Amid changes, Penguins’ Crosby excited for upcoming season
BEDFORD, Nova Scotia — Chill, Phil. We got this.
That’s the message Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had for newly acquired winger Phil Kessel while discussing the team’s busy offseason after an on-ice workout last week at BMO Centre in his native Nova Scotia.
“Coming from Toronto, everyone knows about his situation there,” Crosby said of Kessel. “There was a lot of pressure on him.
“Hopefully in Pittsburgh, he doesn’t have to deal with as much of that pressure. He can just be someone else on the team. Definitely with the way he can skate and shoot, he’s going to help us.”
Which won’t hurt, Crosby said. Especially given the Penguins’ always-high expectations.
Crosby, who spoke with Kessel by phone last week about finding a place to live in Pittsburgh, will be one of eight or so players to begin skating Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, the first march of the Penguins in their new digs.
The players-only workouts are informal and voluntary. Crosby expects to be joined initially by Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury, Rob Scuderi, Adam Clendening and Matt Cullen, as well as Sergei Plotnikov “in a week or so.”
“It’s nice to get away, recharge a bit,” Crosby said from his lake-side summer home in rural Nova Scotia. “You think about the season, it can be really busy. There are a lot of emotions, a lot of highs and lows. You try to stay even keel.
“In the summer, it’s a little easier to get away from things a bit, unwind and recharge. That being said, you get excited for the start of the season.”
Though he attended three weddings this summer and hosted his hockey school Aug. 3-7 at his childhood rink, Cole Harbour Place, Crosby kept track of what general manager Jim Rutherford was up to.
In addition to landing Kessel in the NHL’s biggest summer deal, Rutherford traded for Nick Bonino and signed unrestricted free agents Eric Fehr and Cullen to give the Penguins more depth down the middle and in their bottom six.
Rutherford also imported Plotnikov from Russia, and it is likely he will be given a legitimate shot to play on Evgeni Malkin’s wing.
The upgrade in talent is unmistakable. Ditto for the win-now mandate.
“Regardless of the moves, there are expectations for us to win,” Crosby said. “That being said, you get excited when you see some of the players we’ve added.”
The new guys’ energy is “contagious,” Crosby said while saying he’s not the only one who’s excited to get started on what will essentially be a large-scale, human chemistry experiment.
“It’s the same for the new guys as much as the guys who have been around for a little bit, too,” Crosby said. “That sense of anticipation, knowing the guys you brought in, knowing they’re going to be big parts of the team. … Having that expectation there is something that gets everybody excited to start the year.”
Although it’s not terribly likely at this stage, new ownership could be in place by the start of the Penguins’ season Oct. 8. No longer having Mario Lemieux, his former landlord, as a majority co-owner would be weird, Crosby said.
But Crosby also doesn’t think that Lemieux, who through a statement professed his desire to “stay involved” and maintain at least a minority share, will become a stranger.
“I’m sure he’ll be around a lot,” Crosby said. “That’s all I know (him as an owner). I would say that will be a little bit different, but, like I said, my guess is he will still be around.”
While multiple sources told Trib Total Media the Penguins spent last week meeting face-to-face with potential buyers, Crosby has been understandably worried about things — like hockey.
“I’m a player. That’s the business side,” Crosby said. “That’s up to other people.”
Not that he hasn’t been curious, of course — the same as everyone else.
“Having gone through similar things in the past, it just takes time,” Crosby said. “There might be more information one week and then none the next. You just have to stay patient and see what happens. I don’t think it’s something that affects the team, though.”