Handcuffed

To the surprise of many today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they will be signing Sidney Crosby to a 12 year, $104.4 million contract extension. Under normal circumstances this deal would not even be questioned. Too bad for the Penguins that these are far from normal circumstances.

The Sidney Crosby concussion saga has done its part into making head injuries a hot topic all across North America. Following his second concussion in December, I said that Crosby was done. The jury is still out on that one but they are leaning towards a unanimous decision of him being just fine.

However, one bad hit and it might all be over. That’s the fear of anyone who cares about hockey.

Thing is, the Pittsburgh Penguins had no other choice. I guess they could have waited for him to play out the season but that’s not how you treat the best player in the world. Crosby made hockey relevant again in the city of Pittsburgh. They had to give him what he wants.

Ray Shero’s hands were tied, you know, with one of those really good sheepshank knots.

Until, or if, Alexander Ovechkin returns to his old form, Sidney Crosby is the only true superstar left in the NHL. And unlike the NBA, MLB or NHL, Sid, who is not so much a Kid anymore, is the consensus top player in the league. $104 million over 12 years may not be a price tag worthy of Wal-Mart but it’s more than fair.

All Ray Shero can do is kneel beside his bed and pray every night. Well, he might want to think about doing that in the morning as well but you get the idea.

Obviously, this is not a debate without the concussion questions surrounding Crosby. Even with the concussions though, the inevitable debate surrounding the contract extension is pointless. Sidney Crosby does not have to play 8-12 years to justify this decision of the Penguins brass to sign him to an extension with a year still left on his original 5 year $43 million deal.

The kid born in Halifax, Nova Scotia has already justified receiving this contract. He justified it when he came back from both of his extended stints up in the press box like he hadn’t missed a game. In 22 regular season games last year, Crosby racked up 37 points, which would have been good for 137 points if he had played the full 82 games. During his shortened 2010-11 season he was on pace for 132 points. Both would have been career highs.

The Penguins are aware of the risk. They simply had to overcome their worst fears to make this happen.

This is like the Portland Trail Blazers drafting Greg Oden. It had to be done.

Superstars are treated differently. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. Crosby could, but hopefully not, go down the Brett and Eric Lindros hazy journey through post-concussion symptoms and it wouldn’t change anything about the thinking behind this process. The fact of the matter is, he hasn’t taken the scary journey down Lindros way, not yet. Who knows, as doubtful as it is, maybe the Penguins medical staff have some positive insider information on Crosby’s situation.

Hindsight is 20-20. Alas, the Penguins weren’t able to locate an authentic psychic. So like everyone else, they’re going into these next 12 years blind. The fate of the franchise resting on a head that is quite possibly as fragile your mother’s fine china.

But at this moment in time, I’m sure Ray Shero wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

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Beginning of the End

It pains me to write what I am about to write. I wish I didn’t believe it but, right now, it’s hard to think any differently. All the signs, signals, indicators, compass’ and whatever other device you have are leading me in this direction. I have tried to convince myself this can’t be true but what else am I to believe?

Sidney Crosby is finished.

Extreme words, I know. However, Sidney Crosby is out again after what, at the most, can be classified as a soft elbow to the head from David Krejci. Watch for yourself here (skip to 1:11 for slow motion). It’s possible the first time watch the video you won’t even notice the hit. The hit occurs a few seconds into the video but it is rather inconspicuous.

Once again, Sid the Kid is day-to-day with his concussion-like symptoms but not the day-to-day that we normally associate with injuries. His status as day-to-day refers to the media’s coverage of his status, wondering when Crosby will be back on the ice. Sadly, Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely and, although he insists that he is not back at square one, you have to wonder if this last hit has put him on the Eric Lindros road of perpetual concussions.

Crosby took 11 months off. Like a Dad crossing the street with his 3-year-old child, he decided to play it really safe instead of being really sorry. I repeat, he played it really safe. Unlike the first hit from Dave Steckel that should have put him out, Crosby didn’t want to play with fire this time. In the end though, it only took a minor hit from David Krejci to put him on the shelf. This wasn’t your Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros garbage. This was peewee minor hockey stuff.

This isn’t a movie either. What doesn’t kill Sidney Crosby isn’t going to make him stronger. Each subsequent concussion makes Crosby more fragile than the Dallas Cowboys in the 4th quarter. By now it’s common knowledge to sports fans that if you’ve had one concussion, you are much more likely to have another. At the same time, it’s supposed to take more than what Krejci did to Crosby. Sid is only 24 and is already having to deal with more serious concussion issues.

