Articles by John Topper

A listing of all the articles written by John Topper for the RotoWire Blog.

Fantasy Hockey Thoughts To Think About

I might be wrong, but …

 

— Groin pulls and other injuries are going to impact the NHL more than usual with the heavy schedules. I almost wonder if the top goalies like Henrik Lundqvist and especially Jonathan Quick are going too early, given the risk of injury. That said, if I ever drafted higher than eighth I might take one of them.

— Looking over weekly schedules will be more important than ever, The Penguins, for example, have a rough start with plenty of four-game weeks but play no more than three games in any April week.

— Speaking of the Penguins, don’t rely on Marc-Andre Fleury getting into 82 percent of regular-season games like he did last year.  If the Flower starts 65 percent of games this season, then he’ll play 31 or 32 times with Tomas Vokoun starting the other 16 or 17.

— I discounted rookies in my fantasy drafts. Teams don’t have enough time to gauge their abilities in the shortened camp. Justin Schultz, ranked #862 in Yahoo!, might be one of the exceptions but how many rookie blueliners come in and produce right away?

— Some of the lower ranked Yahoo! guys I’ve targeted include Jonathan Toews (#38), Marion Gaborik (he was #136 but I believe he’s 90-something now), Jakub Voracek (#197). The Red Wings’ Damien Brunner was listed at #847. Whether you think the latest Euro in Detroit is worth the risk will determine your selection. Fabian Brunnstrom, Janne Pesonen, the scorched earth is long.

— Since teams will only play within their conferences, make sure you aware of divisional and conference records. Anything can happen, but matchups in hockey are always important to consider. Here are some 2011-12 divisional records for your review:


New York Rangers: 15-7-2

Henrik Lundqvist in goal, Rick Nash coming in and Marion Gaborik coming back sooner than expected, what more do you need to know? 

Boston: 19-4-1

The only question mark here is how well Tuukka responds mentally to being the starter and how well his health holds up. Boston is set up as a fantasy hockey heaven. Perhaps backup Anton Khodobin comes out of nowhere and does well if something happens to Rask, but I wouldn’t want to bet my fantasy season on it. A real longshot would see Tim Thomas returning this season, not next.

Buffalo:  13-6-5

This is a surprise. It will be interesting to see how well Tyler Ennis does, if he can take the next step for a whole (well, 48-game) season. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko has reported looked good but I find it difficult banking on any rookies in the short year. I’d rather wait and check waivers on first-year guys who look good in-season.

Winnipeg:  14-6-4

Ondrej Pavelec springs to mind as a goalie that might go late and do well, based on the team’s divisional record (Disclaimer: I’m not a big fan of his). I’ve been picking up Antti Niemi late as Yahoo! seems to have him ranked pretty low. Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk seems to be the trendy goalie.

Nashville:  16-5-3

I’m not so sure the loss of Ryan Suter sets the defensive-minded Preds back, but I’m wondering if Shea Weber is worth his high rating with Suter gone and the pressure of his big contract. He probably will be after the first drop of the puck, but sometimes I find myself risk aversive when other options are available.

Chicago: 16-6-2

Risks on goalies like Corey Crawford make sense to me. The team did well in its division and there’s reason to expect Crawford to rebound. It’s likely he’ll slip pretty far in Yahoo! drafts. Teams might do well to focus on other needs and then grab a bargain like Crawford. As previously mentioned, Jonathan Toews is ranked low at #38 and his stats are for a partial season – 57 points in 59 games.

Vancouver:  18-5-1

The Canucks figure to be in line for another strong showing, even counting Roberto Luongo. From a team perspective, Vancouver might be better holding onto him for another year. Eddie Lack as a backup? No thanks. If Luongo gets moved, a vet like Brent Johnson might provide insurance for Corey Schneider.

Calgary:  15-6-1

Edmonton is the up-and-coming team inside the division, which makes Calgary’s record surprising. I’m not sure how much importance divisional records within the Northwest Division matter, given the aforementioned Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche.

