Sidney Crosby's recovery progress has reached the point where the speculation over his return is starting to look at specific dates. He recently ruled himself out of the Penguins games against the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.
Past that, despite endless speculation, there remains no formal timetable or date targeted for his return. Many wonder what he will be like when he returns.
Aside from the possibility of a little bit of time needed to get used to game speed, I fully expect Sidney Crosby to slide right back in as the best in the game. If you think that is a bit of a stretch, check out the slides for the reasons why.
When we last saw Sid, he had racked up 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games. At the time, he was in a league of his own when it came to scoring.
James Neal has scored nine goals this season. It appears that he has regained his confidence. These two players will likely get some time on ice together, even as Sid starts out with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz.
Neal seems to work best with guys who carry the puck and get it to him to unleash his cannon-like shot. I think Sid can handle that. Watch out.
One of the reasons why Crosby can be counted on to return to form is his work ethic. Sid works extremely hard on all facets of the game. Being away from the sport he loves seems to have made him appreciate it even more.
Crosby has a powerful stride for a smaller player. His ability to zip around the ice helps get him extra chances, whether they are around the net or by sliding in to open areas.
Despite the fact that guys like the Sedins or Henrik Zetterberg deserve to be mentioned, the main "rival" for best player in the world is often assigned to Alexander Ovechkin. While Ovechkin still remains dangerous, his game has not been the same.
Perhaps it is because of a team-based approach. Perhaps it is something else. Either way you look at it, Ovie's goal scoring dropped dramatically last season (for him). Then there was the little meltdown the other night...
Sidney Crosby has been put in the position to return as the best player because his GM (Ray Shero) and owners (Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle) realized the need to protect a player who they believe is more than an investment.
They have not rushed Crosby back, and they will not. Even if that means a setback at this late hour in the process means that he has to start all over again.
Despite some local commotion about Malkin not playing to his potential, he has been a point-a-game guy in the games he has been able to play this season. I am not sure what more Malkin can do to "play to his potential" aside from staying out of the box, but that is another story.
With Malkin playing at his best, Crosby does not have to carry the load. This gives Sid the time to get back in to game shape and increases his chances of having better matchups if teams have to deal with Malkin.
When you talk about players who get beat up endlessly in Pittsburgh for little to no reason, the conversation will soon turn to Jordan Staal if it did not already start with him. While it may not be enough for fantasy geeks, Staal plays a strong two-way game.
When you have him, Malkin and Crosby all centering lines and playing good hockey, teams have some tough choices to make. The sum of these parts becomes much greater than any one on their own.
Because of the revised emphasis on eliminating headshots and hits from behind, Crosby will likely not have to worry as much as players did in the past about suffering another blow. A player will have to think twice before hitting Crosby, because there is a strong chance that Brendan Shanahan will put a long "Shanaban" on them if they cross the line with Sid.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Crosby is the NHL's poster child, so it will protect him at all costs once he returns.
If that is the case, it's for the best. You pay to see the star players, not the guys who injure the stars. Deal with it.