Get the feeling that Sidney Crosby’s concussion issues are a lot more serious than anyone thought at first?
The Penguins captain wasn’t his usual optimistic self about returning any time soon when he spoke to reporters this week, and that should have been the first clue. But Pittsburgh owner Mario Lemieux made it even clearer by releasing a pointed statement that smacked of frustration about the condition of his franchise player.
Crosby has been out since Jan. 5, the result of a blindside hit by Washington’s David Steckel in the Winter Classic and being run into the glass by Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman in the following game. But Lemieux waited until the league handed out discipline decisions following the fight-filled game between the Penguins and New York Islanders on Friday that produced 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts. The Hall of Famer called the game a ‘travesty’ and embarrassing to the sport, and went even further to highlight his displeasure.
“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league,” Lemieux said, “I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”
He has that right of course. But it is worth noting that Lemieux didn’t feel the need to do any introspection when Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke jeopardized the career of Boston’s Marc Savard with a blind side hit last March, or when Cooke went un-penalized for a knee-on-knee hit to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Didn’t utter a word of criticism either when Max Talbot got away with a hit that left Islanders forward concussed the last time the teams met or when Cooke was suspended for four games last week for a blind side hit on Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin.
But Lemieux felt compelled to speak up when the latest incident left his injury-riddled team even more shorthanded than it was before/
“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport,” Lemieux said. “It failed.”
Really? Well, Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard's 10-game suspension for leaving the bench was automatic, but Trevor Gillies of the Islanders took a nine-game suspension for hitting Eric Tangradi in the head and the punching him several times. And New York’s Matt Martin will sit for four games as a result for punching Talbot from behind. The Islanders organization was also hit with a $100,000 fine.
Sounds like a pretty strong message. It just doesn’t help ease the sting of losing your best player and not knowing for how long.