Los Angeles:  13-4-7

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will try to cover for Anze Kopitar’s week or two absence. Jonathan Quick was outstanding last year and is reportedly healthy. I could see him re-injuring his back and ruining fantasy seasons as a first-round draft pick in many pools.

Teams in the Central Division of the Western Conference went 17-5-1 against Columbus. Surprisingly, St. Louis went just 10-9-5 against their division rivals.

Star players are going to put up numbers against any opponent. John Tavares is still going to get his share of points. Where I like to use divisional numbers are on the blue line and secondary players. For leagues that still use plus-minus, loading up on defensemen and second-line forwards on teams with strong winning percentages is never a bad thing.

— Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Penalty minutes were harder than ever to find last season. This year that may change. When teams play rivals repeatedly in short periods of times, expect more fireworks. Some of my leagues have switched to Hits and Blocked Shots over PIMs, but not all of them.

 

Give me a follow @JohnToperzer and/or reply here to talk hockey.

Game on!

 

     

Word Up: Starling Marte Gets the Call to the Big Leagues

"Everybody say when you hear the call
You got to get it underway,
Word up, it’s the code word,
No matter where you say it,
You’ll know that you’ll be heard."


The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled the organization’s top five-tool prospect Wednesday. Dated Cameo song notwithstanding, what might fantasy owners expect from the 23-year-old right-handed hitter?

Marte put up a .286/.348/.500 slash line in 384 at-bats in his first season for Triple-A Indianapolis prior to his recall. He’s hit 20 doubles, 13 triples, 12 homers and has successfully swiped 21 of 33 bases.

Last year he put in a full year at Double-A, where he led the Eastern League with a .332 batting average.

Pirates general manager, Neal Huntington, could’ve promoted Marte sooner, but wanted to see better plate discipline from him. Huntington felt that major league pitching could expose his penchant for free swinging. Supporting Huntington’s claim is a 28:90 BB:K ratio, which is actually an improvement over 2011’s 22:100 BB:K ratio.

Huntington has often stated that Marte would get a full-time shot when promoted to the bigs. Now that he’s here, what can we expect from him?

We did a similar blog entry with Pedro Alvarez when he made his big league debut. Alvarez was easier to project because he was basically a long ball threat and nothing else. Also, the Pirates weren’t in a pennant race and could afford to wade through Alvarez’s peaks and valleys.

Should Marte struggle, it’s doubtful Pittsburgh sticks with him on a full-time basis.

So what do you think? Here are the outfielder’s numbers courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

Will Marte go off or will his appearance turn out to be little more than a cameo in 2012?  

The Pro’s & Con’s of Acquiring A.J. Burnett

Pro’s & Con’s of Acquiring  A.J. Burnett: Throwing good money after bad?

Pro — Durable, Burnett has tossed 165.2, 221.1, 207, 186.2, 190.1 innings since 2007.

Con — Why are the Pirates the only team lining up for Burnett, why isn’t there a bidding war of sorts?

Con — Burnett is 35 years of age.

Con — According to FanGraphs, his average fastball has declined in each of the past five seasons (95.1 mph, 94.3, 94.2, 93.2, 92.7).

Con — Aging pitchers who have relied on fastballs don’t always make Frank Tanana-type transitions once their fastball leaves them.

Pro — Moving from the AL to NL helps pitchers, especially from the AL East to the NL Central.

Con — Burnett has a limited no-trade clause. How that works itself out remains to be seen.

Con — Second worst career ERA (4.79) in New York Yankees history (minimum 500 innings), according to the MLB Network.

Con — Burnett is not seen as a mentor for young Pirates pitchers.

Pro – Burnett has been more productive throughout his career in small-market situations ie Florida and Toronto.

Pro – May help legitimize Pittsburgh as a destination for veterans. Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt showed little interest in signing with the Bucs this year. Carlos Pavano reportedly showed little interest last season.

Pro – Sends a message to current Pirates players that the organization is willing to spend money.

Pro – Burnett posted 4.15 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 119.1 innings before the 2011 All-Star break.

