Head injuries, or more specifically, how the NHL plans to drastically reduce the number of them, remains the hot topic at the NHL GM Meetings in Florida this week.
And why wouldn’t it be THE hot topic? Aside from the fact that the face of the game, Sidney Crosby, has been sidelined since January 5th with a concussion, a recent report in the Concussion Blog (a website dedicated to gathering information and statistics of head injuries, as well as which kinds of accidents can cause concussions in which most common positions in the sport) revealed that a staggering 79 NHL players (and counting) have actually suffered some form of concussion this season. To put that into perspective, that’s more than 10 percent of the players in the entire league. Those numbers alone will make your head spin.
For you fantasy owners out there, those numbers mean you’ve probably been impacted at least once with a player being listed as “DTD” or even placed on “IR” during the 2010-11 campaign. And unlike a broken bone or a torn ligament, the biggest concern surrounding concussions is there’s no real timetable for a player’s return to health, or even that the injured player will ever return to form. Scary stuff. Not only for the athletes themselves, but for Fantasy GM’s of keeper pools too.
Let’s take a closer look at the production and ultimately the fantasy value of some notable concussion victims from this season (2010-11 statistics in parenthesis – thru Monday March 14).
Johan Franzen, RW, Detroit Red Wings
(67 GP, 27 G, 23 A, 50 PTS, 10 PPG, 5 GWG, 220 Shots)
After being limited to only 28 games last season due to reconstructive knee surgery, many experts – myself included – were skeptical about how the sniper would respond this year. Well, after suffering a concussion, thanks to an elbow by Stars’ D Mark Fistric – in only the 4th game of the regular season, it appeared Franzen’s season could potentially be lost.
Thankfully, for Franzen owners, he missed only one game and is currently on pace to match his previous career highs in Powerplay Goals (11), Points (59) and Shots (246).
Andy McDonald, C/LW, St. Louis Blues
(45 GP, 17 G, 22 A, 39 PTS, +7, 4 PPG, 3 GWG)
McDonald has defied all logic, scientific and otherwise, since returning February 4th after missing two months from his 4th career concussion. Since coming back, McDonald has been absolutely on fire, to the tune of 22 points (9 G, 13 A) in 20 games while holding down the left wing on the Blues’ top line.
Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins
(67 GP, 21 G, 29 A, 50 PTS, +18, 4 GWG)
Granted, Patrice Bergeron was not concussed this season. Or even last. But Bergeron deserves mention here for showing a remarkable ability to re-emerge as a consistent, productive NHL Center after enduring a serious concussion at the hands of the Flyers’ Randy Jones back in 2007-08.
While his Powerplay numbers aren’t what they once were, Bergeron eclipsed the 20-goal plateau this year for the first time since prior to his injury and has proven himself as an excellent two-way player, as evidenced by his career-high plus-18 rating.
David Booth, LW, Florida Panthers
(69 GP, 21 G, 16 A, 37 PTS, -19, 6 PPG, 246 Shots)
To his credit, the 26-year old Booth has managed to successfully return to the Panthers as an everyday player in 2010-11, following two bad concussions last season. But the reality for fantasy owners this year is the 26-year old Booth hasn’t been close to being the same impact player that racked up 31 Goals and 60 Points back in 2008-09. While his SOG may be up, his Powerplay numbers and Plus-Minus have also taken a major hit skating on a bad Florida squad this year.
Jason Pominville, RW, Buffalo Sabres
(60 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 PTS, -2, 5 PPG, 179 Shots)
Much like Booth, Pominville has seen his statistics reduced by almost a third this season after an early season concussion in October forced him out of 9 games. The usually dependable Pominville, normally a lock to rack up 60+ points a season, has never really shaken off his slow start to the 2010-11 season, resulting in a noticeable drop off in career averages in Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus and Powerplay Points.
Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings
(63 GP, 11 G, 26 A, 37 PTS, +15, 5 PPG, 3 GWG)
What a difference a year makes. Big things were expected from the 2009-10 Norris Trophy Finalist heading into 2010-11. But a concussion suffered on October 20th in a game vs. Carolina changed all that. Doughty would miss only 6 games, but it took much, much longer for him to get his groove back. He managed a paltry 2 Goals over his first 37 games and has seen his Powerplay stats reduced to rubble over last season.
