Before suffering a pair of concussions in January, Sidney Crosby was unquestionably the best player in the world. His team was dominating the Eastern Conference, and he was threatening to put up scoring numbers not seen since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux laced them up.
I refuse to believe that Sidney Crosby is done playing hockey. Hockey is life to the young man from Nova Scotia, and he might be the fiercest competitor in professional sports. Trust me, Crosby is not working out because doctors are telling him not to, not because he doesn't feel like it.
Crosby will play again next season, but what will await him when he comes back? Have these concussions finally done what no opposing player could do: shut Sid down?
When will Sid return? That seems to be the question on every Pittsburgh fan's mind. Everyone has heard the rumors too:
- Sid has a skull fracture and will never play again.
- My brother's friend's sister works for the Penguins and says Sid will never play again.
- My cousin's neighbor's dog knows a guy who examined Sid, and he said Crosby will never play again.
You get the idea. Crosby has a concussion, plain and simple; it's just more serious than they originally thought. There is nothing more to it than that, trust me.
However, it's going to take time before Sid recovers and is able to play hockey at 100 percent. He suffered a setback during the Tampa Bay playoff series and was shut down soon after. Fine, but now he has a full offseason to recuperate and plan for next season.
He probably won't be ready for the start of the season, but you can guarantee that No. 87 will be lacing up the skates right around Christmas time.
Oh my God, the Penguins power play is bad. I mean really bad. I'm talking "this is the worst power play I've seen in all my years" bad.
Sidney Crosby can fix that.
Head coach Dan Bylsma seemed intent on not changing anything about the power play during the series against Tampa, even though Pittsburgh was something like 0-for-348.
However, something will happen that can trigger some good news for once. Evgeni Malkin will be returning from his knee injury at the beginning of the season. Both he and Crosby like to play the same position on the power play, so who better than Sid to help run the thing in practice?
Sid can skate around during practice, directing traffic and helping Malkin readjust to his duties during the man advantage. Crosby is one of the best hockey minds in the league, and you know he'll be itching to get out on the ice surface.
Hey, it couldn't possibly be any worse, could it?
I don't want to turn this into another Flyers-bashing article (they are so easy to write) but Crosby's first game in Philadelphia is going to be rough...really rough.
The Flyers are notorious cheap-shot artists (see: Pronger, Chris) and have fans who seem to cheer borderline body checks louder than goals. This attitude is going to make Crosby's adjustment to the game in Philly very difficult, especially with someone like Mike Richards throwing elbows around like he's grabbing an NBA rebound.
The crowd will do their typical cutesy "Crosby sucks" chant in tune to their little organ, and Sid will respond like he always does: by putting up points.
They actually should add one more phrase to that chant they do. Crosby sucks...the life out of your team.
When you've been injured as long as Crosby has, there is going to be an adjustment period once you return. Sid hasn't played a full game of hockey in almost five months, so there's no way of telling how long it will take for him to adjust once he returns.
Now, Crosby is the best player on this planet, so that time should be very short, but what about other injuries?
Sid will certainly be wary of taking any more head shots, considering the NHL's refusal to grow a brain and do anything about them, and you know other opponents (especially lower-liners) are going to take runs at him.
Crosby has never been afraid to go into the dirty areas for the puck, but he gets banged around a lot because he's not a huge guy. After having a layoff of almost a year, will his body be able to hold up through the pounding he's going to take?
I don't think so.
The other superstar on the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin, was in a bit of a slump before a knee injury caused by Tyler Myers ended his season. There were rumors flying around that Malkin had been banged up all season, and his numbers seemed to confirm that.
In Sid's absence in previous years, Malkin was an absolute force. When Crosby was out of the lineup, Geno always seemed to step up and score a big goal or set up a couple in each game.
I expect nothing less out of him next year.
Malkin is a superstar talent with the ability to take over games whenever he feels like it. At the beginning of next year, he's going to have to center the top line and will be expected to produce points. He's being paid the same amount as Crosby, so Malkin is going to have to shake off any adversity he faces and put pucks in the back of the net.
Plus I'm really sick of hearing all the bandwagon fans screaming "Trade Geno!" over and over again.
A few years ago, defenseman Brooks Orpik was facing free agency and a growing interest from other teams. Max Talbot called his friend at the last second and convinced him to sign with the Penguins in order to take a run at the Stanley Cup with the people he came up through the system with. Sure enough, the Pens captured the Cup in 2009, and Orpik was a key component of that.
Now, Talbot faces the same predicament and seems poised to leave the Flightless Birds for "greener pastures" in Canada. The Pens do not seem interested in matching the offers that other teams are expected to throw at Talbot, so the Pittsburgh favorite might be on the way out.
Sid and Talbot are buddies on the team, and anyone who watched HBO's 24/7 could tell you that the Penguins are a close-knit group. Crosby is the captain and has a good bit of influence over his teammates, so who better to give Max a call than Sid?
Crosby will convince Talbot that Pittsburgh is the place for him to stay. He's a crowd favorite and loves to party on the South Side of the city where all the college "women" hang out.
Crosby just might keep a few bars open by convincing Talbot to stay.
Last year, Crosby was the best goal scorer in the league. Sure, there was that week when the hockey writers all decided to proclaim Steven Stamkos the "best player in the entire universe," but then Crosby really laid the hammer down.
In November, Sid scored 11 goals in 14 games. He followed that up by scoring 14 goals in 13 games the following month before falling victim to a David Steckel cheap shot during the Winter Classic.
Hell, Crosby was so good that he tied the so-called Great Eight, Alexander Ovechkin, in goals even though he played in 38 fewer games. Crosby finished tied for 14th in goals and 30th in points, an absolutely amazing feat when you realize he only dressed in 41 games.
Actually, you could bump that number down to 39 because he suffered concussions in the Winter Classic and the game against Tampa Bay immediately following.
He led the league in points per game with 1.61 (the closest player was Daniel Sedin with 1.21) and had 10 power-play goals as well.
Simply put, Crosby might be the best goal scorer in the league, so why wouldn't he continue that once he returns full-time?
At the end of the day, I refuse to believe that concussions can slow down the best player of this generation. Crosby will not allow something like this to derail a career that almost certainly will end with a Hall of Fame induction.
Hockey is Sidney Crosby's life. It's all he knows and all he wants to do. People who say, "Well, he should be out there no matter what" don't know what they are talking about. If Crosby were physically capable, he would have played in the playoffs and walked to the arena in order to do so.
Once Sid comes back and he is 100 percent healthy (which is the most important thing), you know he's going to return with a vengeance. The Sidney Crosby I know will not allow himself to slip and become a second-tier player. Greatness is all he knows, and greatness is all he has achieved in his hockey career, from pee-wee to juniors, from the NHL to the Olympics. The man is simply a winner.
When the day finally comes and Crosby lines up to take the opening faceoff, who are you going to bet on, the Kid or the concussion?