Con – Burnett posted a 6.85 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 71 innings after the break.

NHL Power Rankings

NHL Power Rankings (Previous Ranking, Points)

1.  Boston – 206 points (#1, 197 pts.)

2.  Detroit – 190 (2, 183)

3.  Vancouver – 175 (3, 175)

4.  San Jose – 173 (6, 167)

5.  St. Louis – 170 (9, 140)

6.  NY Rangers – 168 (8, 160)

7.  Chicago – 166 (7, 163)

8.  Philadelphia – 164 (4, 173)

9.  Ottawa – 153 (18, 96)

10.  Pittsburgh – 148 (5, 172)

11.  Toronto – 125 (16, 100)

12.  Washington – 115 (17, 99)

13.  Phoenix – 111 (12, 113)

14.  Dallas – 105 (25, 75)

15.  Nashville – 104 (14, 110)

16.  Montreal – 94 (15, 109)

17.  Tampa Bay – 88 (24, 80)

18.  Los Angeles – 87 (27, 53)

19.  Colorado – 84 (22, 82)

20.  Winnipeg – 83 (21, 90)

21.  Edmonton – 79 (11, 120)

22.  Minnesota – 78 (10, 124)

23.  Florida – 76 (13, 111)

24.  New Jersey – 23 (20, 92)

25.  Calgary – 72 (23, 81)

26.  Buffalo – 67 (18, 96)

27.  Columbus – 44 (26, 54)

28.  Carolina – 42 (28, 41)

29.  Anaheim – 33 (30, 21)

30.  NY Islanders – 32 (29, 29)

 

Seven Categories Explained

With rare exception, the six Stanley Cup winners following the 2004-05 NHL lockout have ranked among the elite in the following seven statistical categories:

Team plus-minus

Record when trailing after two periods

Goals scored/gm

5-on-5 goals for/against ratio

Winning percentage in three-goal games

Shots/gm

Team goal differential

Team Summaries

Boston – The Bruins are four points from perfection in the rankings. It’s hard to believe they went 4-7 to start the season.

Detroit – Continues to rank high in the ratings despite uneven scoring from offense. Jimmy Howard has been one of the season’s big surprises. Last year the Wings reportedly tried to trade for Tomas Vokoun.

Vancouver – The Canucks are the only team with the same number of points from the previous ranking (175). Roberto Luongo has recovered from a slow start and Cory Schneider continues to play well. Can the team afford to deal one of its two goaltenders?

San Jose – Sharks and Bruins have both played a league-low 39 games, trading for players on these team will net owners extra games down the stretch.

St. Louis – Blues have gained four places and 30 points in the rankings. Halak, Oshie and Perron have all picked up their play. Jaden Schwartz and the Russian Tarasenko give this team an exciting future.

Rangers – Rankings list them lower than they probably should. The team’s low shot total – only five teams have taken fewer shots – from a higher spot.       

Chicago – The Hawks have improved 5-on-5 play, moving seven places higher, and remain solid across the board.

Philadelphia – Philly has lost only nine points since the last rankings (173 to 164) but drops four places in the rankings. A poor record when trailing after two periods bogs the team down.

Ottawa – The All-Star Game hosts are peaking just in time for the showcase event. The Sens jump from 18th to ninth in the rankings, the biggest movement in the league. An increase from 96 points to 153 bodes well for the exciting squad.

Pittsburgh – The Pens have lost six straight games. Their ranking has fallen accordingly, from fifth place to 10th. Missing Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal will do that to a team. An interesting second half awaits.

Toronto – The Leafs are putting the puck in the net and it shows in the rankings. If they ever find a way to come back late in games, then they’ll make another rankings jump. Only three teams have a worse record when trailing after two periods.

Washington – The Caps are moving up in the most important rankings – the Eastern Conference standings. They’re back in eighth place, winning five of their last seven games.

Phoenix – The ‘Yotes are average in most categories. A bump up in goals scored would help their cause.

Dallas – Better 5-on-5 play has lifted the Stars 30 points since the last ranking. They’ll have to get past injuries to top-six forwards now that Kari Lehtonen has returned.

