Sidney Crosby is tough but has been battling with a weak wrist since the Obama administration. That’s impressive, but his original injury was caused by trying to stop a full-speed Ryan Reaves at center ice. The bargain-basement Pittsburgh Penguins pickups have worked out pretty well, including Brian Boyle and Danton Heinen.
And I’ll further explain the glimpse into your future.
Things are never, ever dull around the Penguins.
On Friday, Crosby confirmed there isn’t a timeline for his return, and most of our colleagues seized on that as a headline. I didn’t infer quite the same thing that everyone else did. I don’t think Crosby meant to imply that a return is a long time away. Crosby simply meant that he doesn’t yet have a specific date as he must accomplish a few more things, such as proving he can put pressure on the wrist in game situations. He mentioned things like lifting sticks or having his lifted.
But in the Crosby conversation with the media, the main idea became clear. You can view the entire conversation here, including the original hit in 2014 that first injured his wrist; Crosby tried to hit Ryan Reaves at full speed…and LOST.
Pittsburgh Penguins One-Timers
1. Sidney Crosby Had Serious Surgery
In the 2020 offseason, Crosby had his wrist scoped. He confirmed his September surgery was more significant. In his answer, however, he also confirmed the procedure could never be done again.
You and I can both wonder exactly what the procedure was. From tendon replacement to a fusion, the possibilities of what Crosby needed are many, but the “final” nature of the surgery is a bit scary, eh?
If you wondered why Crosby waited until the eve of the season and did rehab for seven years instead of surgery, obviously it was not a decision anyone wanted to make, but circumstance eventually forced it.
“It was something I was always able to manage in the summer being able to get rest, and then during the year, it was always something that would come back, and I would be able to get through it. But this year, it just wouldn’t come back over the summer when we tried to rehab it and avoid surgery,” said Crosby.
The Penguins captain seemed in very good spirits on Friday. He was flying at practice. When Crosby finally returns to the ice, you may want some popcorn because it’s going to be a show.
He’ll be back sooner than later, but that the surgery was something more severe than we thought.
2. Bargains Pay Off
Danton Heinen, good.
Drew O’Connor, good.
Brian Boyle, good.
Brock McGinn, good.
Ok, McGinn isn’t a bargain-basement newbie, but his performance has been excellent. He’s not as flashy as Brandon Tanev because he’s not as “high energy.” Still, he’s fast to pucks, he contributes more in the offensive zone by putting himself in a good position to receive the puck, and he’s defensively responsible. It looks like an even trade for Tanev, minus about $750,000.
Heinen has been surprisingly good. Let’s be honest, who thought the Heinen signing was a really good one? He faded to the background in Anaheim, but it appears that may have been the result of a lousy team, more than a bad player. It’s October, and we’re not ready to canonize him as a legit top-nine player just yet, but it indeed appears he’s the goods.
Heinen works smartly around the ice and puts himself in good scoring positions. He’s stealth, so you have to focus on him away from the play. He’s a poor man’s sniper, but that’s just fine for a third-line winger and a $1.1 million paycheck. He could realistically have a 15-goal season and receive appropriate compensation next summer.
Brian Boyle also looks too good to remove from the lineup. The big fourth-line center is a good penalty killer; the Penguins PK is at 90% so far. He’s good in the low zone, protects pucks with his 6-foot-6 frame, and plays a solid fourth-liner game.
Also, it appears I started a trend of questions. Last week, Brian Dumoulin admitted he added some “older music” to the locker room music for the “older guy” Boyle.
The Penguins team reporter followed up on that Friday. Boyle said his dad controlled the radio on the way to hockey practice. If they really wanted to get pumped up, the song du jour was Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding out for Hero.”
I’ve liked Boyle with O’Connor much more so than without the rookie. Even in training camp, both seemed better off. Dominik Simon is like a mischievous elf who creates the offense for them and disappears without credit (except on PHN).
3. Get used to the Grinders
In my column this week, I put forth the idea that the Pittsburgh Penguins bottom six was beginning to drive their identity. It’s a fascinating possibility to me because it has so many layers. The last time grinders, pluggers, plumbers, and plugs defined a team with success was the Kevin Constantine era of the late 1990s.
The team won. They made the playoffs. The Penguins even won a few playoff series. Despite Jaromir Jagr on the roster, fans were less and less interested and began to drop away.
My column was as much as a sales pitch to Pittsburgh hockey fans to embrace the gritty, as much as it was an analysis that indeed Teddy Blueger, McGinn, O’Connor, Boyle, and Simon are the players propping up the Penguins decimated lineup.
I really hope Penguins fans don’t show to be star chasers. I really hope hockey is the attraction. I think the market has had enough hockey training to appreciate and accept a team of no-names, but not everyone around the league is convinced. A few of my National Hockey Now colleagues expressed doubt.
“Pittsburgh is about star players,” one said.
That just seems antithetical to our entire city’s culture, doesn’t it? We’re a blue-collar town with a blue-collar work ethic (that’s a good thing). We’re getting a glimpse into the future without star players. It’s not so bad, is it?