Related: NHL Needs Sid the Kid

Is Crosby more prone to concussions than others? Is Crosby simply the recipient of some old fashioned bad luck?

Apparently, I’m not a doctor, as one individual was kind enough point out to me in e-mail form following one of my post’s inquiries into the nature of Ryan Kesler’s injury prior to last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Nevertheless, common sense can tell you a lot of what you need to know sometimes. My common sense this year is telling me that Sidney Crosby is never going to be the same.

This is one of the few instances where I hope I’m not right.

I have no idea what Sidney Crosby’s doctors are telling him but the fact that he is back up in the press box watching games and sitting out of practice is as bad a sign as it gets. What’s even worse is that we are hearing the same thing coming out of Crosby’s and head coach Dan Bylsma’s mouth. According to Sid, “there is no timetable” for his return. According to Bylsma, “Sid knows his body better than anybody else” and “He’ll return to practice and playing when he is feeling 100 percent.”

100 percent took 11 months last time around.

This time around, before you can say post-concussion symptoms, the best thing that has happened to hockey since Mario Lemieux could be out of the game altogether . Unfortunately, this might be the beginning of the end for Sidney Crosby.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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NHL Needs Sid the Kid

Forget the magic of Tim Tebow. Sidney Crosby returned to the NHL on Monday Night and was nothing short of magical.

It was another one of those “wouldn’t believe it if it was in a movie” moments in sports. After 11 months off from one of the most talked about injuries in NHL history, Sidney Crosby scored his 1st goal of the season on his first NHL shot in 11 months. Crosby didn’t stop there as he racked up 4 points total on the night, adding another goal and 2 assists. This was not only a special performance but it was incredibly heart-warming for anyone born with a soul.

I guess special is as special does.

Hockey is a Canadian sport though and south of the border it often doesn’t generate much more buzz than a bowling tournament featuring Norm Duke and Walter Ray Williams Jr. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration but the point is Crosby’s long-awaited return from his mysterious concussion has produced more than a bit of a noise in the United States.

While the ‘Welcome Back Sid” hash tag may not have been trending on twitter as it was in Canada, Crosby’s comeback illustrates how important one man can be to the world of star-driven professional sports.

With Alexander Ovechkin in an extended slump, the NHL has been absent of a true superstar for the past half-year. No matter how good the games are, no matter how good the playoffs have been and no matter how many games the Stanley Cup goes, nothing can fill the void left by an injured superstar of Crosby’s magnitude. Unlike football and basketball, the game of hockey lacks household names. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, that’s it.

No Sidney Crosby equals big problems.

Sidney Crosby’s identity and life is hockey. There must have been a point in the last 11 months where he thought he might have been without the only thing he has ever known. Sure, Sidney Crosby needs hockey. However, there’s no doubt that the NHL needs Sidney Crosby more than Crosby needs the NHL.

Sid the Kid is the poster boy for the NHL. He can be as exciting as a peanut butter sandwich sometimes but his ultimate good guy reputation more than makes up for that. My grandmother is as likely to have Sidney Crosby as her favourite (non-hometown) player as that greasy guy sitting at the corner of the bar. His stardom reaches all.

Crosby is a ratings booster. Everyone knows Sid.

In this day and age of ever decreasing scoring and ever increasing trap hockey, Sidney Crosby is one of the few reasons to tune into a hockey game. The only people happier right now than the Pittsburgh Penguins are the executives at NBC and Versus. If Sidney Crosby can return to the NHL as good or, dare I say, better than ever, it will be almost impossible to keep him out from being mentioned in the elite company of players like Orr, Lemieux and Gretzky. Once in a generation talents don’t come around every day.

It took quite a lengthy period of time but Crosby looks to have come back at the right time. Sheriff Shanny has finally implemented the absolutely necessary harsher punishments for head shots that was lacking from Colin Campbell’s reign. The brutal head shots and concussions to go along with them seem to have significantly lowered in number this year. Amazingly, Dave Steckel, the man who essentially sidelined Sidney, wasn’t even suspended for his actions last season.

That won’t happen anymore.

The overabundance of bad press the NHL received over its handling of the head shots situation is gone and its most important entities are now much better protected.

11 months of NHL hockey without Sidney Crosby was tough. 11 more years of NHL hockey with Sidney Crosby sounds more like it.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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