NHL: Do the Right Thing, Shut Down Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby

Mike ShannonFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 05:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates during warmups prior to taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 5, 2011 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sidney Crosby has skated for 15 minutes three of the past four days and that already has some Penguins fans salivating about a potential return. 

We really need to pump the brakes on those thoughts and think: Is returning to hockey this year the best thing for Sidney Crosby?

Since suffering a concussion on a blindside headshot (thanks NHL) in the Winter Classic, Crosby has been stuck in a seemingly never-ending loop of concussion symptoms. The 45 minutes of skating this past week is the most hockey activity Crosby has done in months.

Let's just say Crosby can return for the playoffs: Would he really be 100 percent? 

Do you want to throw your franchise, the face of the league and the best player in the world onto the ice in a playoff atmosphere where he risks more serious injury? 

I certainly wouldn't.

Would you expect other teams to go lightly on him? I can think of a handful of players off the top of my head who would have no problem throwing an elbow in Sid's face if it meant taking him out for the game. 

The kid is only 23 years old; do we really want him worrying about concussion this early in his career?

It's no secret that this Penguins team has been seriously bitten by the injury bug. 

Jordan Staal missed the first half of the year, Evgeni Malkin is out for the year with a ligament tear, and various other roleplayers have missed significant time. The only star to survive unscathed is Marc-Andre Fleury and thank God for that because who knows what the Penguins' record would be without him.

I have never, in all my years covering hockey, witnessed a team who has basically lost an entire season to injury. When your team is built around a three center model, it's damn near impossible to win when all three of them get hurt for extended periods of time.

I'm not saying the season is a wash and the flightless birds should just pack it in. This team still has the chance to steal a round or two in the playoffs and ride Fleury to a decent run.

The problem is that I don't believe adding Sidney Crosby when he's at 75 percent adds that much to the team. 

The risk is simply far too high.

Look at Eric Lindros: He was an all-star player who truly had the chance to be great before concussions ruined his career, and why? He got his first one, thought it was no big deal, came back and almost immediately got another one. 

I would hate to see what condition Lindros is in when he's 55 years old.

Sidney Crosby has many, many more years of hockey ahead of him and risking that to win one more round in the playoffs just simply isn't worth it to me.

Next year, the Penguins will have Staal, Malkin and Crosby all back at 100 percent. They will have the best defensive corps in the East (possibly the league) and Ray Shero will be able to clear out some deadwood for some young blood.

Crosby is the best player in the world and is worth millions to the franchise, but he is also just a kid—that kid who has a fairly severe injury right now that needs time to heal. 

Penguins fans won't like hearing this, but the best thing Pittsburgh can do is send their franchise home to get well and ensure himself a long and healthy career.