Ahhhhhhhhhhalksdhfka;ljdmak;d CROSBY’S COMING BACK /pulls out hair, sets self on fire.

Ahem.

Let me straighten my tie and regroup here.

As you well know by now, tonight’s the night that Sid the Kid comes back after his prolonged absense from the NHL. While this is bad news for 29 NHL teams, folks in Steeltown sounds pretty happy, as they should. There’s no doubt he’ll make them better eventually. I just can’t help but wonder – will his arrival cause a mini-slide for the Penguins over the first few games?

Quick reminders: a concussion removed him from a competitive Pittsburgh Penguins team that lost a playoff series in 7 games. He was removed from the NHL at a time when he had 66 points in 41 games (and was the Hart favourite), an insane pace in today’s game. He was removed during the prime of his career, at a young 24 years of age.

His return is a huge deal.

As a player on the Penguins, you’d have to be ecstatic – your team is already tied for first in the Eastern Conference with 25 points, and you’re adding a star player (who just happens to be your captain as well) to the mix.

The way I see it, this is awesome news for the Penguins in the long-term, but maybe not so great in the short term.

When you suddenly add a star to a team that’s been succeeding (in my case, I think of our AHL team getting sent an NHLer for awhile thanks to a conditioning stint, or punishment, whatever), it can be somewhat of a distraction until you get used to having that guy around.

For one, hockey players are hockey fans, too. You want to watch great players do great things, and sometimes that can cause you to forget about yourself. You also want to learn from a better player, so you study what they do, how they prepare, and try to pick up any little tricks they may employ to help themselves out. Hmm, he takes passes on his backhand with one hand and lets the stick deaden the hard pass. I’ll have to try that.

In previous games, your thoughts were that if you didn’t get it done, the team wouldn’t. It’s about preparation – when coaches say “we had too many passengers tonight,” they’re referring to players on their team that seemed to be waiting for someone else to do it, whatever “it” happened to be that night.

It happens, and it leads to a lack of aggression. That ain’t a good thing in hockey.

While I’m sure Bylsma will warn his troops not to relax just because they got the Best Player in the World back, that’s easier said than done.

Things just change, and that’s an unavoidable fact. James Neal has been on a tear this year – 12 goals in 20 games, on a point-per-game pace – you think if he’s on a 2-on-1 with Sid tonight he’s gonna look ‘im off and keep shooting? Of course not.

In the long term, they’ll get the hang of things. I don’t think it will take long either.

But in the short term, you hope his teammates keep the onus on themselves to get it done, and keep on performing like they have. Otherwise, the Pens could find themselves in battle tonight against the desperate New York Islanders.

Comments (5)

  1. Do you think the “gee whiz” effect of Crosby returning to the lineup may be reduced/eliminated (as much as one can eliminate this factor) since he has been practicing with the team for a while and cleared for full contact for just over a month?

  2. What happens when someone hits Sid? Do you think a fight will ensue? Even if it’s a good, hard, clean hit? I bet the player hitting him gets suspended….

  3. “He was removed during the prime of his career, at a young 24 years of age.” – He was actually 23 when he was concussed… He didn’t turn 24 until August of 2011. :)

    I nit-pick.

    But other than that – great article! I can’t help but hope that this game is going to be one of two extremes – your scenario happens, the Pens lose and the hockey world goes bat crap crazy or Sid nets a hat-trick, Pens win and the hockey world goes bat crap crazy.

    Same result either way I suppose.

    Anything in the middle is just going to seem like a let down after all of the hype!

  4. JB, I think maybe the biggest adjustment will be how Crosby reacts to incoming contact. Does he go hard to the net, battle in the corners, take passes the way he use to, or is he tentative and prone to coasting and shying away from the danger areas? I’ve had two concussions and a sprained neck in the last 9 months and I realized during my first game back from both that I was not doing the things it takes to play sound positional hockey because I was looking out for contact. You can’t play positionally sound, instinctive hockey if you’re thinking about the next hit.

  5. I think your answer is “No”.

    ;-)

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