Even if you take the words from Pittsburgh Penguins brass at face value, the status of NHL star Sidney Crosby to start the coming season looks precarious.
As of right now, the start of training camp is less than a month away and the regular-season kicks off in nearly eight weeks, therefore it's not critical whether Crosby is feeling 100% and raring to go this very second.
That's the message Penguins GM Ray Shero was sending Monday on the heels of a report his captain wasn't going to be healthy enough from his lingering concussion issue to start the coming season.
"Training camp's a month away, so there's no expectation from me that he won't be ready or he will be ready," Shero told the assembled media in Pittsburgh yesterday. "His usual routine (means) he'll probably be in a week before camp starts, and we're going to evaluate him and see how he's doing."
With a concussion, six to eight weeks can be an eternity -- on both the good side and the bad.
The Penguins are obviously seeing that time frame as a positive. It's hope Crosby, whose 2010-11 season ended after a pair of crushing hits to the head in early January, will have the fog fully lift and be back to the star performer NHL fans want to see when the curtain lifts on the coming season.
(Calgary fans sure must be hoping for it, since the Penguins are the opposition when the Flames kick off their 2011-12 campaign Oct. 10 at the Saddledome.)
However, it's unsettling Crosby has been sidelined more than seven months since being clobbered from the blind side by the Washington Capitals' Dave Steckel on New Year's Day and then drilled by Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman a few days later, and the Penguins aren't certain he will be ready for the coming campaign.
Now, consider Shero said Crosby has been dealing with lingering symptoms "on and off the ice" and that feeling is downright scary.
"That's to be expected with this injury. He's never had to get to the point where he's had to shut himself down or anything," Shero said.
Everybody can be thankful Crosby hasn't been fully stopped working out, but should be concerned he's not able to push the pace to maximum power without any peril.
Just think how long ongoing concussion issues affected the likes of Patrice Bergeron, who missed nearly a full season but has since returned to be a terrific player.
And he's the lucky one.
Most players who have missed significant time haven't been so fortunate.
Think of Pat LaFontaine, Eric Lindros, Adam Deadmarsh, Keith Primeau and Paul Kariya, who are among those whose careers ended with head injuries.
Now think about Marc Savard, Matthew Lombardi and David Perron, whose careers are up in the air.
It's a good thing the Penguins are more than willing to be patient with the player who led the NHL with 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games before being sidelined.
"I don't have Sept. 16th on my calendar for him. I don't have Oct. 8 or whenever our opening date is. My only concern is his long-term health. He's a hockey player, but he's a 24-year-old kid and I want him to feel good about himself," Shero said. "I want to make sure a year from now, three years from now, five years from now, he's still the best player in the league. We'll take the appropriate steps."
Still, it's ominous they don't know when each of those steps will happen.
"We'll see where he is a month from now and hope for the best," Shero said.
It's unfortunate for Crosby, and everyone else who loves hockey, they have to rely on hope.
We'd much rather deal with certainties.