Sidney Crosby will be healthy and raring to go when—if—training camp begins in September.
Crosby struggled with concussion-related health issues through the 2011-12 season. He made an impressive, but aborted comeback in the first half of the season before he was slowed by complications and headaches and finally returned at full strength in March.
He has not had any reported health-related issues in the offseason. That means that Crosby should once again be ready to claim the title of the league's best and most dominant player.
Will there be pressure? Undoubtedly. However, is there an athlete in the game of hockey who is better equipped to deal with pressure than Crosby? Highly doubtful.
Crosby is one of the most confident athletes in sports. Put him in a class with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and perhaps Matt Kemp (when healthy) of the Los Angeles Dodgers as the most confident athletes in pro sports. Bryant may have an edge in that area on Crosby, but it's doubtful anyone else believes in himself more than Crosby.
You won't here any false bravado. Crosby just knows he can do it because he has come through so many times in his career.
He was placed in a class with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux when the Penguins made him the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft. While Crosby may not have the talent of those two players, his work ethic, creativity and intensity have allowed him to get every bit of talent out on an every night basis when healthy.
Since Crosby has not been fully healthy since the 2009-10 season, Penguins fans may need a reminder of what they can expect. A healthy Crosby will exceed the 100-point mark. If he can stay in the lineup and play 75 of the team's 82 games, he will blow past the 100-point level.
In 2009-10, Crosby had 51 goals and 58 assists, and 13 of his goals came on the power play. Crosby had 103 points in 2008-09 and led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. He scored a career high 120 points with 36 goals and 84 assists in the 2006-07 season.
In addition to succeeding as the Penguins' captain from day one, he was Canada's captain in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. With that nation demanding Olympic gold, Crosby scored the gold-medal winning goal in overtime against Ryan Miller and the United States.
Will Crosby have some trepidation before he steps on the ice in training camp and again in the first few games of the regular season? Perhaps. But there is nothing in Crosby's background to suggest he won't be the same explosive player he was before his injuries.
Crosby admitted that he put pressure on himself when he attempted the first of his two 2011-12 comebacks. He responded well to that pressure, scoring two goals and two assists in a 5-0 win over the New York Islanders.
"I can't even describe it," Crosby told the USA Today after that game. "I was excited. I was anxious. I had a lot of different things going through my mind. But the main thing was just enjoying playing."
When Crosby went up against the archrival Philadelphia Flyers in their first-round playoff meeting, Crosby engaged in edgy play that led to battles with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. That's not going to help the Penguins in the long run and he should probably stay away from that aspect of the game. However, it does show that Crosby is fully committed and will not take the easy way out.
Crosby still has the large majority of his career in front of him. He still has not reached his 25th birthday, but he carries himself like an established Hall of Famer. He still has 13 years or more left to skate around NHL rinks, and he should be the same dominant player he was when he shows up at camp in September.
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