Most GMs would be panicked if their franchise player had a career threatening injury in the midst of becoming a once in a generation type player. That panic would probably set in tenfold if that particular player was not only the face of your team but of the league your team plays. Most GMs would feel that, if said player was to announce he probably wont be ready until three months into the season, his job would be in serious trouble because his team would falter.

Not Ray Shero.

Pens GM Ray Shero said as plainly as he could on Wednesday that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be as patient as needed for Sidney Crosby to fully recover from his concussion. Since his concussion eight months ago, Crosby has taken the ice several times in an attempt to test how his mind would react to certain efforts in his practices. While he still continues to suffer setbacks, the symptoms appear to be diminishing in magnitude.

Wednesday, he clarified all rumors that had been swirling over a very arduous summer. When asked if he had any thoughts on retiring he replied, "not really." Also, the two accompanying doctors, Dr. Ted Carrick and Dr. Michael Collins, confirmed that Crosby's vertebrae were fine and that the only problem was his head; a problem Collins later clarified. "The prognosis is excellent that he won't have long-term problems from this injury."

So why the calmness from Ray Shero?

For one, the Penguins, without Crosby, are still extremely good. The Pens boast one of the top five goalies in the league with Marc Andre Fleury and one of the best defensive units in front of him. Returning to camp is a healthy, rejuvenated and motivated Evgeni Malkin, who is two and half years removed from his best season in which he became the first player since Mario Lemieux to lead the regular season and playoffs in scoring in the same season. As he continues to train, one has to think he's looking for his best season to date.

Meanwhile, role player and hockey villian, Matt Cooke returns to the ice to help ratchet up the Pens penalty killing that sorely missed his presence in the playoffs last Spring. Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy will probably join Cooke as they try to recreate the same chemistry that led to a Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, James Neal is prepared to give the same effort with different results as he scored only two goals for the Penguins since being traded from Dallas. Also, the emergence of young talent in Dustin Jeffrey and Mark Letestu look to build on the successes they each experienced as they were forced into starting roles after Crosby and Malkin went down last season.

Make no mistake, the Penguins are fringe Stanley Cup contenders without Sidney Crosby, meaning they will make the playoffs with or without him (as evident of last season). Ray Shero has built this team around Crosby but has done so in a way that removing #87 from the roster will not make the team collapse like a house of cards. For that reason, alone, there is no rush for Crosby's return. If he is ready to play, he puts Pittsburgh over the top as favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Unlike the Washington Capitals, the Penguins play for April, May and June. If it takes until St. Patrick's Day for Crosby to return, the Penguins will gladly welcome him as they make a run for a fourth Stanley Cup.

Until then. Patience. Don't Panic.

Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins

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