What if Sidney Crosby fails?
It is a question no one wants to deal with, not the National Hockey League, not the Pittsburgh Penguins, not NBC, not anyone who has hitched his wagon to this kid who has yet to play a professional game.
The position the hockey world has placed Crosby in borders on the unfair, basing so much of its future in so many ways on a talented young guy, who is just a young guy.
He may be the next this or the next that. But the league and the Penguins already interpret him as having saviour status, which doesn't give him any time or space -- elements young hockey players need most -- to find his way.
It is hard enough for any No. 1 pick to make an impact in any professional sport. But this time, the parameters are extreme. This time, Crosby is expected to become a star, save a franchise, get a building built, sell luxury boxes, smile for the cameras, and lead the league in scoring.
The best thing Crosby has going for him is having Mario Lemieux alongside for the ride. Lemieux, having lived with similar expectations as a player, can be a guiding force.
Here is hoping he can provide the necessary insulation to give Crosby the proper time to develop.
THIS AND THAT: Only the NHL can make the announcement they are back in business and do it in such a dry and solemn way that barely anyone is smiling. High-school kids using Power Point and video can make more stirring presentations ... The most recent time the Toronto Maple Leafs picked 21st in the NHL draft, they selected defenceman Steve Bancroft, who played six games in the league, none for them ... Hate to be cynical, but in 2002 Colin Campbell invited all general managers to an airport hotel meeting in Toronto to show them how the league was about to crack down on obstruction fouls. The video was several minutes in length, only slightly longer than the crackdown lasted ... Just a thought: If the NHL is going to end tie games with shootouts, wouldn't it be better for the league's marketing for the involved players do the shooting without wearing helmets? ... Still hate the idea of one-point being awarded for an overtime loss. It's like awarding a single point on a wide field goal, which happens in some countries.
HEAR AND THERE: The definition of John Ferguson, general manager, began yesterday. The clock is ticking. Soon we will know who and what he is ... Craig Patrick was so excited about winning the Crosby sweepstakes that he almost said something interesting ... During the question-answer period of NHL players' meeting the other day, a player asked Bob Goodenow if he would take a 24% rollback on his salary. Union president Trevor Linden, taking a 24% cut himself, interrupted, saying the question was not appropriate. The question never did get answered ... A testament to Goodenow's popularity: An online poll asked this question: Should Goodenow remain head of the NHLPA? So far, 85% of those who responded have answered 'no' ... Under the department of really bad ideas: Alyn McCauley for Owen Nolan ... The genius, Glen Sather, must think he is back in Edmonton. In New York, he has 17 players to sign with the Rangers and only about $15 million to spend.
SCENE AND HEARD: Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown deserve each other. One guy with a big reputation who can't do the job, and the other guy with big a reputation can't keep the job .... The way LeBron James passes the basketball will wonderfully complement Donyell Marshall's soft touch from inside and out with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And remind me again why it was prudent for the Raptors to get nothing in return for the valuable Marshall? ... Truth in numbers: Maple Leafs Bryan McCabe is the seventh highest-paid defenceman in the NHL. Can you say buyout? ... For the first time in 15 years, not a single Russian is expected to be drafted in the first round of next Saturday's NHL draft.