Let’s flash back to March 2012: The Pittsburgh Penguins were flying high in the midst of a dominant season from Evgeni Malkin, which saw him score 50 goals and win the Hart Trophy for most valuable player.. The entire team was clicking, despite star defenseman Kris Letang and captain Sidney Crosby both being out with concussions. It was the second time Crosby missed extended time during the 2011-12 season due to concussions. The outlook for Pens fans in regard to their captain was not one of tremendous hope. After a triumphant return on November 21 against the Islanders that saw Crosby burst back into the game with a four-point night and a highlight reel goal in the opening minutes, Crosby looked to be right where he left off after suffering two concussions in early January 2011. His recovery was a long and arduous process that began with him unable to even watch TV due to his post-concussion symptoms, which eventually progressed toward light practices and then eventually full practices. The sports reports were flooded with stories like “Crosby working towards comeback,” “Crosby progressing” and “no timetable for a return” being thrown around on a daily basis. Upon his triumphant return, the excitement brewed, only to crash with the news less than a month later that his concussion symptoms had returned.
At this point, serious questions arose about Sid’s career being over and it was more than warranted. With the increased scrutiny in professional sports about the long term effects of concussions, and the examples of players like Marc Savard and Eric Lindros, the focus the turned into concern for his health and quality of life. Thankfully for Pens fans and hockey fans in general, Crosby was able to return in March 2012, and has not missed a game since. After a ridiculous, unfathomable playoff series against Philadelphia last season that saw the Pens make an unexpected first-round exit, but also saw Crosby remain healthy through the end of the season and the playoffs, the topic of his health did not matter anymore. In addition to that, the three-month long NHL lockout only put more time between Sid’s last headshot, only helping him to heal further.
So here we are, just past the quarter-point of the shortened season and Sid is back to his old form. He is currently one point behind Steven Stamkos for the scoring lead and has posted six games this year with at least three points. When their respective teams met head–to-head on Sunday night, Crosby tied and passed Penguin great Rick Kehoe for third place on the team’s all-time scoring list. The Penguins have had some of the greatest players in hockey history over the years: Larry Murphy, Joey Mullen and Ron Francis, in addition to players who have had long-term success in Pittsburgh like Martin Straka, Kevin Stevens and Mark Recchi. Sidney Crosby, at the ripe old age of 25 years old, now sits third on that list, trailing only Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux.
Love him or hate him, the NHL NEEDS Sidney Crosby. He is one of the most polarizing figures in professional sports today. Some describe him as incredible, others a diver. Some would say he’s a class act, others a baby. There is no doubt that more venom is sent Crosby’s way than anyone else in the game today, some for personal reasons (he’s a whiner, he’s a baby, etc.) and some just because of his skill, yet he handles it with class daily, all while performing at the highest level. His interviews are boring because he just says the right thing every single time, and it’s truthfully never worth watching one of his interviews. He passes the credit people throw at him around, downplays his accomplishments and focuses on the next task. The game is better with Sidney Crosby in it, and the NHL needs him. They need him for the rivalries with the Flyers, Rangers and Capitals. They need him to draw fans to opposing arenas to boo him every time he touches the puck. They need him as an ambassador to the game, and they need him for the exposure and notoriety. With everything that “The Kid” has been through the past couple seasons, Penguins fans and hockey fans alike should be glad he is back in the game and healthy, returning to his peak dominant form, whether you’re rooting for the Pens to win, or to lose. Let’s face it, even if you are not a Penguins fan, a healthy Sidney Crosby makes any game your team plays against them just that much more exciting.
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