Pittsburgh Penguins: Will Brooks Orpik Be a Hitting Machine or Hitting the Wall?

Eron NoreContributor IIIJuly 21, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 20:  Brooks Orpik #44 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a faceoff during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 20, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Trib Total Media's Rob Rossi brought up some great food for thought on his Twitter page on July 20th. It had to do with Brooks Orpik's sports hernia surgery.

According to the article, "Orpik had surgery to correct the hernia condition on the right side of his body" and he "underwent a similar surgery on his left side" last off-season.

Off-season surgeries are nothing new, but Rossi brings up a good point for debate throughout the Penguins fanbase. In Rossi's words from Twitter, "Concerns #Pens Orpik needed surgery last 2 summers, turns 31 in Sept, plays physical style, has 3 years left on deal?"

It does not seem to be a stretch to say that Orpik is the Penguins top defenseman. He plays a ton of minutes and sets a physical tone night in and night out.

Personally, I also believe that Orpik is a captain-level leader. Over the past few seasons, he is one of few players who will candidly assess the teams flaws. His leadership is apparent and value would be seemingly immeasurable.

This seems to draw a parallel between him and another Pittsburgh sports icon, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Both are high impact players when healthy because of the way that they can shut down opponents, often through near-reckless use of their own body to eradicate others.

Unfortunately for both, injuries are creeping into their repertoire a bit too much for comfort. In Orpik's case, precedence suggests that he will be ready to go for the season and anchor the Penguins' defense once again.

But what if he does not? Or if the injury is nagging? Rossi's food for thought is very astute. Orpik is not getting any younger. His style of play will always open himself up to the potential for nagging or nasty injuries.

If Orpik becomes an injury-riddled player this season or next, the Penguins will still owe him a lot of money. According to Cap Geek, Orpik carries a $3.75 million cap hit each of the next three seasons.

Billionaire co-owner Ron Burkle likely will not lose any sleep of the prospect of having to pay someone a few million dollars if it comes down to it. The rest of the team's staff likely would.

As mentioned before, Orpik is not a player that is easily replaced, despite the Penguins defensive depth in the system. To the fans, "Free Candy" is associated with the Penguins almost to the level that Sidney Crosby is.

With any luck, Brooks will recover and have another fine season. Frankly, as a fanbase we have some other injured players that we will have concerns about, so get well, Brooks Orpik.

Penguins fans everywhere want to see you hitting opponents instead of hitting the wall. The only way we want to see you injured is if it happens from lifting the Stanley Cup too much.