Tak’s Take: Sydney Crosby

Taks Take: Sydney Crosby

In case you forgot, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a player by the name of Sidney Crosby.  In recent weeks, the Pittsburgh captain and NHL superstar has been out after he was injured by a series of blows to the head in early January. 

The good news for Penguins fans is that Crosby could be back on the ice soon.  After finally coming out of hiding in Canada to do light skating drills over the past few weeks, Crosby has been on the ice every day.  On March 30, the center was cleared to participate in non-contact practices.  Crosby flew with the team to Florida for the team’s trip to Tampa Bay. 

Since Crosby and fellow star Evgeni Malkin have been out of the lineup, the Penguins have lost their offensive firepower.  The team defense, particularly the penalty kill, has picked up the slack of the slumping offense and kept the Penguins in the hunt for the division title.  Pittsburgh has already clinched a spot in the playoffs.

The question becomes when should the Penguins start Crosby in a game?  With the postseason approaching, an addition of the best player in the NHL should turn Pittsburgh into a championship contender.  

It would be very exciting to see Crosby on the ice for the first round of the playoffs.  If he could get back even sooner to get some game action in before the postseason; that would help the team as well.  But there is a part of me, a rather large part as a matter of fact, that just wants to see Crosby wait to return until the beginning of next season.

Obviously the Penguins’ captain would not be doing on-ice drills at this point in the year if he was not planning on playing until next season, but I am worried about what the Penguins might be getting themselves (and Crosby) into by hurrying the star back.

It is worrisome that until a few weeks ago, Crosby was not able to complete simple, everyday tasks (like driving) due to the headaches that he was constantly having.  The symptoms of a simple concussion lasted longer than usual, possibly because Crosby may have sustained two concussions in less than a week.  If this were the case, Crosby may have sustained major brain damage.  Hockey is a fast-paced sport.  The NHL is a fast-paced league.  Before his injuries, Crosby was able to think faster than anyone else.  I can only help but wonder if his thinking speed has been impaired at all by his injuries. 

It is also worrisome that concussion victims are much more likely to sustain additional concussions due to the fragility of their brains.  Marc Savard was a talented hockey player for the Boston Bruins.  He was not as talented as Crosby, but he was an all-star caliber player, until he received a concussion.  After sitting out awhile, Savard came back, only to receive another concussion.  Savard’s concussion symptoms have haunted him ever since.  Even when he is able to play at all, he cannot play at the same level as he once did.

It is not worth having Crosby back for this playoff run and run the risk of having him re-injure himself.  I would much rather have Crosby miss as long as it takes, whether that be the rest of this season, or even all of next season, to be completely recovered so he can return to the form that he was playing at during the beginning of the season.

We forget that the Penguins were only able to make it to the second round last year with a completely healthy roster, including Crosby and Malkin.  I am not saying the Penguins should give up on this season.  But I do think that the Penguins should shut down Crosby for the season and stick to the defensive system that head coach Dan Bylsma has implemented that has been good enough to break 100 regular season points.

Next year, the majority of the team will be resigned.  Crosby and Malkin will be back to join forces with Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, and all of the other Penguins that led Pittsburgh to the top of the NHL standings before they were plagued by injuries.