After the NHL kicked-off this past weekend with the commencement of another lockout, it was no surprise when a flock of players migrated to various professional hockey leagues around the world. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ super-star winger Evgeni Malkin was one of the first to go, joining ex-Penguin and close friend Sergei Gonchar in the KHL. Having announced his plans weeks ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Malkin would be playing hockey once the impending lockout became reality. The decision has its pros and cons. Obviously sustaining an injury would be nothing short of a catastrophe, especially when Penguins’ fans were elated at the thought of having both Geno and Sid start the season.
The last few seasons have been quite the odyssey for Pittsburgh’s players and supporters; an adventure in which the physical tribulations of the National Hockey League battered the All-Star duo. Crosby endured multiple concussions that have left him prone to head trauma, and Malkin suffered a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery and months of rehab. If everything goes well, Malkin could be healthy and in MVP form by the end of the lockout, hopefully giving him and the team an advantage on the ice. His stint in the KHL should not be as worrisome as the possibility that Crosby and Letang could follow accordingly, a situation Malkin has hoped will come to fruition.
As Crosby’s on-ice absence remains at the forefront of most minds, Kris Letang also found himself on the mend for almost a third of the 2011-12 season. Letang suffered from concussion-like symptoms two separate times last year and left a gaping hole in Pittsburgh’s defense. Being the anchor of a dynamic power-play and top line defender, the Penguins could wave goodbye to a strong defensive corps if he falls to injury. The fact that both he and Crosby have already had multiple concussion related injuries greatly increases the chance that minimal physicality could resurrect these problems.
Sid’s plans were reported here by Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson spoke about the current situation and their future opportunities if the lockout drags on. Brisson addressed the fact that Crosby had only played in twenty eight games over 1 ½ years, and because he’s a ‘hockey player’, it is only a matter of time before a decision to play is made. Where he might go is subject to debate, and it depends on which teams would insure his 104 million dollar contract signed this offseason. Letang, who hasn’t expounded upon his initial comments of joining other NHL players, has a child on the way and will likely decide to play hockey after monitoring the lockout’s duration and progress.
Ownership may have locked out the players, but the thought of Geno, Sid, and Letang playing overseas surely has Mario Lemieux’s head spinning.