Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon Can Learn from Sidney Crosby

Nov 19, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates with the puck as of Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) chases during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates with the puck as of Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) chases during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Young Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon can learn from his friend, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, how to succeed in the NHL.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon‘s name will always be linked with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby‘s, even if they never play for the same team. The reason is simple — both players are from the small town of Cole Harbour in Nova Scotia.

What’s more, MacKinnon and Crosby are friends . Nathan grew up idolizing Sidney, who’s eight years older and so who must have been just a step or two ahead during MacK’s formative years. As MacKinnon showed his great talent, Crosby took Nate under his wing.

In recent years, MacKinnon and Crosby have spent large parts of the summer training together. They even made this funny Tim Horton‘s commercial together:

More importantly, this friendship gives young Nate an opportunity to learn from Sid. Might as well learn from one of the best, a generational talent. Besides hockey stuff — like how best to cheat on faceoffs, or, um, just general skills — Nathan MacKinnon can learn a lot about the game from Sidney Crosby.

Go Forth and Multiply

I’m not suggesting it’s time for Nathan to start populating the world with baby MacKinnons. (As far as I know, Crosby hasn’t done so either.)

Rather, it’s time for Nathan MacKinnon to go forth and multiply on his talent. He has so much of it, yet he just didn’t develop the last couple years like we expected. Frankly, his “sophomore slump” year showed more promise than last year, when his talents came out in fits and spurts.

Nathan MacKinnon should also go forth and multiply on his points. Every single year, Crosby has averaged a point a game or more — usually more. (Like1.5 points per game during the 2006-07 season). He’s hit the 30-goal mark seven times in his career and even hit the 50-goal mark once (2009-10).

Thus far, MacKinnon’s rookie year was his best, with 63 points (24 g, 39 a) in 82 games. He also hit the 20-goal mark last season, with 21 (and 52 total points). Nate maybe doesn’t have it in him to hit Sid’s exalted numbers, but he can certainly get closer to the point-a-game mark.

Related Story: MacKinnon's Eventful 200th Game

Both a Borrower and a Lender Be

One way to get closer to those exalted numbers is with his play. The saying is actually “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” but Nathan MacKinnon needs to be both.

I’m equating lending with being a playmaker. If you look at how Sidney Crosby has been playing in the playoffs, he’s got twice as many assists as goals. Even when he doesn’t earn an assist, he’s making plays that draw the other team to him. He’s lending his skills and talents to the other players.

He’s also borrowing, or finishing the play. Crosby capitalizes on his talents by being a fierce competitor in every game — by being ultra-focused.

Nathan MacKinnon needs that type of philosophy to live up to his own talents.

Speaking of…

Skate Like Greased Lighting

I don’t know who’s faster, Sid or Nate, but my money is on Nathan MacKinnon. The kid is greased lightning.

We all remember his rookie year, when we saw him leave opponents in the dust. There was that time he turned the New York Islanders’ defensemen into traffic cones:

There was also that great ankle-breaking goal against the Minnesota Wild:

Plus, MacKinnon once out-skated a speed skater in full hockey gear — stick included:

For some reason Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t been using his speed as much. He has to, though. It’s a key aspect of his game. Plus, his team — the Colorado Avalanche — is based on the rush. Colorado’s game is built for a player like Nate.

You might say that MacKinnon hasn’t always had linemates who can keep up with him. That doesn’t matter — neither has Crosby. For Pete’s sake, he’s skated with Chris Kunitz for years! Skating so fast — and utilizing your other talents — is about elevating not just your game, but that of others’ around you.

It’s time for MacKinnon to not only kick it up a notch in his own game but to elevate his play so much that it improves his teammates’.

Related Story: What's MacKinnon's Contract Worth?

Act your Age

Let’s get this out in the open — Sidney Crosby is a crybaby, and Nathan MacKinnon is not. For that, we’re all eternally grateful.

With that out of the way, Crosby does show maturity. He’s a leader both on and off the ice — even the crying is for effect (to improve his team’s chances by drawing a penalty). He’s active in charity, and by all accounts is leading an adult life.

As far as Nathan MacKinnon goes, I can tell you where the 20-year-old likes to party in Denver. Yes, he’s 20 years old — granted Sid (and even Gabriel Landeskog) were already NHL captains by that age, but 20 is still young.

It’s old enough to do your own laundry and pay your own bills, though.

In the Mother’s Day issue of Mile High Sports, the magazine did a feature on MacKinnon called “A Very Personal Assistant.” That refers to his mother, which is already a problem.

The article details how Kathy MacKinnon travels from their home in Cole Harbour to Denver to check in on Nate every four to six weeks, which is fine. What’s not so fine is what MacKinnon says about her visits:

"“She pays my bills, does my laundry, cooks me food. Pretty much everything I don’t want to do.”"

Nathan MacKinnon is an Avalanche player, so I loves him, but even I want to chirp him for that. Holy Mamma’s boy, Batman. I can’t even imagine what he’s going to hear next season when he’s on the ice. Heck, he should hear it in the locker room. (Erik Johnson, I’m talking to you here.)

When MacKinnon and Crosby hang out this summer, the latter needs to give Nate some pointers on how to hire a maid and accountant. Crosby has plenty of experience of how to be a kid in a man’s league — some still call him Sid the Kid — so he should help MacK learn how to navigate those tricky waters.

Having the fam visit regularly is admirable, but growing up in your personal life helps you grow up in the game. It’s all about taking responsibility. MacKinnon might even feel more comfortable taking on responsibility in hockey if he’s growing up at home.

Seriously, I hope Sidney Crosby read that article and is going to have a stern talk with our kid MacKinnon.

Next: Nathan MacKinnon's Player Grade

Hopefully Nathan continues to learn from Sid in general — the man is, after all, playing for his second-ever Stanley Cup. We’d all like to see MacKinnon get one or two of those with the Colorado Avalanche, right?