Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Latest Thoughts on Sidney Crosby's Return

Sidney Crosby got back on the ice March 14, skating for the first time since missing the Penguins game at Montreal on January 6. Since that time Sid has increased the length and tempo of his workouts. Now all signs point to him being cleared to resume practice with the team within a week. Rob Rossi writes that teammates have marveled at his timing and skills in his individual on-ice workouts and it is clear that Sid is ready to get back at it.

The Penguins have gone 19-11-5 in Crosby's absence. That's remarkable since they have also had injuries to Evgeny Malkin (season-ending), Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, Mark Letestu, Paul Martin and a host of other players during Crosby's absence. It is a testament to the work of general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma. They have put together a roster and a system that has continued to thrive despite such key losses. Getting Sid and most of the others back as the playoffs begin will certainly make the Penguins one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Now the question is how to proceed.

Some commentators/talking heads have questioned the sensibility of having Sid return at all this year. The argument goes, that by allowing Sid six more months to rehab and recover, it virtually guarantees a healthy return next season with no lingering effects from the concussion. While I won't dismiss this idea, I'm fully confident the Penguins organization and their medical staff understand the ramifications of the decisions they make. Between the team and Crosby himself I am certain they will not let him play unless his susceptibility to another concussion or head injury is no different than anyone else's on the ice. Hockey is a contact sport and there are no guarantees that Sid won't suffer another head injury or any other type of injury. The Penguins have had multiple players get injured in practice this year. It is part of the nature of the sport that injuries occur. But, if Crosby is at no greater risk than any other player, he should absolutely get back on the ice as soon as he is cleared. And it is obvious that is what he plans to do.

After tonight's game with the Flyers the Penguins will have five games remaining on the schedule. If Crosby needs two weeks of practice time with his teammates to be game ready, he won't be ready before the regular season comes to a close. However, if Crosby is cleared tomorrow the Penguins may very well target the season-finale against the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday, April 10 as a return date. Getting some ice time against an opponent would certainly be helpful before entering the playoffs and there is no question the organization will not want him suiting up April 8 when the Penguins play the Islanders. The last game between those two set the NHL record for penalty minutes and saw multiple suspensions. There is still plenty of bad blood between the two teams and there is no way the Penguins will allow Crosby to be on the ice for that encounter.

Either way, it now appears that Sidney Crosby will be back for some part of the Penguins playoff run. On March 1 I suggested an April 15 return for the Captain. It looks like that may be the date of the Penguins second home playoff game. I guess I have to move my guess up a few days because I now think Sid will have his sweater on and will take the opening draw when the Penguins start the playoffs. That would certainly be a great sight.

UPDATE: Video of Crosby practicing this morning.


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