Cook: When he's ready, Crosby must play

Apr 5 2011 - 4:38pm

Heard all of the reasons Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby shouldn't play again this season.

Not buying a single one.

It's not worth the risk of another concussion that could threaten Crosby's career ...

No one is suggesting Crosby should come back before it's the right time. He must be symptom-free and feel like his old self. All indications are that he's getting closer to that point. More than anything, we have to defer to his judgment. He knows his body best.

Crosby's doctors also have to clear him to play. They know his brain best.

Slowly but surely, they are allowing him to do more physical activity, the latest being practices with his teammates on non-contact days.

The next and final step will be full practices where he certainly will be jostled and even hit while stick-handling the puck through heavy traffic or going into a corner to get a loose puck.

If Crosby still feels fine after a few days of that, he has to play.

They should hold Crosby out until next season just to be safe ...

Really? You believe that? Where did you get your medical degree?

When is the right time for a guy to play again after a concussion? How long is long enough to be off the ice recuperating? I don't know if anyone can answer those questions with absolute certainty. I know I can't.

Sure, Crosby could be seriously injured again if he plays next week in the playoffs. But would his long-term health be guaranteed if he waits until October to play again? Of course not. I'm not sure he couldn't be hurt again then just as easily if he's hit the wrong way. You might have heard hockey is a physical, high-speed game.

Crosby won't be 24 until Aug. 7. Should he take off next season just to be safe and to make sure he can play when he's 25? Of course not. I could go on and on like this. I think you get the point.

Crosby has to trust how he feels and he has to believe in his doctors. He's a professional athlete, a well-compensated one at that at $8.7 million per season. He can't save himself for next season or the season after that. He has to play when he and the docs think it's time. Not a second before, to be sure. But not a second after, either.

Not even Crosby can play at a high level after sitting out for three months ...

I defer to Penguins winger Arron Asham on this point: "I'm pretty sure (Crosby) could lace them up tonight and play and be a force," he told the Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson the other day. "He's just so much better than everyone else. He's just that talented."

Crosby is the best player in the world. It's hard to predict he immediately would play as well as he did before he left the lineup after the Jan. 5 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he had 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games. But it's not hard to say he would be great.

He really is that talented.

You don't throw any player who has been out that long into the high-stress, high-intensity playoffs ...

See rebuttal above.

You don't mess with the chemistry of a winning team by adding any player in the playoffs ...


That's just ridiculous.

It's true, the Penguins have something pretty special going on.

They have played remarkably well not just without Crosby, but without injured Evgeni Malkin.

It's a tribute to coach Dan Bylsma, who clearly has his players buying into his standard-is-the-standard message.

"We're going into games expecting to win," defenseman Brooks Orpik said before losses last week to the Philadelphia Flyers and Lightning. "It just seems like the overall energy is better going down the stretch this year."

Adding Crosby to the mix wouldn't hurt anything. It could only help.

The other players adore him. He's their captain and they loyally follow him.

The instant Crosby gets back on the ice, he would help an offense that had scored just five regulation goals in its previous five games before the game last night against the Florida Panthers.

He would help a sick power play that was 3-for-64 in the previous 19 games. He would help new linemate James Neal, who had just one regulation goal in 17 games since joining the Penguins in a trade Feb. 21.

There are no -- absolutely no -- drawbacks to a Crosby return.

The way the Penguins' defense is playing and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is stopping pucks, Crosby would put the team on the short list of legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

I'm still holding out hope it happens sooner rather than later, this spring rather than next fall.

It should happen as long as ...

Say it with me one more time.

... Crosby and the doctors agree the time is right.

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