Due to the lack of stuff going on in the offseason, I'm going to break into your regularly scheduled programming with non-Lightning like things. Though, it could be said to affect the Lightning - or, at least, it's something they can learn from. But this is primarily an NHL-wide issue, despite it being about one man.
Yep, let's talk about Sidney Crosby and his concussion recovery.
Again, there are rumors swirling about that he might not start the season. Followed closely by rumors that he might have to retire due to post-concussion syndrome. And everyone from his team to his agent are denying everything. Naturally
But let's talk about the worst-case scenario. Let's talk about what-if. What happens if Crosby has to retire due to two closely timed concussions?
Make no mistake, most of the blame for that would fall squarely upon his team. Whoever had the final say in clearing him after that accidental clip during a break in play at the Winter Classic in January, that's exactly whose fault this is. It doesn't matter how it happened - although, clearly, Crosby was concussed after accidentally running into David Steckel's shoulder - all that matters is that someone took a look at him and declared him to be okay, when he really wasn't.
Whether that was right after he got off the ice, during the intermission, or after the game, that person - whoever made that decision - could have potentially ended a very bright, promising, and potentially record-setting career.
And not only did they declare him okay to play the rest of that game, if he was even looked at during the game, but they declared him okay to play in the next where he suffered a second concussion. The first game where the concussion happened, you could almost - almost - forgive since there was so much going on and he probably wasn't looked at until after the game was over. But letting him play in the second game? That was seriously poor judgment by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The other person who is at fault, though to a lesser degree, is Crosby himself. Shrugging off getting smacked in the head, even if it's your first concussion, is no way to take care of yourself. Particularly since the NHL now goes through such pains to education teams and players about concussions. You want to have a long playing career? Then don't act like you think you're invincible. Get looked at if you're in pain or something doesn't seem right. Better to be safe than sorry.
I've been an athlete, so I know how they are - because I've done the exact same stupid stuff myself. I once talked my high school basketball coach into letting me play when I had a sprained left foot and a sprained right ankle. Since both feet were affected, and I couldn't really limp, I was pretty convincing. And the coach was easily convinced, too. You really can't trust these guys when they say they're okay. Especially professional athletes of contact sports at the highest levels, since they have to have an insanely high pain threshold to play like they do.
You see how they are in playoffs - you have to be dead to not play. That's not a badge of honor, and that's not being tough. That's just being stupid. If you want to be able to walk unaided when you're 65 years old, then have someone look at your knee after you tweak it to make sure it's not something serious. It's no wonder that the average NHL career is something like five years.
And Crosby's teammates bear some of the brunt of the blame as well. All you have to do is look at a guy to know he's not alright; it's usually pretty obvious. Keeping your mouth shut because it's none of your business, or because you don't want to tattle, isn't being a good teammate. That's just being afraid to speak up when necessary. You're supposed to look out for your teammates, even when they don't want you to.
And then the coaching staff not wanting to pull their best player, even for a marquee event, is irresponsible. Assuming that they even knew what was going on in the first place, of course. Lots of things happen in dressing rooms that the coaches don't find out about. Which, again, goes back to the training staff and the players.
And how about the ultimate scenario of everyone knowing everything? Crosby saying he's okay, teammates - knowing that he's not - going along with it, coaches - knowing that he's not - are afraid to pull him, trainers - not saying too much because they don't want to cause waves - letting it go, the GM - giving into pressures to keep the marquee player in the league in a marquee game - doesn't say anything, and NHL officials in charge knowing what's really going but taking everyone at face value. That's not a conspiracy theory or anything; that's just how these things can sometimes go. (I have a friend who's an athletic trainer at the college level, and you'd be surprised just how willfully ignorant and/or flat-out in denial people can get around star players and their injuries.) If everyone knew, then everyone's to blame.
Personally, I believe that Crosby's probably all right and that people are just panicking needlessly. The post-concussion symptoms that he's supposedly having are probably just regular workout effects. Who doesn't get light-headed sometimes when lifting weights, after all? He won't be the same player when he comes back, however. Lightning fans saw how that went with Mike Smith after he tried playing through a concussion. Though I do think he'll likely start the season as usual.
Still, something to keep in mind will be additional concussions for Crosby - because there will be more. So, next time, will his team immediately pull him out and keep him out if he gets another one, no matter what the situation? Or will they ignore it again, hoping that they're wrong and putting his career in jeopardy again?
And will any other team learn from this lesson and keep track of their players better, regardless of who they are and how important the game happens to be?
The league-wide concussion issue isn't entirely the players' fault. In the case of Sidney Crosby, there were likely a lot of enablers either keeping quiet or encouraging him to play after the first one happened. And those were just the people on his own team. Otherwise, why have him play in the very next game after that against Tampa Bay, right?
And with those kind of people looking after a guy, who needs enemies?