You’d have to be living under a pretty large rock to not notice that the NHL spends a lot of time and money on the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry.  From the Winter Classic to NBC’s national schedule, it’s hard to spend any time watching the NHL without seeing number 87 or number 8 placed front and center.

Well now it seems that there may be a bump in this promotional road.  Both Crosby and Ovechkin are hurt.

Crosby missed last night’s game against Montreal and will be out of action for at least a week with a concussion.  Ovechkin received a cortisone shot in his hand after the Capitals’ game on Tuesday and was in a no-contact jersey during Thursday’s practice.  He doesn’t expect to miss any time with the injury, however.

The good news is that neither star appears to be seriously injured, but this situation does bring some additional attention to the NHL’s marketing strategy.  The league has invested so much time and effort into Sid vs Ovi that it’s almost impossible to imagine what the NHL would be like if these two superstars missed significant time simultaneously.  Could the NHL last with long-term injuries to both Crosby and Ovechkin?  Would Gary Bettman allow it?

Of course, we’re being facetious here.  Obviously the National Hockey League would survive.  There are dozens of other young, talented players that could be used to sell the game.  Some names that come to mind first are Patrick Kane, the Sedins, Matt Duchene, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Anze Kopitar and Steven Stamkos.

Wait… Steven Stamkos.  He’s the second in both goals and points behind Crosby and he doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as Ovi or Sid.  In fact, he could probably benefit from injuries to both of those players.  Looking at this closer we see that Ovechkin was given the cortisone shot following a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  It appears that Crosby was also injured in a game against the Lightning.

Steven Stamkos plays for the Lightning.

It’s obvious.  In an attempt to gain more of the national spotlight for himself, Stamkos is having his team systematically eliminate other superstar players.  It would be genius if it wasn’t so evil.  Steven “The Hitman” Stamkos is out for blood.

The Lightning play in Ottawa on Saturday night.  Thankfully the Senators have no superstar players for Stamkos to take out, but if we’re Jason Spezza we’d still be watching our back.

Now we’re clearly kidding here.  Stamkos isn’t orchestrating the destruction of the league’s superstars from within, but the basic point remains.

Is it wise for the NHL to focus almost exclusively on the rivalry between two players?  Thankfully neither Crosby or Ovechkin are seriously injured and they will both likely have long careers, but what happens if something unfortunate were to occur?  Does the NHL have a back-up plan or do they just switch their focus to “Who shot Mr. Crosby?”