Another Sid-sational Season Set to Begin

Peter Diana/Post Gazette

Editor's Note:  While it was originally reported this morning that Sidney Crosby appeared to be ready to return, Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed a little after 11 AM that he will NOT be playing tonight against Calgary.  He remains day-to-day.

One of the funnier promotional giveaways in all of professional sports happened on Tuesday evening. All fans attending the Penguins vs. Lightning game received this wall calendar:

The humor is in the five players on the calendar.  From left to right the players are as follows: Jeff Carter, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Bryan Rust. These five players represent five of the top stars on the team. Ironically, six games into the new season, not a single one of those players took the ice for the game Tuesday night, nor have they all gotten the chance to play together yet this season. That’s kind of funny if you ask me.

On the bright side, one of those players appears primed to return to the lineup for the first time this season on Thursday night.

And he might just be the most important of the bunch.

The Best Leader in Hockey

Welcome back Sidney Crosby! Oh captain, my captain!

Just one night after the “best leader in all of hockey” Jonathan Toews embarrassed himself on a National stage with his comments about the sexual assault allegations against the 2010 Blackhawks team, Crosby will return and hopefully lead his team in a more captain-friendly way.

This Penguins team battled without Sid. 3-1-2 is nothing to scoff at. They collected eight points in six games and have only lost one game in regulation this season.  However, it was against the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning after beating them at their place in the opener. Now, Crosby has the chance to come back and add to the team’s success.

Covid and Injuries Still Remain

Carter and Letang remain on the COVID protocol list so their returns should not be entirely too far off either. Rust and Malkin remain on injured reserve with Rust much closer to a return than Geno.

Crosby was skating on a line with Jake Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues at practice Wednesday. Rodrigues has been the Pens’ best player to this point in the season. Guentzel is still looking to get going with one goal on the young campaign. Reuniting with Crosby could be the key to getting more half off Jake Shake’s at the Milkshake Factory when Guentzel starts scoring here in the future.

It is impossible to overstate Crosby's importance to this team. Ignore his talent alone. Everyone knows that Sidney Crosby is a top-five player in the league when he is healthy. He’s got three Stanley Cups and belongs in the conversation for best to ever play the game. Saying he’s important is obvious.

The impact more lies in Sid’s ability to keep a locker room intact. He isn’t the rah-rah guy that guys can get hyped up and get behind. Instead, Sid leads by example. His drive to win is infectious. Crosby’s continual hunger to further his legacy with another championship is vastly regarded among his teammates.

Aging All-Star

Entering his age-34 season, Crosby knows that time is running out. While he might be highly effective for another six or seven years, his team’s window is only open for so much longer. Both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

While I believe they’ll return next season, there is certainly a possibility that this is the last ride. Even if they do come back, the window may still be closed. The Penguins could be doing the courteous thing and bringing the core back to finish it out together.

Crosby would love nothing more than to win a third gold medal in Beijing next year and then couple that with a fourth Stanley Cup title in the summer. While the odds are long, is anyone really willing to bet against Sidney Patrick Crosby?

I know I’m not going to. When he sets his mind to something, the passion and intensity is unmatched.

Let’s just set the stage now…

Imagine the USA and Canada meet in the gold medal game. Mike Sullivan coaching Team USA with multiple Penguins likely on the team (Rust, Guentzel, and potentially Brian Dumoulin) attempting to avenge Crosby’s golden goal back in 2010. Just imagine the bragging rights and the drama that would bring.

Also I'm just ready to sit back and enjoy another season of Sidney Crosby in a Penguins uniform. Edmonton can have Connor McDavid, he hasn’t won anything. Toronto can boast about having Auston Matthews, but his next meaningful win will be his first.

I’ll take number 87 and all the awards and recognition he’s gotten over the past 17 seasons. He’ll likely add 500 career goals to his lengthy achievement list assuming he stays healthy. He’s only 14 away.

Crosby has been a part of too many consecutive embarrassing playoff performances by his team. While he was not of much fault for those runs, the captain will always have fingers pointed his way. I shutter to think what he can do to the entire league if he really wants to put those demons of the past few postseasons behind him.

To finally see Crosby stick-handling pre-game on the McDonald’s logo, undressing goaltenders during the game, and then wearing his sweat-stained hat while humbly giving interviews postgame is going to be so refreshing.