Sidney Crosby's Concussion Issues: What If He Isn't the Same Player?

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIAugust 18, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second goal of the game in the first period against the Atlanta Thrashers at Consol Energy Center on December 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It's a thought that scares me to a degree. I'm not a Crosby-centric NHL fan. I'm an American and a Wings fan. If those two things don't grant me a license to be a full-fledged hater, I don't know what does.

But the idea of Crosby missing even more time with his concussion worries me; the thought of him not coming back the same player is even worse. That isn't coming from the perspective of a Red Wings fan or the perspective of a guy that thinks Sid gets way too much exposure (something he has no control over).

Those fears are coming from a hockey fan, pure and simple.

Love him or hate him, Crosby is one of the best players in the game today, and his dedication to the craft is second to none. I can't imagine how much it's been killing him to not be able to play the game he loves so dearly to the fullest extent.

Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma both insist that Crosby is getting better—that he is progressing and that he'll be able to make a full recovery. But as Pittsburgh Trib writer Joe Starkey wrote in an article today, "Progress. Symptoms. Call me crazy, but I don't see those words as compatible when it comes to Sidney Crosby's concussion recovery."

The words are a bit haunting at this point.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins walks off the ice after being defeated 3-1 by the Washington Capitals during the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Crosby hasn't taken a body check in over seven months.

Seven months.

That's an awful long time for any kind of recovery. But the fact that Crosby is still experiencing setbacks should speak volumes about this concussion's level of severity. Shero has acknowledged that Crosby has had post-concussion symptoms "off and on" during his up-tempo summer workouts.

This just doesn't sound like a guy who will be ready to play hockey in October. I honestly want nothing more than for this fog to be lifted from Crosby's brain, because—hot damn!—the kid can play.

So fast-forward to Hockey gods know when and Crosby makes his return to the ice for an NHL hockey game. It'll be a circus, that's for sure. The media attention that will surround this event will be massive for a regular-season hockey game.

My fear is that Sidney Crosby just won't be the same player.

He'll be wearing the same No. 87 jersey, and possess the same will and determination that has landed him a Stanley Cup and a gold medal before his 25th birthday.

But the hands might not be there anymore. The hockey sense and the speed of processing what is happening around him—the assets that make him such a special hockey player—may still be splattered on the ice in Pittsburgh, where he last played a hockey game.

I'll join the "I'm not trying to be alarmist" crowd of writers, but I fear for the worst here. I know I'm not alone when I see a spark of the Eric Lindros situation brewing. And the thing is, the Penguins are (thankfully) giving Crosby all the time he needs to return.

He isn't back to taking head shots like Lindros was. But I don't think anyone expected the recovery to take this long.

The time it takes to fully recover from a concussion varies based on the individual. No two brains heal at the same speed. But the reality seems simple: The head shots that Crosby took in back-to-back games scrambled his noggin more than anyone wanted to believe.

No one knows for sure how he is doing—not even his general manager or coach. We will have a much clearer picture when he finally gets to Pittsburgh for training camp.

The question is obviously "When?" for Crosby. When will he return? But to me, that question should be followed by a "What if?". What if he isn't the same player? Then what?

Franklin Steele is a Red Wings featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for entertaining hockey media from around the web, and for random musings about the sport.