CrosbyWatch: Lemieux stepping in when situation called for it most.


Some quick-hitting thoughts from my day back around Pens Land:

= First, in case you missed it, the story:

= Though there was a general consensus from folks I spoke with at the All-Star Game that the Penguins are expected to look for an impact move at or before the Feb. 27 deadline, their cap space will still be limited because they expect Cs Jordan Staal ($4 million) and Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million) to be back after the deadline passes. The long term injury list can be retroactive, but a team does not get that money back after a player returns as it was explained to me tonight by cap wizard and assistant GM Jason Botterill. In short, the Penguins cannot acquire $4 million in players at the deadline because when Staal returns they would then have to somehow find $4 million in room. What this all means is that any big move by the Penguins, and again I’m hearing they aren’t opposed to making one, would need to have salary going back to a trading team.

= The significance of Mario Lemieux joining Penguins CEO David Morehouse and Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson in Philadelphia on Monday to hear the independent analysis should not be lost on anybody. Lemieux is not one to get involved in matters like this. He deeply trusts the people who work for him, and Brisson, a longtime friend. However, my sense is that Lemieux felt the optics of the Crosby health situation, particularly how it was being played by media in his native Canada, was becoming a problem – and by going to Philadelphia, Lemieux was in his own way saying, Look, if there is any problem here, everybody is getting on the same page today. It is no coincidence that after Lemieux stepped into this mix that GM Ray Shero and Crosby were laughing and coolly answering questions at the presser Tuesday. Lemieux still sets the tone for this organization. He remains the largest figure in it, and he also has a knack for knowing when to assert himself and insert himself into matters.

I realize there are a lot of fans that will refuse to believe what went on at Consol Energy Center with this latest Crosby update was on the up-and-up; but the perspective of somebody who hasn’t won many fans inside the organization with the way he’s covered the Crosby saga is that this was the most comfortable that Shero and Crosby have appeared during any public addressing of the situation. I’m not saying there aren’t some concerns among people that there has been a bit of damage done to the Crosby-Penguins relationship, but I am also saying that at the end of the day the relationship between Crosby and Lemieux trumps everything, and that relationship appears strong. For those people already speculating about a possible Crosby exit in summer 2013, keep this in mind: The Lemieux Family is like family to him, and if I’ve come to know Crosby at all over the past six years it is that nothing is more important to him, more precious, that family.

= RW Pascal Dupuis on Crosby:

“He looks like himself. He’s confident he’s going to play again this year. We want him to be confident. We want him to be around. I think he’s in the right frame of mind.”

= Highlights from the Crosby portion of the presser:

–On the injection: “Hopefully it’s a one-time thing. It’s different every time. It’s something I’d rather not, to be honest with you. I’d rather get this work done here and get rid of the swelling, and I’ll work hard to do that. That’s the plan: It’s a one-time thing. Right now there’s no plan to do that or anything like that.”

–On how he’s feeling:  “It’s been pretty good. Like I said, still some symptoms. I feel much better than I did a couple weeks ago skating. The motion stuff seems much better, so I’m happy with that. I’m still not where I want to be but it’s encouraging that I’m skating and I’m just happy at this point to be doing that. Staying in shape a bit and getting out there, it’s nice to kind of be back in the swing of things.”

–On his other members of his concussion team: “Obviously, I’ve been to Atlanta to see (chiropractor Ted) Carrick and a lot of the motion stuff was something I really was happy with the response I had there. I’ll be in touch with him as well as (UPMC concussion guru Michael) Collins and the staff. Really, I think it’s a team effort. Everyone obviously has got my well-being in mind. We need to make sure that I get rid of this stuff before I play.”

–On talking with teammates: “A little bit. I basically just kind of talked about the break and where they were. Basically my week was spent in doctors’ offices and MRI machines and stuff like that. I didn’t have an exciting break but some of the guys did. Tried to fill them in as much as I can, but obviously we have a game tonight. Just trying to keep them in the loop without talking their ear off about what I did.”

= Highlight from the Shero portion of the presser:

–On the broken neck reports: “When Sidney went to see Dr. (Robert) Bray in California they did a series of X-rays and CAT scans. In our conversations with Dr. Bray, his advice was there was something that he saw that he wanted a second opinion he encouraged us to get. In addition to our team at UPMC, we sought out Dr. (Alexander) Vaccaro in Philadelphia and had a conference call (Monday). All the doctors consulted during that conference call, which we were a part of, and they went through everything as to what they saw – the radiologists and so forth – and they came up with that there was no evidence of past or present fracture, which was good news.

“(Vaccaro’s) belief was that he wanted other people to take a look at this, is what he saw. We’ve been very fortunate through this entire process since last January having the doctors we’ve been exposed to both at UPMC and independent doctors that Sidney has seen. To have that group together on the phone yesterday was beneficial for everybody, to hear everybody out, to hear the radiologists in particular. Once we did that it felt very good at the end of the conversations with where we were. Had another conversation (Tuesday) to make sure we understood each other, and pretty consistent that’s where we were: no evidence of past or present fracture.”

–On Penguins medical staff not finding the injury: “This is an injury that is being worked on here in Pittsburgh through our training staff, our medical staff and he’s been getting at UPMC. What was being ruled out was anything more than that, which was what all the radiologists took a look at. What I can say about our doctors, team doctor (Charles) Burke, the medical staff at UPMC that we’ve dealt with, (Michael) Collins, Dr. (Joseph) Maroon, Dr. (Joseph) Fuhrman —they’re experts in their field. They’re amongst the best in the world at what they do. We’re very fortunate they’re in our backyard.

“As the manager of the Penguins and for our ownership, every player in addition to Sidney that we have is encouraged to get a second or third opinion on any injury that they have. One of the things to make clear with Sidney over the course of the summertime when he was going to see Carrick and now Dr. Bray, any time he’s gone for outside consultation, we’re in constant contact with Sidney and the doctors. Everything goes through our medical team after he sees these other consultants. We’re all in this together and the one thing we’re trying to find out is what’s causing these symptoms, how can we get him back safely to play, and as I’ve said many times, he will not return to play until those symptoms disappear. So that’s our next step and that’s the goal for everybody involved here.”

Had a chance to speak with Shero after the Penguins’ win over Toronto, and he was adamant that he did not pay lip service to the team’s medical staff at the presser. He noted Burke’s successful surgery last season on C Evgeni Malkin, who less than a full year later is the MVP favorite, and Collins’ work with his son, whose concussion experience opened Shero’s eyes to the injury on a personal level.

Shero called Burke and Collins his “go-to guys.”