Mason Raymond or Sidney Crosby: Who Will Return to NHL Lineup First?

Adam GrahamAnalyst IINovember 20, 2011

It’s the question on the mind of every hockey fan around the world: Will Mason Raymond actually play before Sidney Crosby?

Okay, I’m obviously kidding myself to believe the NHL is waiting on pins and needles for the return of Mason Raymond to the Vancouver Canucks' lineup. At least, not in the same way it's waiting for the return of Sidney Crosby to the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup.

In fact, it’s probably a safe bet that the majority of Canucks fans are paying more attention to when Crosby might return than they are to Raymond’s progress.

Nevertheless, it’s somewhat surprising that the Canucks' left winger—who broke a vertebra in his back in mid-June—might be closer to playing than a man who suffered a concussion in January.

It just goes to show how bizarre head injuries really are.

Apparently, they’re even more bizarre than the injury Raymond suffered on the strangest of hits by Johnny Boychuk in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

That hit put Raymond in a back brace for over a month. In late September, he admitted that he wasn’t sure if he would ever play again.

When the Canucks and Penguins met on opening night, both players watched from the Rogers Arena press box. It seemed then that the odds were decidedly in favor of Crosby seeing game action before Raymond.

Fast-forward six weeks, and it seems like Raymond is making far better progress than most of us expected—especially compared to Crosby.

Raymond began skating with his teammates nearly two weeks ago and was cleared for contact just one week later. He has even surprised Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault with how good he’s looked.

Crosby, on the other hand, remains a mystery.

He hasn't spoken to reporters lately and the Penguins organization has essentially told the media that it's not going to reveal anything until there's a change in his status. That can be interpreted one of two ways.

On one hand, it could mean that Crosby isn’t coming back anytime soon. The team is trying to stop all the questions now, so it doesn't have to deal with them for weeks on end—until the media gets restless again.

On the other hand, maybe the Penguins are just tired of answering the same questions over and over.

Either way, it’s anyone’s guess as to when Crosby might play. He’s been cleared for full-contact practices for over a month now, so you’d think he’d be close to being ready.

Then again, Crosby began skating with his teammates back in March, so the fact that it took him over six months to start participating in contact drills could be concerning.

ESPN host John Buccigross summarized Crosby’s recovery perfectly back on September 6th when he tweeted, “My over/under for Crosby return is January 1. Could he sit the whole year out? Sure. [On the other hand,] maybe he wakes up tomorrow and feels good."

The public doesn’t seem to have any further insight into when the world’s best hockey player will play again; it’s been over two and a half months since that tweet.

My money’s on Raymond returning before Crosby.

Now don’t go all Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother on me. We all know that Mason Raymond is no Sidney Crosby.

Right now, though, he’s the best the Canucks have in terms of help that could be on the way soon.


UPDATE: The Penguins organization have now confirmed that Sidney Crosby will make his return on Monday against the New York Islanders.


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