Fall is great time of the year. You get the baseball playoffs, college football Saturdays, NFL Sundays, and the best part of all – the return of the NHL. Young players finally get a chance to show what they are worth, stars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin get to prove why they get paid the big bucks, and the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.
The season has not yet started but there have been some interesting developments already. Joffrey Lupul of Anaheim had back surgery back in December of 2009. He has not played since because of an infection, but there is a chance he could return to the ice at some point this season. Lupul was recently cleared to increase the intensity of his workouts and has resumed skating. This bodes well for him because it means he is getting stronger and that the infection may nearly be gone. This type of scenario has two main implications. One, how much conditioning will Lupul need to regain? And, two, how weak is his core? Both were significantly impacted by his prolonged inactivity, so it still may be about 3-to-4 months before he is back in hockey shape. Time will tell.
The next two players seem to have planned their surgeries at the same time. As they say, misery loves company. Andrei Markov of Montreal and Marco Sturm of Boston both suffered a torn ACL last season. Markov has been skating, which indicates his knee is stable and also that he is getting his coordination back. However, Sturm has yet to get back on the ice and is working on his conditioning by riding a bike. The most important factor in determining his return date will be how soon he can get back on the ice and participate in drills with his teammates. Sturm will have to prove his knee can handle hard cutting before returning to game action.
Vancouver was hoping to have everyone healthy for the beginning of the season, but it appears that Sami Salo is going to be out for several months with a torn Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon injuries typically respond well to surgery and rehab, but the recovery process can vary in length based on how long the soreness liners. The good news is skating is done in a rigid boot, so the demand on the Achilles is somewhat contained. I wonder if he’ll play floor ball again.
Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal underwent surgery in May for a torn tendon in his foot and then developed an infection. The team hoped that he would only be out for another month or so, but it appears that he will be out for at least two more months, if not more. As with Joffrey Lupul, the infection must be managed carefully so it does not affect Staal’s overall health and conditioning.
Lastly, there are a few players are still dealing with concussions suffered last season. Concussions were a popular topic last year, and these two examples show what type of effect a head injury can have. Minnesota’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Boston’s Marc Savard are both struggling to get back on the ice. Bouchard has at least been cleared to skate with the team, and although he is forced to avoid contact and still needs to work on his conditioning, his outlook is promising. Savard, on the other hand, is a different story. He is still suffering concussion symptoms and has not been allowed to resume skating yet. He has been cleared to work out off the ice, but he is only participating in low-intensity activities to avoid problems such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
This should be an exciting year, so hopefully the players listed above are able to recover and get back on the ice in a timely manner. Good luck to all players and teams…especially the Canucks!