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What will become of Sidney Crosby?

Jeremy Wall | Interrobang | Sports | February 13th, 2012

Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros and Bobby Orr — these are three names synonymous with two things in hockey: greatness and injuries. Both Lindros and Orr had their careers shortened a great deal by terrible injuries. Also, their final few years in the NHL were spent recovering from various ailments, to the point where they were basically part-time players who seemed to constantly be making another comeback from another injury. Right now, Crosby seems destined for the same path.

After the announcement that Crosby had suffered a neck injury that may be contributing to his post-concussion syndrome and that also may have been initially overlooked by doctors, his road to recovery seems long and winding with possibly no end in sight. It feels like since Crosby tried to make a comeback earlier this season that faltered after only a few games, the news keeps getting worse and worse. Will he ever make a comeback? Retirement seems a possibility.

Even if Crosby doesn't retire, will he ever be the same player he was before the concussion? He's still young and theoretically in the prime of his career, but that doesn't mean much after you've suffered a severe head and neck injury. Even if Crosby plays another decade, his production and quality of play could decline to that of a late career Lindros, Orr or Peter Forsberg. In other words, we may have already seen the best hockey Sidney Crosby has to offer.

He's had a fantastic career thus far. Scoring titles, Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal: it's all there. His accolades are certainly intact and he lived up to his professional potential in terms of skill and talent. But even if he recovers to play a few more years, the longevity just isn't going to be there. Injuries of this sort to players as talented as Crosby (or Lindros, Orr, Forsberg, Mario Lemieux, whomever) makes it even more amazing that other greats like Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe were able to play for as many seasons as they did and maintain overall consistency throughout their careers. There are so few players who are able to do that.

Is Crosby the greatest of his generation? If he retired today, where would he rank among hockey's alltime greatest? I don't know. Obviously both of these questions are up for debate. His name will always be mentioned on people's lists of the greatest players, or at the very least the most talented players, if not the overall greatest if you consider his shortened career. But the unfortunate problem is that his name may also be on the list of what-ifs, as in, what if Orr didn't have so many knee problems, or what if Lemieux didn't have a back injury and lymphoma? These questions are all counter-historical, meaning there is no satisfactory answer because the questions themselves run contrary to what actually happened in hockey history.
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