Nashville – Removing the shots category would boost Preds’ ranking. Only three teams take fewer shots.

Montreal – The Habs drop just one spot but lose 15 points. If only Randy Cunneyworth spoke French.

Tampa Bay – The Lightning gain only eight points, but that’s enough to move them from 24th to 17th. Will Tampa shore up its goalie situation at the deadline?

Los Angeles – No team scores less often. Starter Quick had to be mad when Kings scored five for Bernier.

Colorado – Only three teams come from behind after two periods better than Avs, but that’s about it.

Winnipeg – Gain a place in standing but lose seven points, getting Enstrom back big for fantasy owners.

Edmonton – The run was fun but now it’s done. Huge 41-point drop leads to 10 spots lower in rankings.

Minnesota – The Wild seemed over-ranked at no. 10 last time, now two points from missing playoffs.

Florida – Twelve teams have as many points (50) but they’re still leading the Southeast Division.

New Jersey – The Reign of Martin Brodeur coming to a close. Kovalchuk still not worth $100 million, but the likes of Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson give plenty of hope.

Calgary – Need  a spark, any spark. Rene Bourque heading to Pittsburgh? Feel bad for Iginla and his lack of postseason prospects. Giordano due back shortly on defense.

Buffalo – That new owner has really turned things around! No one’s scoring goals for the Sabres.

Columbus – One year the Blue Jackets will head in the right direction. Vinny Prospal doing well, anyhow.

Carolina – ‘Canes owe it to fans to do something. That said, the fewest points in the East gives them a chance to land one of the big Russians at the draft in Pittsburgh over the summer.

Anaheim – Everyone’s tradable, huh. Ducks moved up five places in goals scored with 16 goals in last three games – all wins at home.

NY Islanders – Not sure where big 5-1 win over Detroit came from. Ah, Ty Conklin started for the Wings. Matt Moulson already with 20 goals.

 

Jaromir Jagr Leaves a Mark (Again)

Jaromir Jagr Leaves a Mark (Again)

 

It’s been 21 years and four days since I first met Jaromir Jagr. On Christmas Eve in 1990, Jaromir and his mom and dad stopped by my hockey card stand at Century III Mall in West Mifflin, PA, not far from Jagr’s West Homestead residence.

Jaromir was Christmas shopping in the U.S. for the first time and I was reaping the benefits. Although the mall was nearly empty just hours before its close, Jagr drew a crowd around my stand. Apparently, he had never before seen his face on a hockey card, or so it seemed from his giggling reaction. He looked at his Upper Deck rookie and his Score rookie while mom and dad smiled without speaking.

Jaromir signed autographs for the 10 or 15 folks that stopped by and purchased rookie cards while we spoke – or at least communicated in some fashion. I can still remember thinking how Jagr got his dad’s big body and his mother’s face. Dad held a brand new leather jacket that I can only imagine was Wilson Leather’s finest.

Fast forward past my season as the Penguins’ first website writer in 1996-97, fast forward past Jaromir helping the Pens stave off another bankruptcy in the late 90s, past his misquoted “dying alive” comments, past his trade to Washington for three scrubs (the Pens reportedly could’ve had Zdeno Chara for Jagr), past his gambling debts, past his re-emergence with the Rangers, past his move to the Russian League and past his spurning of Pittsburgh in favor of the Flyers.

Wednesday afternoon, Jagr decided to say hello to me once again. He didn’t come up and shake my hand, he wouldn’t even recognize me. No, Jaromir said hi to me in a way only Jagr can.

Wednesday morning I am catching up with Twitter after spending much of Tuesday in hospitals and doctor’s offices for two of the most dear people in my life. Sitting at my computer, I am still wearing my sweat pants pajamas when I read that the Flyers are practicing at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon, PA.

I had to get there immediately. The hockey rink’s 10 minutes from my house. I leapt up from my computer, traded in my Penguins hat for a neutral Pirates one, put my red coat on and took off for the rink. I even forgot my smart phone. I had no idea what time the practice was, but I couldn’t waste time by even calling ahead.

