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Sidney Crosby missing start of season? Contact is the key

Josh Rimer, a producer for XM NHL Home Ice, sent tongues a-wagging on Sunday when he tweeted the following news about Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby(notes), who is working his way back from a season-ending concussion:

[H]earing from 3 sources now that Sidney Crosby won't b ready 2 start season. I hope its not true because the NHL needs its best players!

Rimer's a connected guy — we've gone back and forth over email in the past — so there shouldn't be any doubt that he (a) has sources and (b) probably heard this about Crosby from somebody in the hockey community. Digging around after his report hit, there's been little in the way of confirmation and some off-the-record indications that the news is premature. (An email to Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, wasn't returned.) But that's not to say it's inaccurate.

But here's the thing: The nature of Crosby's injury naturally leads to conditions changing rapidly. A report on Aug. 14 about Sidney Crosby's status is about as concrete as a weather report about next year's Winter Classic.

There have been no reports about Crosby shutting down training due to ongoing post-concussion symptoms, following hits by then-Washington Capitals center David Steckel and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman(notes) that put Crosby on the shelf after Jan. 5 through the end of the season.

In this case, no news is good news: Crosby resumed on-ice workouts in mid-July, following his usual regimen for the coming season. According to Kevin Allen, Crosby's also scheduled to take part in the NHL's media confab in New York at the beginning of September, participating in the usual sit-down interviews and glamour shots.

Crosby at Media Day shouldn't be read as validation of his health for next season. In fact, through all the speculation and anonymous reports, there's really only one milestone you should be focused on:

Crosby being cleared for contact during on-ice workouts.

This is something that will (or won't) happen as we get closer to training camp. Crosby is back in Pittsburgh in about two weeks. If he's not cleared, he could very well miss the start of the season. Which would royally suck, because a returning Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin(notes) at the Vancouver Canucks on opening night would be epic.

Again: Cleared for contact is the key. But Rimer's news isn't the first or the last time we'll hear whispers about Sid's status.

UPDATE: Rob Rossi gets a confirmation from Penguins GM Ray Shero that Crosby has not shut down his training:

"There are going to be some symptoms with this injury, but nothing where he's had to shut it down or anything," Shero said, noting that he was in contact with Crosby over the weekend. "He's pushed himself, which is good."

Rossi writes that Dan Bylsma will speak about this Crosby news on Monday.

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