In 2010-2011 Sidney Crosby missed forty-one regular season games and the entire 2011 NHL playoffs. Amazingly, he still managed to lead the Penguins in scoring with 66 points while missing half the season. Crosby was on pace for 132 points which would have been a career high for him and also would have put him atop of the NHL point leaders. What Crosby did in forty-one games was truly unbelievable. At one point he had a twenty-five game point streak and carried the offensive load as fellow teamate Evgeni Malkin suffered a severe injury. Malkin tore his ACL and MCL and was put on the shelf for the entire season. Crosby was the man everyone was counting on and unfortunately in consecutive games he suffered multiple concussions that ultimately ended his season. From the halfway point, Pittsburgh struggled offensively and relied heavily on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to keep them in games. Pittsburgh made the playoffs with a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference but the lack of offense came back to bite them as they bowed out to the Tampa Bay Lighting in Round one of the post season. Throughout the winter months’ and early spring many speculated that Crosby would return in time for the end of the season and the playoffs. Penguin’s fans kept their hopes high and they knew that they would need their captain to have any shot at competing for the Stanley Cup. Although Penguins fans were being patient with Crosby they certainly wanted him back on the ice whether he was one hundred percent or not. He is an asset to the team’s success but he refused to rush the recovery process. He watched the last half of the season from the press box and has taken the long, slow journey to recovery from his concussions. There is no doubt in my mind that Crosby wanted to play, especially in the playoffs. He would be out on that ice whether he was one hundred percent or not but maybe it was not in his hands. Maybe the Penguins organization wanted to put him on the shelf intentionally so that he could rest up and be back fully healthy for the start of training camp and the 2011-2012 season. Consider this, even if Crosby would have played in the playoffs last season, how effective would he have been? With no Malkin and no real depth at forward it was a long shot that the Penguins would contend for the Stanley Cup. Maybe it was better for the Penguins to think ahead and look forward to this upcoming season with a healthy Crosby and Malkin and a good supporting cast. I know Ray Shero and the Penguins wanted to win in the playoffs, who doesn’t, but I truly believe that the long term health of his superstar was the first thought in his mind. At 24 years of age, Crosby has a long way to go in his career and there is no doubt that he is going to go on and have a phenomenal NHL career. Now, here in early August the rumors have already arisen, Will Sidney Crosby be ready for the 2011-2012 NHL season? With the cautious approach from the Pittsburgh Penguins, I certainly hope he will be ready to play hockey come October but he is still not cleared to take part in full contact drills. With just two months to go before the season, this is a real concern. Crosby has not been in a game situation since January 5th, 2011 and has yet to participate in any game like action in practice. He certainly makes an impact even if he comes back a little rusty after a ten-month layoff due to his concussions. Just having him on the ice, as a leader is already an advantage for the Penguins but there is no doubt in my mind that his production will go down this season. Consider this, in the NFL when a player misses 10 month’s due to injury, that player is highly unlikely to produce great stats and is placed farther down on the team’s depth chart. We know hockey is a different sport but this is a similar situation. Crosby definitely needs some time to get back into game shape and also needs to catch up to the speed of the game. Even though he’s played in the NHL for six years, it is extremely tough to return from injury and immediately have a huge impact. Crosby is definitely a key to the Penguins success and his abilities (when healthy) on the ice cannot be matched by anyone else in the NHL. Pittsburgh will open their season with a three game Western road trip. They will play Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton in the span of four days. Having Crosby and Malkin back healthy would give the Penguins a good opportunity to get off to a great start to their 2011-2012 campaign. As I said there is two months to go before the season starts and all we can do is speculate. Everyone has their say and I personally believe he will back for the start of training camp and the season. Reporters certainly won’t waste any time before they ask Crosby about his health at the beginning of Penguins training camp. I bet we won’t know if he’s playing or not until opening night against Vancouver when we see the official lineup sheet of the Penguins. Knowing Crosby, he definitely wants to be out there with his teammates. Who doesn’t! He is the leader of this squad and has not been able to help out on the ice in ten-months. It must have killed him to watch his Penguins lose to the Lightning in the post season in April. Penguin’s fans are hoping that their captain will completely recover in time for the season. Only time will tell and as of right now there is no clear-cut answer. Sidney Crosby certainly makes Pittsburgh a better hockey team and he is also a huge representation of the NHL. As fans we have to just lock in and go along for the ride as eventually we will find out if Crosby will be back in a Penguins uniform come opening night on October 6th.
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