When I got to Ice Castle, there wasn’t much going on. I asked at the front desk what time the Flyers practiced and the attendant said “noon.” I sat at the table next to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Hall of Fame writer, Dave Molinari. I knew I was at the right place.

Twelve o’clock came and went and still no Flyers. Shortly thereafter, they began to trickle in. The media was there, too. KDKA-TV cameras, HBO, everybody was there. At that point I realized I might get shut out because I don’t have a media pass. I explained to the rink worker I write for Hockey Buzz and Rotowire but he said I needed a credential to get in. So much for that.

I took some pictures from outside the rink while Philadelphia got its work in. I went to the second floor where Max Talbot fans held signs. I sat down at a table outside the glass with my dad (who I called from another person’s phone at the rink). Dad likes to take pictures, too, and he’s good at it.

Well, I walked back down to the first level several minutes later. The netting behind the second floor tables made it difficult to take good pictures. While watching the practice from behind the door through a glass window, I asked the attendant again if I could just take five minutes or so worth of pictures inside the rink before it ended. He was a nice guy and said “yes.”

So, I’m in. Bob Errey is three people to my left on the glass. Dan Potash is immediately to my left. This is the way it should be. I start talking to Flyers’ writer, Anthony SanFilippo. I even tell him about my Jaromir Jagr experiences at Century III Mall and he is nice enough to say “wow” and show interest in what happened more than 21 years ago. He seems like a genuinely nice guy.

Instead of taking photos in rapid fire while I’m in prime position behind the goal, I start to b.s. as much as I shoot pictures. I’m listening to the guys from HBO talk about them listening to Max Talbot, who is miked up. They’re saying how being a boom operator has got to be one of the most boring jobs. I’m telling Dave Molinari how I think he’s a great writer – kind of a no brainer since he’s already in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Right while I’m in my heyday, Jaromir Jagr fires a shot on a breakaway drill. His hot shot shatters the pane of glass less than two panes away from me. I’m kind of just stunned, like wow, did that just happen to me. Did Jagr just do that?

Immediately I thought of Jerome Lane. Lane broke the back board while playing for the Pitt Panthers basketball team in the late 80s. I guess the sheer noise of the broken glass made me think of something larger than life. I was the closest person to the glass when it broke.

Practice stopped. Players used sticks to clean up glass behind the goal. The attendant who let me in the rink brought out a big piece of wood to replace the shattered pane.

There was nothing more for me to do, nothing could top what just happened in front of me.

Jagr had made his mark once again.

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Here are some of the pictures I took.

Jaromir Jagr with the shot heard ‘round the rink, seen here.

The cleanup of Jagr’s shot, seen here. One reporter joked that the glass could probably fetch a price on eBay.

Jagr surveys the damage he did to the glass, seen here.

Analyst Bob Errey making sure the hotline phone number to Toronto still works, seen here.

HBO’s cameras, seen here, were rolling and we’ll surely see Jagr’s blast on cable.

NHL leading scorer, Claude Giroux, gets his work in, seen here.

Talbot and Jagr, seen here, prepare for Thursday’s showdown.

