Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff spot, the focus shifts to two subjects: 1) the team’s playoff seeding and 2) Sidney Crosby’s return.
The Penguins are most likely to end up with the fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. But as we discussed earlier today, it’s also possible that they could close the gap and actually steal the Atlantic Division title from the Philadelphia Flyers.
A division title (and thus, a high seed) doesn’t guarantee postseason success, something that was illustrated quite vividly during the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2010. Ultimately, the Penguins’ playoff pursuit might come down to whether or not Crosby can play.
The Penguins still are weary of setting a time table for his return, but NHL.com reports that Crosby looked strong enough in this morning’s workout that he might be able to practice with the team soon.
In fact, Crosby’s showing the kind of work ethic that made him such a force to begin with.
Asked how the rehabilitating Crosby did during an early morning, 45-minute session Sunday at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said, “I was on the ice. I left before he got finished. So he tired me out.”
“Sid’s been around a lot for three weeks, four weeks, being a part of it,” Bylsma said. “He’s in every day, talking to our players. He has been with our team for a while now. Again, there’s been no expectations talked about, there’s been no timetable talked about, when it’s possible for him to even return with the team.”
Pittsburgh has six games remaining after today’s in-progress game against the Florida Panthers. Surely they would rather play Crosby in a game or two before the playoffs so he can shake off the rust, but that might not be in the cards. In fact, he might not make it back until next season, period.
It’s still unclear whether we’ll see Crosby again before the 2011-12 campaign, but he’s making it tougher for the team to keep him off the ice. That’s a great sign for Penguins fans, as long as the team does everything it can to make sure he can avoid a Marc Savard-type fate.
Does the NHL have a cocaine problem?
TSN caught up with deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who provided some fascinating insight:
“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” Daly said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.”
Daly said that he’d be surprised “if we’re talking more than 20 guys” and then touched on something that may be a problem: they don’t test it in a “comprehensive way.”
As Katie Strang’s essential ESPN article about the Los Angeles Kings’ tough season explored in June, there are some challenges for testing for a drug like cocaine. That said, there are also some limitations that may raise some eyebrows.
For one, it metabolizes quickly. Michael McCabe, a Philadelphia-based toxicology expert who works for Robson Forensic, told ESPN.com that, generally speaking, cocaine filters out of the system in two to four days, making it relatively easy to avoid a flag in standard urine tests.
The NHL-NHLPA’s joint drug-testing program is not specifically designed to target recreational drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. The Performance Enhancing Substances Program is put into place to do exactly that — screen for performance-enhancing drugs.
So, are “party drugs” like cocaine and molly an issue for the NHL?
At the moment, the answer almost seems to be: “the league hopes not.”
Daly goes into plenty of detail on the issue, so read the full TSN article for more.
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.