With Crosby Out, Are The Penguins In Trouble?

Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA Today

Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA Today

By Jameson Bradley

The hockey world held its breath as the season started a couple weeks ago. But with it, there also came an announcement that Sidney Crosby had suffered yet another concussion and would not start with the rest of the team. There was, and has been no word on when he will exactly come back. The good news, he is doing skating drills wearing a no-contact jersey. The bad news? It is already October and we are sic games into the 2016-2017 season without the best player in the league to lead the team. So is this a good thing or a bad thing for the defending Stanley Cup Champions?

Obviously no matter how optimistic you are this is bad news. Crosby was coming off his second Stanley Cup win, a great tournament at the World Cup, and was set to shatter all records and defy all nay-sayers with his best season yet. To hear the news that another concussion has hit him not only hurts a team trying to open the season well, it also raises questions about Crosby’s legacy.  He barely made it back from the last batch of concussion troubles, how much more can he take? The questions will always remain, but one thing is for sure. The Penguins season is still rolling, and they have to figure out a way to overcome the adversity.

The silver lining in all of this comes with the open position on the roster. With Crosby out, there is now not only a leadership opening but also an opening for a clutch player to deliver along the likes of Captain Sid himself. The Penguins opened the season with a rousing shootout win against the Capitals, took down the Ducks 3-2, fell to the Avalanche in overtime 4-3, fell flat in a 4-0 loss to the Canadians, completed a come from behind win over the Sharks 3-2 and Saturday night delivered a lackluster performance against the Predators losing 5-1. With their best player out, things don’t seem as gloom as they could have been considering their opponents.

Sporadic scoring has always been a staple of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. They can win a game 5-0 and then not score for the next three. With as many heavy hitters as they have it comes with the territory. Sometimes they deliver, sometimes they don’t. Matt Cullen, Evgeni Malkin, and Patric Hornqvist all lead the team with five points each. Phil Kessel is having a semi-slow start with only three points so far, and only a total of four points for the entire HBK line that powered through the playoffs last year. Conor Sheary continues to prove himself worthy even without playing by Crosby’s side, already earning himself 1 G and 2 A. Considering he played 44 games last year and only made it to 7 G and  3 A, his sophomore effort in 4 games is pretty impressive. Another name that continues to stand out to me is Scott Wilson. I’m calling it right now, this kid is one of the future names of the Penguins Organization. Wilson was the 2011 draft pick of the team and seems to finally have found himself the opening to make an impact on the team. He played 24 games last season and got 5 G and 1 A.  In six games this season he has 2 G.

The opening that Crosby left seems to be filling itself just fine with the young talent that the Penguins have in their wings. With so many big names it’s nice to see some of the lesser known players being made into heroes. As far as the Penguins record, 3-2-1 is just fine by me. It’s a long season folks, let’s not forget the unforgettable start the Canadians gave us last season, and the quite forgettable end they rewarded us with come playoff time.

Many questions still need to be answered before the season’s end for the Penguins. One of the main ones being their goalie situation. Matt Murray, the goalie who led the Penguins to their Stanley Cup victory last year, suffered a broken thumb in the World Cup.  Although he has yet to play this season, the team signed him to a 3-year contract extension with an AAV of $3.75. Marc-Andre Fleury, the goalie who led the Penguins to their Stanley Cup victory in 2009, has been between the pipes in all six games this season.  Since the team signed Murray does that mean Fleury is on his way to getting the boot from the team? Some in the organization have commented and said that it doesn’t necessarily mean that Fleury is gone. To raise even more question, the Penguins picked up Mike Condon off waivers from Montreal. The teams commented and said he was to serve backup to Fleury while Murray recovers, which is entirely true, but what happens when you have two perfectly suitable young goalies at your disposal and one whose window seems about closed. Only time will tell.

It is quite interesting to see how the Penguins have dealt with Crosby being out of the lineup.  He is the glue that holds the team together, and I can only hope that he comes back sooner than later.  In the meantime, the Penguins seem to be finding their edge.  We are only a few games in and some of their players are performing better than we expected.  Others, like the HBK line, still have yet to fire things up.  But when they do the Penguins will have nothing to worry about.

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