NHL Blog Beat – August 23, 2011.

Addressing the speculation over Sidney Crosby’s health, a look at which Canuck might benefit from Ryan Kesler’s absence, the Kings efforts back on July to sign Brad Richards, why “The Battle of Ontario” can only get better, five burning questions for the Blue Jackets, a hilarious “buyer’s guide” to the remaining UFA talent, and more.

RAW CHARGE: Cassie McClellan offers up her take on the conflicting reports of Sidney Crosby’s recovery from post-concussion symptoms, suggesting there may have been “enablers” on his team who might’ve convinced Crosby to continue playing after suffering his first concussion. She also dismisses any conspiracy theories over the conflicting reports on his status, but does suggest Crosby might not be the same player once he returns to action, as he’ll be susceptible to more in the future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good point about the risks Crosby  faces. As for his attempting to play after suffering his first concussion, perhaps he and his club are to blame, but ultimately, he was cleared to play, and made the decision himself to return. Since then, the Penguins and Crosby have been very careful with his recovery. They certainly never pushed him to return for the 2011 playoffs, and certainly won’t push him to be ready for the start of this season until he’s ready. It remains to be seen how his performance is affected, but if there’s one advantage, it’s that there’s far more understanding about the recognition, treatment and recovery from concussions than there was in the past. That might bode well for his return.

NUCKS MISCONDUCT: “Yankee Canuck” suggests young forward Cody Hodgson could benefit from Ryan Kesler’s potential absence from the Canucks lineup to start this season. Kesler is recovering from off-season hip surgery, and the once-promising Hodgson has struggled to gain a regular spot on the Canucks roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kesler told the Vancouver Sun he hopes to be ready to go by the start of the season, which could mean Hodgson will have to take advantage of the absence of another veteran, like Mason Raymond, if he hopes to earn a regular spot. Otherwise, this season could be his last with the Canucks.

HOCKEY INDEPENDENT: “The Mayor” defends GM Dean Lombardi for stating the Kings failed attempt to sign Brad Richards as the organization’s “finest hour”, detailing how the teams put its best foot forward in attempting to woo Richards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t fault their effort, even if it didn’t succeed, and it merely illustrates Kings management will be aggressive in pursuing free agent talent again next season. At least they landed a top forward by trading for Mike Richards in June.

HOCKEYBUZZ.COM: Travis Yost believes “The Battle of Ontario”, which has faded in importance in recent years given the decline in the fortunes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, can only get better. Yost cited the fact both teams are now rebuilding with young players at the same time, which could inject fresh life into the stale rivalry.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those young players will learn to “get their hate on” very quickly, and as the two teams improve in the coming years, and start jockeying for playoff berths, the intensity will only increase. Give it a few years, and we could see the heat build up to what it once was ten years ago.

THE HOCKEY WRITERS: Alex Stallings offers up “five burning questions” for the Columbus Blue Jackets for this coming season. He wonders about the quality of their goaltending (especially starter Steve Mason), the chemistry between Rick Nash and Jeff Carter, if the defense will improve, if they can stay healthy, and if they can improve on their special teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stallings nicely covers all the key issues facing the Blue Jackets. 

BLEACHER REPORT: Evan Leblanc believes the NY Islanders should let Evgeni Nabokov be their starting goalie this season, given his experience and the club’s need to make the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will be up to Nabokov. If Rick DiPietro stays healthy, or if Al Montoya outplays Nabokov, you know the Isles coaches will go with the hot hand. Seniority won’t mean squad if “Nabby” can’t get the job done.

DOWN GOES BROWN: offers up a hilarious take on the remaining unrestricted free agents with “A buyer’s guide”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: “Down Goes Brown” is without question the funniest hockey blog around, and well worth checking out.