New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins

Today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story about Sidney Crosby’s possible return to the Penguins line-up in time for playoffs, which is pretty crazy considering what happened to him. Of course, his return is not guaranteed. I’ve been through what he’s going through (a bit worse, actually), so I thought I’d shed some light on what he (and the fans) can expect in his attempted return to his usual on-ice form.

Let’s take a walk through that post:

Crosby, who has not played since his jaw was fractured by a deflected shot March 30, is expected to seek medical clearance today or Friday to resume playing.

If that’s given, he would not return to the lineup for the Penguins’ game at New Jersey tonight or the regular-season finale Saturday against Carolina at Consol Energy Center, but dressing for Game 1 of the playoffs is not out of the question at this point.

I realize that both Crosby and the Penguins would like to get him back in the lineup as soon as possible, but I don’t love the timing. There’s something about having your best player out of the lineup that makes the rest of the team go “Okay, [STAR] isn’t here to do this for us, so it’s on us.” It makes them drivers, not passengers.

Obviously in the big picture you want your best players playing, it’s just that timing. Right before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs I don’t want any of my guys to exhale and think “Phew, our guy” is back, even one tiny iota. Also, you’re rushing a guy back from an injury that could very well be re-injured if he gets bumped in the jaw with any force again, and with your sights set on the Cup – not a round one victory – you’d think that’d matter. PLUS, you’ve got the sideshow of Sidney Crosby coming back and all the national media annoyance that garners. PLUS you’ve got a guy coming back out of game shape, so you’re trying to give him minimal minutes so as not to kill him (10 mins at most I’m guessing), so you’re shuffling lines and messing with people’s comfort and routines.

I feel like you’re best served giving the team a few games to see how things are going, and you reassess after that. Even waiting an additional 2-3 games gives your captain an extra week-plus of valuable healing time.

In addition to undergoing the examination to determine how well his jaw is healing, Crosby could be facing extensive dental work in the next few days.

He had an unspecified number of teeth knocked out by the puck that broke his jaw and, while his top two front ones were replaced a while ago, a number of lower teeth still have not been.

“Extensive dental work” in the few days. “Dressing for game one is not out of the question.” THAT’S IN SIX DAYS. Between the pain, the drugs to numb the pain, the lack of exercise and all the rest, I just can’t fathom being asked to go play in a playoff game.

Crosby also has yet to practice with his teammates, which is something team officials and the coaching staff presumably will want him to do before getting into a game.

Of course. Keep in mind, this injury happened immediately after the Jarome Iginla trade, so the very thing that has taken teams all year to figure out – systems, communication, chemistry and all the rest – will be tested for the first time once they have a full roster. This isn’t great news for them given teams like Washington, who took forever to get there, have finally found their stride and have zero guesswork to do once the puck drops in game one.

So yes, you’d like to get him in a few practices before throwing the forwards’ numbers on lottery balls, spinning the drum, and popping out some lines.

Regardless of when he returns, Crosby is expected to continue wearing a plastic shield that protects his jaw. That has been a staple of his equipment since he resumed skating.

Doctors used titanium plates to put Crosby’s jaw back together — it is believed to have been fractured into several pieces, as opposed to a simple, clean break — and if he were to be hit in the jaw, the healing process might have to begin anew.

My jaw broke clean down the middle so the two sides moved independently (held together be a four-screw X plate) and shattered where the puck hit it, as it sounds Crosby’s did. The 10-screw plate in that area was trying to tie together multiple pieces of bone into one in hopes that they’d reconnect like long-lost family members and hit it off. They didn’t, and I needed follow up surgeries to remove pieces of dead bone. I didn’t know pieces didn’t take for some while, and Crosby likely doesn’t know either right now.

And if you don’t know, risking more contact, jostling, any of that, is just beyond me, from a sheer mental toughness standpoint. I’m too pretty to roll the dice on messing up my reconfigured face. I could’ve come back in time for playoffs, but it wasn’t worth the risk to me, so I said no thanks.

And then there’s when I skated. I couldn’t see had trouble finding the puck through the jaw protector, my plates got cold and stiffened my face up (which hurt), and I was so badly out of shape I didn’t want to play and embarrass myself. Unlike Crosby, I was in wires for months, so he probably won’t have the latter issue, but the other two aren’t going to be fun.

He’s the best in the world for many reasons, one being that his mental game is unlike anyone’s I’ve seen in my lifetime. So while I didn’t have the fortitude to overcome my hangups, he might be able to. But still…there’s just so many distractions with the whole deal.

I want Sidney Crosby to return, and to return ASAP. I just know it’s not going to be as simple as “Medically cleared, The Kid is back!”

Comments (5)

  1. As to the Penguins player chemistry/comfort factor: Head Coach Dan Bylsma is a huge fan of juggling lines all the time. Mr. Bylsma has been diddling with lines the entire year, even before the trade acquisitions. I find that consistency is more of a concept than a reality in Dan Bylsma’s system. Apparently talent overrides consistency and chemistry.
    Sure the Penguins are winning now but, as you stated above, chemistry is a factor during the playoffs. I wonder if Dan B. has gotten and/or read that particular memo?

  2. Breaking a jaw or loosing a tooth is something that scares the crap out of me when I play. It just seems extremely painful and I can’t imagine it being anything better than a million times as painful as I think it would be.

    Sadly, I think the Pens are used to the “Crosbys coming back” media circus that occurs, I don’t imagine that would be a major issue for them. Also, wouldn’t getting him back in a game, early in the playoffs vs an #8 seed to get rid of the rust and get used to the new mouth/jaw guard. As opposed to jumping into a game 5 or 6, possibly must win, possibly against a better team in the 2nd round? If he plays 10 min in game 1 and then takes a game off is it the end of the world?

  3. Dammit Debbie Downer – I hate reading this! Appreciate it, but hate it all the same, as I’m sure you raise very valid and informed points. Possible mitigating factors are that Sid’s quality of care should be the very best possible, that the org will be appropriately conservative to best protect their most important asset and that Sid knows very well what his limits are and will act accordingly – so that at least when he does come back, it won’t be a train wreck.

    Another thing I hate – what this guy has had to endure the last few years.

    • I don’t know, Sherry. The Pens medical staff hasn’t been great in the past where Sid is concerned. The dropped the ball big time at the Winter Classic. They screwed up horribly again last year with the misdiagnosis of the neck injury. Sid’s father was reportedly furious. And in the end, the entire medical staff was let go. I’d love to have him back, and i’m really upset that these other guys are going to get the trophies that Sid would’ve been the runaway uncontested winner of this season……….but what Justin is saying is kind of what i’ve been thinking. Such a shame that his career has been, like Mario before him, so derailed by injuries and in some cases just horrible luck (especially in this instance). Guy just cannot catch a break.

      • Exactly rt David. My comments were meant to say that NOW Sid should have the best care possible – they couldn’t possibly screw it up worse than they did re the concussion/neck injury. Can’t imagine the org would let that happen again.

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