He’s Back……again

Sidney Crosby will be returning to the Penguins lineup on Thursday against the Rangers. What does this mean for the Penguins? What does this mean for Malkin? and most importantly, what does this mean for Crosby and his health? I’ll try to answer all of those questions for you, and more in this article.

First off, what does this mean for the Penguins? The Penguins are currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 89 points, and are just 4 points back of the 1st place Rangers. Last time Crosby returned to the lineup, I was skeptical he would be able to produce right away, he proved me wrong by putting up 4 points in his return. With the team currently riding a 9 game winning streak it could mess up the chemistry the team has going, but even if it does, it will be worth it to have Crosby ready and in the lineup when it matters, playoff time.

Secondly, what does this mean for Malkin? It’s been no secret that Malkin is having an unbelievable year. Everyone always says Crosby is the best player in hockey right now, Malkin is either second or third on that list, as he leads the league with 84 points and is second in the league with 38 goals. It’s also been no secret that Malkin plays much better without Crosby in the lineup. To me, this is just due to less ice-time, of course having him be the #2 centre rather than the #1. If Malkin continues to play this way, I can’t see them reducing his ice time by very much, so that shouldn’t become a factor.

Lastly, how will this affect Crosby and his health? Last time, when Crosby was on his way to returning, he was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and then didn’t play until Nov. 21. This time around, he will be making his return a bit more than a week after being cleared for contact. After waiting over a month last time, he still got hurt just 8 games in to his return. This time, however, they know what they’re dealing with, after the news that it may have just been a neck injury this whole time, if he’s been rehabbing his neck properly, and the Penguins and Crosby truly believe that he’s 100% healed, I don’t see a  problem with him returning to the lineup. However, they better be sure he’s 100%. It will be good for Crosby to make his return in a very important game, as the Penguins try to catch the Rangers for 1st in their division and in the East. It’s also good to get his legs moving before the playoffs, so that he’s ready.

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-Vernon Smells

Are Headshots in Hockey Killing the Game?

Max Pacioretty with the hit on Letang which brought him a 3-game suspension

If a team could be made up of all the players who have been out this season or are out with concussions right now, there would be little doubt that they would be serious contenders for sports’ greatest prize, the Stanley Cup. So far this season the players that have been out with concussions; which include the best player in the National Hockey League, Sydney Crosby, the leader in points (at the time, when he was concussed) Claude Giroux, and the leader in goals (at the time, when he was concussed) Milan Michalek.

Concussions are becoming an epidemic in the NHL. The main reason for all these concussions is too many headshots which are obviously illegal. What really grinds my gears is the inconsistency in disciplinary actions towards players who commit the crime. This is undoubtedly a cause for concern. Both the players and refs are getting confused because they don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore.

Infractions that appeared similar in intensity and motive are receiving different disciplinary responses. That is just unacceptable. Some players with a history of dirty play appear to be suffering worse consequences than others. For example: On December 9th, the Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Andy Sutton got an 8-game suspension and a fine of $200,000 for a dirty hit on the Carolina Hurricanes’ left winger, Alexei Ponikarovsky. Although it appeared deliberate, and it was a headshot, that punishment was way too extreme. Sutton likely got this massive punishment because of his tough guy reputation. However, on October 1st, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s left winger, Ryan Malone absolutely demolished the Habs’ defenseman, Chris Campoli with a headshot. It looked just as nasty as the one dished out by Sutton but there was no suspension, no major penalty and not even a minor penalty. In these two similar instances, giving Sutton 8 games and a fine for $200,000 and letting Ryan Malone off the hook is an absolute joke.

The NHL and its Senior Vice President of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan need to protect its players better. End of story. There’s too much grey area and too much inconsistency with these calls. The intent for reducing headshots in the NHL is good but the league has to make the disciplinary measures more black and white for the refs. We realize this isn’t an exact science as to what hits are acceptable and what hits deserve suspensions but the league has to get its act together regarding its disciplinary practices. This may take some time but hopefully they will get it right and ultimately we will see a dramatic reduction in headshots in the future.