The good news is it appears as if Doughty is finally turning the corner, which couldn’t come soon enough for Fantasy Owners hoping to make a deep run in the playoffs. After his PP goal Monday night, Doughty now has 7 Goals in his past 26 games.
Marc Savard, C, Boston Bruins
(25 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS, -7, 0 PPG)
The sad news surrounding Savard is the inevitable conclusion that the 33-year old Center will never regain the form that made him an elite scorer in the NHL from 2005 to 2009.
You could argue the Bruins made a terrible mistake rushing Savard back last postseason after his horrific concussion suffered at the hands of Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke in March 2010. It was a bad enough omen for fantasy owners when Savard wasn’t ready to answer the bell at the start of this season due to lingering symptoms from post-concussion syndrome. His return in December proved unspectacular, producing a meagre two goals for the former All-Star. Unfortunately, a routine hit by the Isles’ Matt Hunwick resulted in another concussion, and the end to a disappointing season – and possibly his career.
Peter Mueller, C, Colorado Avalanche
Mueller appeared ready to break out as a star with the Avalanche, tallying 20 points in only 15 games after being acquired in a trade from Phoenix late last season. That was until an unfortunate run-in with Sharks’ D Rob Blake along the boards in Colorado’s first round playoff matchup vs. San Jose left the 22-year old with a serious concussion. He hasn’t played since.
Mueller was all set to resume his career in 2010-11, only to suffer a major setback when he suffered a second major head injury in the preseason. For starters, the former 2008 First-Rounder has been completely shut down for the rest of this season, and there’s really no assurances at this point he’ll ever materialize into the type of top point producer he looked destined to be.
Max Pacioretty, LW, Montreal Canadiens
(37 GP, 14 G, 10 A, 24 PTS, 7 PPG, 112 Shots)
You can’t have an “Ugly” list without including Pacioretty. The Habs leading scorer since the All-Star Break was finally maturing into a consistent and reliable option for Fantasy owners in deeper leagues. That was, until Zdeno Chara got a hold of him and knocked him senseless. Now, there are serious doubts if he’ll ever play again in the NHL. Even if he does, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever be the same player again.
JURY’S STILL OUT
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
His return to the ice this week has fantasy owners praying that Crosby might be able to suit up again this regular season. But chances are, with the significant hurdles still left for Crosby to climb, you’ll have to wait ‘til next year to start cashing in again. Fingers crossed he’s the same dynamic player he’s always been when he finally does return. But there’s no guarantee.
Brad Richards, C, Dallas Stars
After missing 10 Games due to a recent concussion, Richards has recorded 2 points in his 3 games since returning. If Dallas is going to have any chance of making the postseason, they’ll need Richards to return to his previous form. Considering it’s a contract year for the veteran Center, you can bet there’s nothing he’d like more than for that to happen.
Marian Gaborik, RW, NY Rangers
Mr. good-year, bad-year is up to his old tricks again. The latest setback for the Rangers’ RW injury-riddled campaign coming via a concussion that recently forced him to sit for 6 games.
Like Richards, he’s also just returned to the Rangers lineup in hopes of bolstering their playoff hopes. With his track record in odd numbered years, I wouldn’t count on it.
Mike Green, D, Washington Capitals
Talk about adding injury to insult. Green, who’s struggled through an injury-plagued season to the tune of a mere 24 points (down from 76 a year ago), has played in only one game since suffering a head injury on February 12th. While the Caps are anticipating his return in time for the NHL playoffs, unfortunately Fantasy Owners shouldn’t count on this elite point producer to make an impact in their pools come season’s end.
Jonas Hiller, G, Anaheim Ducks
Call it vertigo. Call it fatigue. Call it dizziness. Call it whatever you want. But one thing’s for sure – Hiller hasn’t been the same since taking two pucks to the head during this season’s NHL All-Star Festivities.
Hiller’s loss was huge for fantasy owners, as the Swiss-born netminder was amongst the league leaders in Wins, Saves and Shutouts at the time of his injury. It appears as if he’s starting to round into shape (he’s back on the ice working out) but there’s no timetable as of yet for his return. And the mystifying nature of his symptoms may make you wonder if he’ll ever be the same goalie again.