Obviously everyone’s main concern in regards to Sidney Crosby is his personal health and well being. Concussions are scary and serious and the most important part of Sidney Crosby’s recovery is that he will be able to live a normal life once he’s fully recovered. We know the damage that a concussion can cause and lives have been ruined by these brain injuries.

However, Sidney Crosby is a professional hockey player and the captain of  the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s obviously a key part of the group one of the players that makes the team a contender. Now that it doesn’t look like he’ll be back for the start of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins will once again have to play without their captain. Are the Penguins a contender without number 87 in the line-up?

Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins played without Crosby since those fateful two days in early January. Prior to the 2011 Winter Classic, the Penguins had a 25-11-3 record which put them at the top of the Eastern Conference. They lost the January 1 Winter Classic where Crosby was first hit in the head but then they won the January 5 game against Tampa Bay when Crosby last played. They still sat at the top of the conference after that game with a 26-12-3 record.

The Penguins ended the season 49-25-8, which placed them fourth in the East. That means they went 23-13-5 in their final 41 games. That isn’t much worse than their record in the first 41 and Evgeni Malkin was injured during much of that period as well.

Evgeni Malkin played his last NHL game on February 4, 2011. He suffered a serious knee injury in that contest and hasn’t played since. However, he should be healthy for training camp and his performance could dictate the Penguins’ success this season.

In 2008, Sidney Crosby suffered a high ankle sprain and was limited to playing in only 53 regular season games. In his absence Evgeni Malkin scored 106 points that season and the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Atlantic Division title. Malkin had 20 goals and 24 assists in games without Crosby and the team had a 16-8-4 record while Crosby was out with the sprain. Malkin picked up at least three points in nine of those games.

Can he do it again?

No one knows when Sidney Crosby will return to hockey, including the Pittsburgh Penguins. Given what we heard yesterday, he may be out for a while. It’s really anyone’s guess. The Penguins will now have to focus on winning hockey games without their superstar captain and the key to doing so will likely be their superstar alternate captain. Yes, the Penguins were able to win hockey games last season without Crosby and Malkin, but it wasn’t pretty and it’s not likely something they will be able to do again.

Yesterday general manager Ray Shero said “there’s no replacing Sidney Crosby as we know” but he was also looking forward to “Evgeni Malkin’s healthy return” and “Jordan Staal having a healthy training camp.”

In the last few years, one of the Pittsburgh Penguins main strengths has been their depth down the middle. Last season this depth was seriously tested and Crosby, Malkin and Staal all missed significant time. This year, Malkin and Staal should hopefully be healthy, but is that enough to include the Penguins in the list of Stanley Cup contenders? The team will most likely make the playoffs, but how far can they go without Crosby?

The thought of Sidney Crosby missing significant time this season should be disturbing to all hockey fans, but it’s certainly a concern for Penguins fans as well. Will the team be able to compete without one of the best players in the world in the line-up?