made quite a name for himself -- again -- with this rant on Versus' NHL Overtime show.
Roenick took a lot of criticism for this commentary. While it seemed to be one of JR's over-the-top attempts to gain attention from people, I'm left to wonder now if he was on to something.
This isn't to say that the nation has a case of Sid-lash. Perhaps there wasn't enough lead time (less than 30 hours from the announcement -- which came on a Sunday -- to faceoff) to get people thinking about and interested. Perhaps Monday Night Football, Monday Night Raw, and other normal Monday night TV won people over because it's just what they watch on Mondays.
But it's hard not to think that Roenick had a point amid all the madness. Maybe people are just tired of hearing about Sidney Crosby. There are 29 teams and nearly 700 active players in this league who aren't named "Sidney Crosby," and maybe fans would like to hear about the other really good ones once in a while.
Crosby is great, and the Penguins have a very good team again. When NBC is figuring out which games to air in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pittsburgh will unquestionably be one of its top choices.
But for its cable partner, on a non-exclusive broadcast, perhaps there are better choices to draw a decent number than Crosby.
With fewer than 200,000 people watching, it's hard to imagine any combination of teams doing a lot worse.