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Treasure Life!
JT

NHL Power Rankings

Team (Current Period, Previous Period ) Team Summary
1.  Boston (197),   1. (202) Rask coming on before 6-0 win over Philly with Thomas leading the way.
2.  Detroit (183),   2. (182) Surprisingly Wings are just fifth in West; 13-2-1 at home with Howard racking up the wins.
3.  Vancouver (175),   9. (149) Canucks big jump in rankings. Luongo back in front of Schneider, D. Sedin dealing with back.
4.  Philadelphia (173),   4. (178) Tied for first in East with Bruins but goaltending still not elite. Jagr’s the healthy one?
5.  Pittsburgh (172),   3. (181) Malkin giving Pens chance even without healthy defensemen, James Neal continuing strong play.
6. San Jose (167),   5. (167) Seven teams in West with more points, but Sharks lead weak Pacific with Dallas.
7. Chicago (163),   7. (158) 8-1–1 last 10; Amazing comeback by Ray Emery who has 6-0-1 record in December.
8. NY Rangers (160),   6. (162) King Henrik with 12 wins but backup Biron 6-1 mark with 1.82 GAA, Del Zotto with plus-15 rating.
9. St. Louis (140),   8. (151) Hitchcock using both goalies well, Blues deserve to be ranked higher than ninth.
10. Minnesota (124),   15. (107) Wild has already used 10 rookies and 33 players, can team hold off Canucks in long run?
11. Edmonton (120),   10. (142) Oil 2-7-1 last 10, young team struggling on road with 5-10-1 mark. Hemsky, Gagner on market?
12. Phoenix (113),   11. (127) Coyotes winner in Turris trade. Tough loss to Rangers with 0.1 tick remaining in regulation.
13. Florida (111),   12. (125) Southeast Division flipped with Panthers running away from second-place Winnipeg.
14. Nashville (110),   24. (77) Five-game win streak putting Pekka back on track. Weber, Suter rank first and third in points.
15. Montreal (109),   14. (114) Coaching change can’t make Andrei Markov healthy, Kaberle a fantasy bright spot since trade.
16. Toronto (100),   21. (86) Kessel averaging "only point" per game since October, Leafs clinging to final playoff spot.
17. Washington (99),   16. (101) Hunter hasn’t jumpstarted team or rankings, $1 million Vokoun playing like $1 million player.
18. Buffalo (96),   13. (117) Preseason sleeper hasn’t yet emerged from slumber, Lindy Ruff reign could be in jeopardy.
19. Ottawa (96),   18. (94) Unpredictable team with killer backline, Karlsson leads all blueliners with 29 points.
20. New Jersey (92),   27. (49) Devils make big move in rankings, 6th in East, Soon-to-be free agent Zach Parise coming on.
21. Winnipeg (90),   20. (91) Second place Jets get Enstrom back over weekend, 6-2 in December with win over Boston.
22. Colorado (82),   17. (95) Stastny showing signs of awakening, Ryan O’Reilly surprisingly leading with 23 points.
23. Calgary (81),   23. (81) Not much changing in Calgary, same ranking (23) with same number of ranking points (81).
24. Tampa Bay (80),   21. (86) St. Louis out and Roloson’s clock striking midnight has left Tampa Bay in need of goalie trade.
25. Dallas (75),   19. (92) Richard Backman 3-1 start gives Stars breath of fresh air after Lehtonen injury.
26. Columbus (54),   26. (56) Remember when Steve Mason had 10 shutouts as rookie in 08-9? Jackets need to forget that.
27. Los Angeles (53),   25. (76) Kings have extensive Christmas wish starting with a goal scorer or three.
28. Carolina (41),   28. (39) Would the Canes consider trading Eric Staal? Might need to rebuild in Raleigh.
29. NY Islanders (29),   29. (24) Isles at .500 without 0-4 mark against Pens, 5-3-2 in last 10, Tavares rotting away.
30. Anaheim (21),   30. (23) Coach Boudreau unable to get most out of talented offensive team.
   
   

Teams are awarded points, with the top team receiving 30 points for a category and the bottom team getting one point. The seven categories used to determine rankings include team plus-minus, winning percentage when trailing after two periods, goals scored per game, 5-on-5 play, winning percentage in three-goal games, shots per game, and team goal differential. 

What to do with Sidney Crosby?

And the plan for Sidney Crosby is …?

Follow me on Twitter @JohnToperzer

Sidney Crosby stood the hockey world on its collective head just three weeks ago, scoring two goals and four points in his epic comeback game against the New York Islanders. Right off the hop he showed the unbelievable speed, skill and determination that’s made him the NHL’s best player. He exceeded his own coach’s expectations, playing nearly 16 minutes after coach Bylsma stated he wanted to limit Crosby to 12 minutes.

Though the goal scoring has since dropped off – he has failed to score in seven straight since picking up a pair against the Islanders – he still registered eight assists in his last seven contests.

