When the news first came out that Sidney Crosby had once again been diagnosed with a concussion after a few years of successfully avoiding injuries that had once threatened to put a complete stop to the superstar’s career, it sent a chill down the spines of not only Penguins fans but the entire hockey world. With Crosby about to enter the new NHL season right after playing some of the best hockey of his career during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and World Cup of Hockey, the news that he was suddenly on the shelf was not pleasant to hear.
Fortunately, since then, it has become clear that the concussion is minor, let alone looking to be much less of a problem than the concussions he dealt with in the past. Once the initial smoke had cleared and the situation had cooled, both Crosby and the Penguins had to focus on their separate jobs until recovery was over. They each have had to make the most out of the situation and figure out a way to work it to their advantage.
For Crosby, the fact that this newest concussion appears to be very minor has meant that he has not put a stop to training and is preparing as much as he can for the moment when he can rejoin the team. He has taken the ice for several consecutive days, and from the short clips of footage that have surfaced of his brief practices, I have to say he’s looking to be in pretty good form. I mean, look at the on-ice greeting he gave to the Pens’ newest pickup, goalie Mike Condon:
Damn. That shot’s looking pretty good.
It occurs to me that maybe Crosby can only be benefiting from all this extra time to practice and prepare for his new Penguins season to start. As it is, the entire Pens squad had a shorter offseason than the rest of the league, as is always the case for the Stanley Cup Champions. Their season ran all the way until almost mid-June, and the players got a very short time off to relax before they had to resume training. This offseason was even shorter for some players thanks to the World Cup of Hockey 2016, in which six Penguins players including Crosby participated. Here’s where Crosby individually really had less rest than his teammates. Of all the Penguins representatives at the World Cup, only Crosby reached the final, meaning that the rest of his teammates got to end their action in the tournament and focus on Penguins hockey earlier than he did. And he was pretty involved in Canada’s run to being tournament champions, too – he finished with more points than any other player, was center of the best line in the entire tournament, and ended up receiving MVP honors.
The Penguins knew he needed his rest when he returned to Pittsburgh, too. They gave him a short little break before he rejoined the team on the ice. He was set to only play in the Pens’ final preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the game was a day after the practice which resulted in the concussion, meaning that Crosby sat out because he wasn’t feeling well and ended up being diagnosed a few days later.
So with such a tiring and not very restful offseason, with Crosby having so little time to turn his focus to Penguins hockey and train for a bid at repeating as Stanley Cup Champions, maybe you can look at it as a good thing that he now has a few days to make sure he’s in good form and ready to lead his team. Sid will obviously be aware that his recovery isn’t something to be rushed, so while he takes his time waiting to get cleared to play again, fans can be confident that he is doing everything within his current capabilities to be ready from the get go.
Meanwhile, for the rest of the Penguins, while it’s certainly not fun to be missing your captain to start the season, the team has quickly figured out that missing Crosby provides a good opportunity to evaluate the depth of the roster and to see whether the team still has a quality that arguably saved their season last year and contributed to a turnaround that resulted in the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup – the ability to overcome any obstacles or adversity that came their way. Both of these factors were key to the Penguins’ most recent Stanley Cup. They proved that they had a roster with such good depth that their fourth forward line was good enough to compete with other teams’ first or second lines. Overcoming adversity was pretty much the storyline of the Penguins’ season. Injuries to top players happen, and when they do, teams are closely watched so people can evaluate how strong they can be in still surviving.
The Pens don’t want to be the Montreal Canadiens, who had a promising start to last season before going on a freefall through the standings once star MVP goalie Carey Price went down. So far, the Penguins have avoided such comparisons. Their season is off to a pretty strong 2-0-0 start despite missing three valuable assets in Crosby, forward Bryan Rust, and goalie Matt Murray. The Pens have turned these unfortunate injuries into chances to incorporate other players into the regular season roster. In Rust’s absence, Scott Wilson is proving to be a potential elite NHL forward and is finding good success on a line with Evgeni Malkin. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost his starting job to Murray last season after sustaining concussions of his own, has seized the opportunity to win back the position of the Pens’ #1 goalie and is impressing already with his stellar play to start the season. The roster as a whole is clicking and proving they are a formidable foe even without the presence of Sidney Crosby, leaving people to wonder what they could be once 87 does return.
So while most people would probably prefer Sidney Crosby hadn’t been injured at all, take a deep breath. There is a way to look at the bright side of things, and Sid and the Pens seem to have things worked out reasonably well.