Surprisingly, Crosby displayed an even greater feisty on-ice attitude than he did before his concussion. He compiled four minors in his first three games. He tangled with David Backes in his second game and elbowed Nick Foligno the next time out. He continued the amped-up style of play through Monday.

Against the Boston Bruins, Crosby received a hard check from David Krejci, fell to the ice alongside Milan Lucic and collided with linemate Chris Kunitz at center ice.

"Sidney took a hard hit during our game against Boston Monday night and wasn’t feeling 100 percent," Pens GM Shero said, adding that Crosby saw UPMC concussion specialist Micky Collins and passed an imPACT neurocognitive test.

"However, we all think it’s best that he sits out the next two games as a precaution," Shero told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A day later Pens coach Dan Bylsma updated the story on Crosby’s status, saying that it was not a “one-time incident in the game" that caused his problem.

"He took a couple of hits in the game and didn’t feel 100 percent after the game," Bylsma said.

"Crosby knows his body well — he spent a long 10 months [recovering from a concussion] — and, as a precautionary measure, is just taking Thursday night’s game off, and through the weekend," Bylsma said.

A day after telling the media that his knee felt good (from the Kunitz collision), Crosby spoke about his “slight headaches.”

“I just want to be smart with this,” Crosby told the Penguins’ Web site. “It’s been a long road back and we want to err on the side of caution.

“I’ve taken some good hits over the past few weeks and am happy with the way my body responded … but after discussing things with doctors it was better to make sure I was cautious before returning to play.”

Where do the Penguins go from here? Crosby is eight games into his comeback and he’s already suffering from headaches.

What options does the team have? Here are a few.

Crosby can go through with his expected practices the next several days. If he feels good then can return Tuesday against Detroit, almost as if his headaches were like an ankle injury or some other physical ailment. His presence is surely needed on a team that’s missing half of its defensemen and has scored only eight goals in four games.

The Pens could also keep him out Tuesday, choosing instead to hold him back until Friday, Dec. 16, the next time Pittsburgh plays after the Red Wings game. Just because symptoms leave for a couple days doesn’t mean they can’t come back shortly thereafter.

Remember, Crosby dealt with headaches upon reaching 85-90 percent exertion during his rehab.

These options appear to be short-term in nature but if the organization truly believes Crosby is okay, it’s a good be he returns Tuesday.

On the other hand, a truly long-term outlook might see Crosby’s schedule reduced in some capacity. Whether the team should’ve eased him back into action more than it did, with a game or two off, is a moot point.

It’s still possible, however, that the team could sit him out periodically. This option doesn’t seem to have much support from fans and observers. The thinking is that if he’s seemingly healthy enough to play than why sit him. Let him get into his routine and he should be okay.

One team medical consultant, Ted Carrick, called him a Ferrari during a training camp press conference and later said that Crosby was ready to go with no restrictions. Pittsburgh consultant, Micky Collins, approved his return as did team doctor, Charles Burke.

Whether it would be prudent to give Crosby additional time off is in the hands of Burke and ultimately, Crosby.

On a macro level, the Penguins seem set for a playoff run. The team has its problems, mostly due to injury, but Evgeni Malkin continues to play at an elite level. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is playing the most consistent hockey of his seven-year career. Making the playoffs does not seem to be in question.

Another option is for the organization to call a timeout give Crosby an extended period off. For exactly how long would be the big question. One month, two months? What if the team sat him until a month before the playoffs begin? That scenario wouldn’t be popular right now, but it might give Pittsburgh the best chance having Crosby come playoff time.

After all, if the team can wait 10-plus months, what’s another two and a half months until March?

Eight games and Crosby is already experiencing headaches. He’s twenty four years old. He’s got a long and prosperous career ahead of him if the Penguins handle him properly.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have some tough questions in front of them. The decisions they endorse will help determine the future of the NHL’s best player.

Holding a Ferrari like Crosby back is never an easy thing to do, but it might be the best way to go right now.